“Kids today!”

I hear this a lot.  Teachers grumble about kids’ phones, inappropriate digital activity, kids and their Snapchat… My entrepreneur friends talk about the millennial entitlement–employees who want to leave at 5PM and own the world.

“Kids today…”

I want to point out only old people actually say “Kids today.” They say it sometime after “Get off my lawn,”  and before they run for the blue plate special.

“Kids never look up from their phones and iPads.  They’re rude,” I hear.  “They need to be taught how to interact in society.”

But maybe it’s not that–maybe I need to recognize how technology is changing global communication and learn how each generation embraces it.

For example, old people email, kids never check a voicemail. They text and Snapchat.  If you want to get your teen home for dinner, you’d better post a plate on Instagram.

“How do you keep kids from cheating?” I have been asked several times lately both at work and workshops.

Answer: I don’t.  I create a culture of learning where kids want to learn more about things they’re passionate about. I show them how the skills I’m teaching them make me money and explain why we’re doing what we’re doing in class.  If my assignment blows chunks I let them suggest an alternative, done in their way with their tech.  Every single time, they do more work then I’d planned.

They’re not cheating, they’re collaborating and walking away as more than the sum of their parts.

It’s what we do in business and in life.  Sometimes kids have to work independently.  When they do, I tell them that because in life, you won’t always have a team–not every time, and I want to make sure they, themselves, have each skill they need.

“Kids these days!”

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  A complete cultural shift.  A clash of generations.

I have one thing to say that’ll clear this up for you… YOU…ARE…OLD.

If you remember when the television had a knob, three channels, and you had to get up and turn the channel with that knob, you are old.

If you remember how to unroll a car window, you are old.

If you remember a time when you had to go to the bathroom without an iPhone… you’re old.

If you’re old, you, too, might be getting ready to say, “Kids these days!” or “Get off my lawn!”

Don’t do it!

You might’ve aged well and been untouched by the wrinkly hand of time, but let’s face it–I’m an entire generation older than my newest coworkers.  I…am…a…dinosaur.  This has the potential to be a crisis of Jurassic proportions.

Case in point, this blog.  Blogging is so five years ago.  My son’s on YouTube.  I might go there as part of my midlife crisis.

What do we do?  We gather our inner “I remember the good old days” spirit and we realize things are changing.  You, old person, need to be aware of some important trends.

Here are some interesting facts about the youth of today.  Read them on the way to your AARP meeting or shuffleboard tournament:

Teens don’t drive.  This is true! The USAA lady told me more and more Millennials are getting their licenses much later.  Drop kicking your teen won’t work.  Major auto manufacturers are bracing for this–teens and 20’s don’t have cash for licenses and cars.  The economy’s bad.  We ruined it with our easy mortgage money and Roaring 90’s so don’t complain when you have to drive your kid to his fast food job.

Your kids won’t move out.  Also true…this is going to be a long-term effect of the economy.

Kids don’t take chances in school.  This is because they’re used to asking “what’s going to be on the test” since we called them stupid for two decades and decided to test them to death until they could beat China and Finland in everything that mattered.  Then we said they couldn’t graduate until they did, so they’re scared to take chances.  So are teachers, by the way, because our evaluations depend on silly things, too.  We have to undo this fear on both levels.

Kids will collaborate more and make their own way in the world.  Most kids have access to a world of resources in their pockets, and they’ll have to be creative to make their own way in a world where jobs are hard to come by.  Even though adults talk about the digital divide and the have-nots, and schools block the tech kids want to use, kids still find a way to get to it, whether they’re sharing or going to a public computer.  If you doubt me on this, take away your teen’s phone and see how quick they still post to social media.  It’s magic.  When properly motivated, kids find a way.

This generation will have seven careers.  Another product of the changing economy is kids will have to learn how to learn–if estimates are right, they’ll have several careers, and since nobody can afford college seven times or even once these days, they’ll have to do it all themselves.  Teens are amazing, fluid, and adaptable–they can learn anything.

“How’d you learn that?” I ask my son.

“YouTube.” Yet we block it in schools.

And since they’ll be learning on their own, we’ll start to see forward-thinking jobs start to credential them and give them credit for non-college learning.   They’ll have to.

The best employers already realize Millennials aren’t loyal to a company like old people.  They’re thinking outside the box to keep the top-level workers with benefits like work from home, flex time, and other perks that build a good team.  Why should workers be loyal?  They’ve been drop-kicked around by the economy so they’ve learned to change directions at the drop of a dime.  Teens are uber flexible–they try new apps and products, job shop, make Plan B’s all the time, then they go with the better deal.

When no better deal exists, they’ll make it.  Check out their startups, YouTube channels, fan fiction, and Etsy shops.  They’re there.  They’re building the companies they need and make their own jobs, and now they have the power to do so in their pocket.

Teens are the group with the most disposable income in the United States–even though they’ll never move out of your cellar–a mystery no one can solve.  They’re a magical subgroup of humanity.  They fix the websites I break, give me advice on the latest fashion grabs, and tell me why my website’s slow or ugly.

Every once in a while I try Tricks with Teens.  I stand in front of a few who’re barreling down the hallway texting people standing right next to them. I stand in their path.  They ecolocates around me every time.  Teens have a sixth sense.

So, how do you “deal” with your teens and 20’s as a parent or educator?

You don’t.  You embrace them.

We the old must adapt.  I’m the outlier in a room full of younger people waiting to take over the world.

How do I survive?

I jump in every Snapchat.  I put memes out with assignments, I remain open, flexible, and adaptable.  I sit back and watch what they’re doing–listen, learn and copy.  I learn the things my son’s interested in.  When I need to, I jump in with my five gray hairs of life experience and say, “Have you considered trying it this way?”

That’s the key.  I’m seasoned, I’m not obsolete.  If I remain a constant learner and study my customers, I’m bound to learn something new.

They, in turn, come back and say, “You were right… can you help me learn to do this better?”

And I do.

That’s the new role of the best educators.

It’s a role I hope we embrace as a system really soon… because we have enough dinosaurs in the movies to keep us entertained for a long, long time.  I don’t want to be one.

With any luck–by listening and adapting myself–I won’t go extinct.



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