It was once said a lady’s name should enter the public sphere just three times; when she was born, when she married, and when she died. No longer. Now, social media has ensured that our children’s most momentous occasions — first teeth, first steps, first smiles — are shared well before they even blow out the candle on their first birthday cake. For better or worse, how else is today’s childhood so very different than our own?
Then: One album of snapshots and some blurry Poloroids was enough to document our entire youth, from the McDonald’s birthday party to the trip to Disney. Now: Our kids will have to weed through some 10,000 infant photos stored in the cloud. Good luck with that!
Then: We left behind a trail of abandoned, outgrown board games with lost or broken pieces, from Candy Land to Clue. Now: Our kids leave behind a trail of abandoned, outgrown online games with lost or forgotten passwords, from Moshi Monsters to Webkinz.
Then: Our “fifteen minutes of fame” came from landing a solo in the holiday concert or school play. Now: Our kids’ “fifteen minutes of fame” comes when 1,000 random strangers have viewed them twerking in a YouTube video.
Then: We snail mailed our fan letters, and waited weeks to get back a pre-autographed headshot. Now: Our kids tweet directly to their idols and often get an instant reply.
Then: Our most embarrassing moments could end up on America’s Funniest Home Videos, if our parents were handy with a videocamera. Now: Our kids’ most humiliating moments could end up going viral, if their frenemy is handy with a smartphone.
Then: We filled several angst-ridden diaries between 7th and 11th grades. Now: What’s a diary? Our kids blog their hearts out publicly, in online journals at WordPress or Wix.
Then: We used tiny padlocks so our parents couldn't crack that diary to discover our deep, dark secrets. Now: Our kids use encrypted passwords and fake accounts so we can’t discover their deep, dark secrets.
Then: Our parents prayed our sexual exploration didn’t get us pregnant. Now: We pray their sexual exploration doesn’t show up in a school-wide sext.
Then: We worked with guidance counselors to carefully craft the perfect college admissions application. Now: All of the above will be scrutinized by future college admissions counselors, looking for any reason to ding them.
Melissa Schorr is a journalist and author of IDENTITY CRISIS, a new YA novel about cyberbullying and catfishing for teen girls. Connect with her at @melissaschorr