Guest Blog: Living the Inter-generational Novice/Expert Flip Flop

Monica McGlynn-StewartMy (Monica) husband and I live with our two teenaged children. Anyone who is or has lived with teenagers knows that it can be challenging at times. I imagine that this dynamic has been difficult for many generations, yet I think this generation is living through a unique twist on an old problem. Teenagers have always been experts in their own world as compared to their parents. They know what is cool to say, wear and do, and their parents definitely do not. Traditionally, they knew a great deal less about the world their parents inhabited. However, now teenagers are also experts in aspects of their parents’ worlds. For example, just last week our 16-year-old daughter helped her dad with his business website, and our 13-year-old son taught me how to use Google docs for my research. In some ways, they are quite proud to be able to teach their parents something (to be the experts), and proud that we are doing our best to keep up with technical innovations in communication (eager novices), but they are also irritated when we ask them for technical help. Partly I think they are just annoyed that we are taking them away from whatever they were doing, but I also think they are a little uncomfortable dealing with their parents as novices. On the other hand, they are not too happy when we are experts either. They get annoyed when we are better able to navigate material that they have so expertly found on the internet. Our “expert” old-school skills of skimming for relevant information, synthesizing and evaluating material leave them exasperated. How dare we understand more about their world than they do! When I asked my kids how they would rate themselves and us on a scale of 1-10 regarding proficiency with ICT, they rated themselves a 10 and us a 4!

Recently (May 8, 2014), CBC’s The Nature of Things ran a fascinating documentary called Surviving 🙂 The Teenage Brain. They present a great deal of interesting research on teenagers and conclude that, “Today marks the first time in history when children are an authority on something really important – the digital revolution. With social media, human social evolution is unfolding before our eyes and under the leadership of teenagers.” Check it out:


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