Getting Connected: Developing Your Internet Skills

By Frank Bolger - Last update

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When a character in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises is asked how he became bankrupt, he replies ‘Gradually, then suddenly’. The same can be said of how we experience change. We barely notice it happen until it’s blindingly obvious. There are few things that show up change, and the generational gaps it creates, so clearly as technology does. New generations are now being born into a world of sleek, intuitive appliances – most of which have immediate online access. I have seen children who have not yet learned how to tie their shoelaces freely use their parents’ iPhones to browse through photos, and use zoom and rotate for better viewing of them. On the other hand, I also know plenty of adults who still gaze in awe at laptop screens as though they were looking into crystal balls. At least they can all tie their own shoelaces though.

As long as older generations remain uninformed about newer technologies – and about the internet in particular – the gap between generations will continue to grow. This will have a knock-on effect professionally, as newer businesses increase their online presence (and web-based employment opportunities). More importantly, however, it will also have personal consequences – so much communication is now conducted via email, Skype, and social media sites that failing to keep abreast of technological change may leave many feeling suddenly cut adrift.

Addressing recent tragedies connected to online activity, an opinion piece in the Irish Times suggested that: ‘For many parents and educators, the world of digital social networks is as remote and foreign as any desert island.’ It is therefore essential that there are attempts made to bridge this divide in understanding, as it can cause a sense of isolation and loneliness on all sides.

While the serious and complex issue of cyber-bullying has recently effected calls for tighter online regulations, for legislation to be more strictly adhered to, and for social media sites to be fully compliant with investigators in giving requested-for information, there are also practical measures that parents can take. Empathy requires understanding, and being informed is a key element of this. By learning about the internet and social media (how they work, what they do, and so on) older and younger generations – and parents/educators and children – can inhabit common ground together. It is obvious that technology, the internet, and social media are not going to suddenly disappear; they will simply continue to evolve. The best we can do is to try evolve with them.

Frank Bolger

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