Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Great Divide: Bridging the Generational Gap

Published: October 27, 2009 - Muscat Daily

My neighbors are one of the nicest couples I've known. The mother and father grew up in the enchanting mountains of Dhofar. They both moved down to the town when they were adults and both did not complete their education. In fact, they still raise animals in the mountains during the monsoon and speak the local mountain dialect at home. They know about the hard way of life and they appreciate life's small pleasures like electricity and running water.
Their youngest child is 14 years old. She has 2 cell phones, a television and a laptop in her bedroom. In her spare time she watches American sitcoms, MTV and Dr. Phil. At least three hours of her day are dedicated to internet forums and chatrooms. She also swears a lot…. in English.

Is it just me or has something struck you as 'not quite right' up there? I call it 'The Great Divide'. I should have said 'their youngest granddaughter is 14'. Needless to say, her parents barely know how to use a cell phone, let alone a computer. She, of course, takes full advantage of their ignorance. They think she's on the computer 'studying' when she's actually chatting to guys twice her age online. You shouldn't be surprised; this is happening in Dhofar and all over Oman, whether parents are aware of it or not. Watching these rapid changes is scary, even for me! (I was a teenager no more than four years ago). I used to read, sew, paint, play Monopoly and hang out with friends at the park. These activities are considered so 'not-cool' among teens today. I'm not saying the gap is a bad thing. I'm just saying perhaps it happened too fast, and it should be tackled properly in order to prevent it from affecting our society and getting out of control.

Digital media, computers, mobile phones and the internet have been a taken-for-granted part of most young people's upbringing and environment. Many rely on technology not just to keep in touch, but as a way of developing their identities and socializing. Technology can play a positive, productive and creative part of young people's activities, development and social participation. It can also cause serious problems starting with the fact that most teens may be living in a virtual unrealistic world, and are forgetting what it's like to be normal human beings. They're not interested in local traditions, family, religion, etc, which is sad. Are we going to allow Omani and Islamic values to be lost with this generation?

Forgive me if I'm being too harsh, but I don't like fast change. I know it happens all over the world, but I find it exceptionally disturbing in Oman. Computer savvy kids freak me out. Period. I don't want a nine-year-old teaching me how to switch languages on my blackberry, nor do I want to see 16 year-old Omani girls worrying about the dating scene on 'Friends', a juvenile American sitcom.

Most parents in Oman do not understand computers, let alone the dangers the internet imposes on their kids. It's confusing enough growing up in our world, especially for young people. It's even harder when your parents have no idea what you're going through.

Get those television sets and laptops out of your children's bedrooms. Not understanding the internet does not justify neglecting to monitor what they're doing online and what they're being exposed to. Pay attention to what your kids are doing/watching. Become involved in their lives. Keep tabs on them. Figure out fun activities that don't involve being glued to a monitor. Wake up!

Oman is such an amazing country. I believe that if we work hard to tame the current generation of young people, they'll grow up to be intelligent individuals who are able to find the perfect balance between the traditional and the modern ways of life.


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  2. Beautifully written, Susan. Your style of writing is captivating and encouraging. Keep us updated.

    Parents sometimes want to shower their kids without realizing the consequences of doing so. Ignorance might be a reason, yes, which is what my next article (It'll get published on Muscat Daily tomorrow - Wednesday's edition) is all about; Drawing a line between everything and keeping a balance.

  3. susan you are just being too fussy. let the kids enjoy.