Who’s The Boss?

When it comes to decision-making in a traditional family, normally the elderly (parents or grandparents) would have a more impactful say than the youngsters (children). It is no longer the case! Don Tapscott on “Grown Up Digital” witnessed the changing roles right at the heart of his relationship with his below-ten children. Through his own observation of how his kids have master the activities on the Internet and made use of them to strengthen their understanding of this world, he found a greater say of his children in making up decisions concerning not only themselves but also their parents. Strangely, the parents seem to be influenced by their children, or even looking for them for solutions. His book has triggered me to re-look at my relationship with my parents.

When I was preparing an itinerary for my upcoming trip to Japan with my parents, my mom sent me a link through my Facebook Messenger of a site providing tips on travel to Hakone – a tourist spot. To my biggest surprise, it wasn’t in Vietnamese (the only language that my mom knows), nor English. It’s in Japanese. I replied with awe asking her how she understood the site, she said, “Google translated”, as if this was such a common sense, daughter. Until then I knew my mom’s Internet savvy has leaped a great deal. All of my mother’s friends at this age probably depend entirely upon their children or the tour agency for all the arrangement. Unlike others, my mom has been actively joining forums and researching all over the Internet. Once the sites are in foreign languages, of course, Google Translate would be the savior for her (despite its problematic comprehension!). Later on, she should eagerly share with me all the info and then asked me for clarification, verification and final decisions on the plan. There are two points that I realize after this: (1) My mom – a baby boomer – recognizes the significance of the Internet in searching for and collecting information and (2) She trusted me – a millennial – with complete confidence on assessing and organizing these info found on the Internet.

To me, this can be explained by 3 hypotheses:

  1. Losing face: as the penetration of the Internet affects not only young people who always need to catch up with their peers on all the latest technologies or information around them, it had the same effects on the older ones. Seeing their kids becoming experts in the field that they are no one but “newbies” has encouraged them to discover themselves.
  2. Losing power: the Internet no doubts empowers anyone regardless of their age to change and improve their daily lives. The winners would be the ones who master how to search, to use, to arrange, to collect info it provides. Thus, older generations are losing their power to the youngsters by letting deciding on all the matters. Catching up with technologies is the pointer to re-gain their lost dominance.
  3. The mental skills: the kids are growing digitally, almost every of their daily activities are now connected to the Internet; it is their window to the world and their facility of making sense of this world. According to Tapscott, from the early age, children have developed the mental skills to search on the Internet, to navigate, to analyze, to synthesize, to remember, to assess the info, to scan to set apart what’s important from what’s not. All those are acquired through times, not from a single day. Thus, it comes to a point when kids are more advanced than adults in providing the correct information, more comprehensive than those from a single book. Unsurprisingly, the parents trusted the kids on these matters.

Seeing the situation turning upside down brings lots of lessons into marketing and understanding customers more deeply. To me, it would be an interesting scenario when it’s likely that older people would catch up on Internet literacy and all have the same capacity for searching and giving opinions, who would be the boss now?

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