Kids, Technology, and the Generational Divide

About two years ago a Youtube channel known as The Fine Bros released a video called “Kids React to Walkmans (Portable Cassette Players)”.  You can find the video embedded below:



As you can probably predict from the thumbnail alone, these kids are absolutely mystified by the Walkman.  One of them even laughs and comments “I feel so judged right now.”  Which is funny, because it seems that’s exactly what the internet did.

Back when this video first came out, I saw it pop up in my Facebook feed every now and then.  It was being shared by people around my age who were usually commenting things like “this is sad” and “how can these kids not understand how a simple cassette player works?”  You can even see this attitude in some of the Youtube comments.  “Wow this is very sad,” comments one person.  “Considering most of them were born in the 2000’s, they should’ve seen VCRs and VHS tapes and cassette players.”  Another person comments “this is not adorable, its sad. walkmans aren’t really that old at all. It’s mainly because of the fact that parents just buy technology so kids can leave them alone. kids now a days lack social skills and problem solving skills. even in this video you can hear the arrogance they have and they are young.”  The person finishes by saying “Prime example of how the future will hold for this generation… brainless and brainwashed.”

Although not everyone has such a negative outlook on things.  One person writes “I feel this is making fun of young childen. How are they supposed to know what a walkman or cassette is? They never seen one in their life. They are all like 10 or younger. It would be like asking me what an [8-track] was like when I was 10. These kids are used to flash drives and ipods.”

First things first: we have to consider the fact that this is a video that has been edited for our entertainment.  Essentially, The Fine Bros wanted to show us the “funny bits”.  And it’s not like they’re entirely oblivious to what it is.  One of the kids gets close to guessing what it is and then another one manages to get it right.  But judging an entire generation based off of a reaction video made for our entertainment seems foolish, especially when you consider that this is but a handful of kids out of a generation of millions.

Secondly, we have to ask ourselves…exactly how clueless are these kids anyways?  Well…probably not as clueless as a forty-five year old adult trying to use a laptop for the first time.

Yeah, that’s right.  I went there.  As this article I found notes, “where older people fear they’ll either break something or change the settings beyond repair, the young understand that everything can be put back the way it was quite easily. Technology doesn’t scare them.”  And that’s just the way it is.  Older people are afraid of breaking things like that because it takes them longer to learn new things.  It’s well-known that as you grow older your ability to adapt and learn new things can become impaired.  So as it stands, children are predisposed toward understanding technology more than adults.

And this whole “technology rotting the brain” attitude the older generation has is nothing new.  Rock and roll was the devil’s music…rap music and video games made kids violent…and so on.  But what does the actual science have to say about the effects of this horrible technology?

Well…not much.

Like the article I linked to above says, the touch-screen era is still very new.  Regardless, it seems that moderation is still a good idea, but some studies have found that there might be beneficial effects to “screen time”.  The fact of the matter is that we as an older generation can stamp our feet and protest as much as we want, but in the end there’s no clear indication that this technology is “rotting” kids’ brains.

Besides, how can we determine all of that from a seven and a half-minute video?  Let’s face it, the Walkman is an archaic piece of technology that has been on the decline ever since portable CD players were introduced.  Sure, you can still buy them at some places, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were introduced here in the United States during the summer of 1980…almost forty years ago.

We were born in an era when technology was jumping ahead by leaps and bounds.  Of course the things we loved and grew up with were going become old and outdated.  Back when I was a little kid, floppy disks were still around, those little square things that could hold barely over a megabyte of data.


Yeah…one of those.


By contrast, the flash drive I use today for storing my short stories and the like has a storage capacity of four gigabytes, which is nearly four thousand times as much space as a floppy disk.

It’s funny really.  People from my generation will often make fun of our parents and their parents for pining after “the good ol’ days” of the 1950’s.  But in the end, many of us are simply pining after the days of the ’90s and ’80s.  And if technology continues advancing at a similar rate, there’s a good chance that in forty years kids will be looking back at today’s technology with a similar attitude to the kids in the Walkman video.

“What do you mean this can only hold four gigabytes,” they’ll exclaim.  “That’s crazy!  And you’re saying that you actually had to plug it in to use it?  It’s not wireless?  That’s ridiculous!  Man, how did people live back then?”


Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

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