My Children Can’t Wait To Be Advertised To

It’s been a tiring week.

Davey Teller, the rich kid at my boys’ school has just got the new iPhone 7.

Of course they’re jealous. I’m even a little bit jealous. When the new handset came out last September, I was still working in London. I remember the hubbub and excitement that ensued in the office. A load of men in their 40s and 50s spending the morning excitedly swiping and thumbing their new phones, trying to ascertain what makes them different from the last model.

New technology used to be something that only overweight schmucks and Trekkies had the time to get distracted by. But now, a new phone hits the market and the world stops moving so everyone can either queue up and buy it or watch enviously from the sidelines. If you’re wondering where my boys (and myself for that matter) ended up on this rather binary spectrum then I’ll save you the calculations and tell you now that we weren’t all basking in the omniscient glow of Apple’s new phone last September, nor shall we be in the near future.

My boys are 10 and 11. I’m not completely insensitive to their ‘needs’.

I understand kids of their generation have grown up watching their parents incessantly tapping on electronic devices of progressively slimmer stature, they see it as the gateway to their adulthood.

Through their first smartphone, they’ll have access to thousands of servers all around the globe. With this information they will be armed to cheat their way through every essay and piece of homework. The friends they make using it could well be people that they know for the rest of their lives – if only through various simulacrums of online communications.

However, this first phone, given to them from their parents (because how else would they be able to afford it?), could also expose them to the kind of human truths that they may well have avoided for another few years.

As much as the internet spotlights all that is wonderful about human ingenuity, it also shines a light on the less admirable portions of our existence – with the same unerring beam.

Not even teenagers yet, is it too early to show them all of this? Or is the development of the internet simply another ‘talk’ that the parents need to have with their children?

Beyond the waking nightmares that all parents have, when considering the psychological ramifications of unintentionally exposing their children to unsuitable material, there is also the insidious power of the Internet to think of as well.

From the moment we all connect to the internet, whether its through our phones or a computer, we are being advertised to. Whereas 10 years or so ago, this advertising was restricted to obvious ‘banner ads’ and ‘pop-ups’, the bidding of multi-national corporations and powerhouse brands is now done by the most unassuming agents. Thousands of contributors to the internet, from prominent YouTubers to the legions of writers working for BuzzFeed, now create content with an agenda.

They know how best to market to college students and they know how to transform your child into the perfect consumer of tomorrow. The only question is, do you let them?

I’ve decided to attack the problem pragmatically.

Should my children, not even teenagers yet, have the latest iPhone in their grubby mitts? No. If I don’t get one, then they don’t.

Should they at least be given a chance to dip their toes into the virtual pool of information? Yes. That’s why they’ll both be receiving budget smart phones for their Christmas presents this year. For the time being, they’ll just have to cope with living a life¬†untethered to electronic devices.

They won’t understand me when I tell them to enjoy it whilst they can.

From TV Abuser to Internet Bruiser

There’s a certain guilty pleasure that I derive from roaring myself hoarse at the television.

I understand that the very act of doing it is the perfect example of ‘wasted breath’ but if all the yelling and cursing results in my sleeping better at night (regular glasses of Whiskey do help in that regard too…) then is it really wasted?

My wife would definitely say so. When she invariably wakes me from the armchair, the TV still blaring and a fine web of saliva slowly drying to my stubble, she makes a resigned sigh and asks me if I wouldn’t be happier simply reading a book each night, to which my reply is usually: ‘Blarglshmar-bloody-UKIPpers.’

Last night was a typical one for me. The boys barrelled into the house at 4pm, out of breath from their usual foot race home from school. They run back everyday, but somehow don’t seem to be getting faster or fitter – perhaps this is something that I should take up with their PE teacher…After throwing biscuits at them until they ceased their yammering, they disappeared upstairs to either do their homework or murder their classmates in a virtual war. Dinner was a simple pasta affair, made ready for my darling Wife upon her return to the homestead and we ate at the table, as is our wont.

Whilst Constance patiently pried precious pieces of information from our boys, I slyly kept one ear open to the World Service playing in the kitchen. The News has been particularly fantastic recently. Admittedly, the World may be collectively holding its breath for the the first sign of a Nuclear Holocaust and Racial Tensions have arguably never been more fraught, but its made for some of the best news that I’ve seen in a decade.

In the last two years there have been more shock resignations, blindingly odd referendum results and confusing press releases than I’ve ever seen before. Firing up and exaggerating every political oddity is the full force of the internet. From irate individuals sharing their opinions via Facebook, to the ‘unbiased journalists’ of Buzzfeed; from all corners of the web, opinions are flaunted and shared prolifically to thunderous acclaim and equal amounts of disdain. Now the internet has one more angry voice to join the baying mob: mine.

Since leaving my job in Investment, some 7 years ago or so now, I’ve been struggling in vain to still feel a part of the world at large. In my days, pre-Fatherhood, I would be meeting bankers and businessmen on a daily basis. Titans of industry would know me by name and I felt like the decisions that I made, from the pattern of my tie to the choice of my words, had a significant effect on the World.

Now, the main thrust of my work involves feeding hungry mouths, keeping kitchen surfaces clean and sucking the endless reams of cat hair out of the thick carpet that we never should have bought. My sons could well grow up to be important men with the weight of the world on their shoulders, but that’s an investment in time and effort that is a long way off returning.

For now, I’m going to see if I can spend less time drunkenly yelling at the oblivious faces on television and more time writing my thoughts down here…like a rational person.¬†