My kids have been playing Webkinz for years. It’s an offline stuffed animal with a special code that lets you activate your new “pet” online. Once online, there’s plenty of game mechanics to keep you engaged with the site – earning virtual currency (Kinz Cash) to buy stuff for your pet and the house you build for him. If you have a friend that has a Webkinz, you can connect with each other to chat and show off your virtual digs. My children grew up in this environment.
My son was born a few weeks after my wife and I purchased our first TiVo (before cable companies had dvrs). My children have always had on-demand entertainment on the television. As a toddler, my son would confuse my mother when he asked her to pause her TV when he had to go to the bathroom. She didn’t understand what he meant when he said that Mr. Rogers was on whenever he wanted to watch it. Nowadays, it’s all Netflix and Hulu Plus and Epix – what we want when we want.
My daughter doesn’t have a Facebook account, but she does help my wife tend her virtual farm. She interacts with the ”neighbors” – our friends and family, and helps them out when she can (planting seeds, watering, etc). She’s now started her own castle in a different realm of Facebook – and this is entirely her own. She has a virtual pet store that she runs on our iTouch. This is real life for her – it isn’t called “virtual” or ”online”.
My son communicates with his grandfathers via text messaging. So does my daughter. They have great relationships with them. They love small talking via SMS. They call it “texting”, but I imagine that’s because we call it texting, and they think it’s novel. For them, it’s just a form of communication.
My daughter is totally bummed that Google won’t let her get an email address because she’s too young. I wonder if she’ll ever get email. I wonder if she’ll need it – if a Facebook account could be created without an email address - why would she need one?
FaceTime is blowing my mind. My daughter and her friend wake up each morning and say hello. They prepare for their day together (including teeth and hair brushing). They read together at night. My daughter has a best friend that she spends more time online with than offline. I’ve never heard them say “so glad to see you irl”. This is all in real life for them.
Want to know what the future looks like? Take a look at today’s kids. The ones that grew up with the real innovations. The ones whose normal is today’s “early adopter”.
Filed under: 2:00 A.M.Tweet