On the first day of Blogmas…

blogmas-day-1Your three year old doesn’t want an iPad for Christmas, nor does he also want a PlayStation, a computer and a phone. He probably doesn’t even want Paw Patrol, or Peppa Pig. He’s three. Give him some brightly coloured stacking cups and he’ll probably be happy enough.

This November/December I’ve been working as a helper for Father Christmas. It’s a fun job. I’ve been opening his letters and helping him to respond (there’s so many, after all).

I can split the letters up into two different piles – those who ask Father C for the world, and those who ask for very little.

The letters are funny – little Evie wants a pork pie…for her uncle. I’m not sure how he’d feel about that?

There’s been at least one pony.

Dozens and dozens of iPads, iPhones, laptops, computers, and PlayStations – many of requests for which have come from small children. Some wanting all of the above. As I said, your three year old doesn’t need an iPad for Christmas. They also don’t need a NEW iPad for Christmas (suggesting they already have one that is unlikely to be older than their few years on this Earth…)!

Aside from the over the top, bulging lists, from families who probably have more money than I’ve made in my entire working life, there have also been some heartwarming ones.

One girl also wrote a letter for her two year old sister, she didn’t want much; some toys, but it’s the thought that counts. Father Christmas appreciates the thought of a nine year old considering their younger sibling.

What Father Christmas does not appreciate is children who do not know how to say please and thank you.

Maybe fifty per cent of letters actually showed good manners. Maybe less. Those that did were praised for it. Sometimes I think it’s a shame Father C doesn’t suggest children use their manners, or else they won’t be getting anything this year.

Alas, I would probably not be allowed to continue helping Father C if I was to suggest such a thing.

Many, many children also didn’t seem to understand the concept of a letter. The letters come on already printed sheets, so ‘Dear Father Christmas’ already exists. Unfortunately, what follows for many is merely a list.

Dear Father Christmas,

iPad
Peppa Pig
Frozen whatsit
All the Shopkins
Laptop
Motorised scooter
Electric propellered flying bicycle
Three computers and a PlayStation 4, slim, even though we already have a PS4 and an X Box
The World

And so few signed it off nicely. So few thanked Father Christmas.

Though, if the children are to be believed, he’s going to be putting on some more weight this year. Perhaps he’ll save some of the treats for me, since I’ve helped him out with his letters.

This blog was brought to you on day one of Blogmas, a bit of random festive-related blogging up until Christmas. Think of it as my advent calendar to you. What will you get tomorrow? We’ll see! (Ideas for future days are most welcome, though cannot be guaranteed to be used.)

Thanks to Charlie for doing Blogmas, without whom I would not be inspired.

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Technology has changed the world.

Technology has changed the world.

It’s become almost unthinkable that there are some people on Earth who do not use computers and mobile phones. It’s even more unthinkable to know that some of those people live in developed countries where access to such things is actually really easy.

I’m lucky enough to still remember an age where mobile phones and the internet wasn’t a requirement. There are a lot of people out there, actually, who will. But we’re reaching a point in the world where our teenagers have grown up using such technologies.

When I was a child I ran about the streets with my friends, playing games where you bounce a ball off the opposite kerb on your street (are kids even allowed outside anymore?), building dens on land round my schools (I task you to find a school that isn’t surrounded by large metal fences) and having sleepovers where you watch a scary film on a VHS (hello! We’re even past DVDs, Lovefilm Instant anyone?).

It feels like a lifetime ago that I lived a life where I called my friends up on the house phone. I remember when someone who I didn’t really consider a friend, but we hung around together sometimes, was messing about on a very steep hill and I went home and called her mum. I wonder how many children and teenagers these days have very little, if any, contact with their friend’s parents.

I did my work experience in a nursery school when I was fifteen years old, the three year olds had access to a computer where they were beginning to learn how to use them. A decade later and those tots are now teenagers, most of which will probably have a mobile phone, many will have computers or iPads and some will access the internet without their parents ever knowing what they’re doing.

I didn’t get my first mobile phone until well into secondary school. I got a Trium Mars one Christmas and it was such a wonderful day. I’d wanted it for a long time, it was a bit different, not the same kind of phone all of my friends were getting (Nokia 3210/3310) and it was worth the wait. I suppose I was one of the curious teens, I purposefully got a phone which had access to WAP. I’d walk around the streets near to where I lived doing my paper round and looking up jokes on a very slow version of mobile internet. I loved every minute of it. It was new and no one was really doing it.

It’s not new anymore. I don’t have the latest phone, or the best operating system on my phone. I have a Nokia Lumia, it’s just over a year old and I can’t even upgrade to the latest OS, and it could be better. I don’t mind so much because I can’t really afford to buy anything better. Besides, I like to get new phones so in theory it’d be better to keep buying cheaper phones every year or two than to buy one expensive one and feel like I’m stuck with it for years.

When I browse Facebook, I see people I went to school with buying their children mobile phones and iPads. Seven year old children being given expensive pieces of technology. And they know how to work them, too. So many children know how to use apps on phones. The amount of times I’ve seen babies holding a phone, their parents thrusting it into their sticky, chubby fingers to keep them from fussing whilst they’re too busy chatting with their friends to talk to their child. It’s not necessarily like that for everyone, but there are an awful lot of children who seem to be pacified by technology.

Aside from all of the dangers that there are supposed to be around mobile technology, these children’s lives are changing. They’re not growing up in the same way we did.

I consider myself to be part of the modern world, the technological world. I am one of the first generations to grow up on technology. But I haven’t truly grown up on technology because I can remember before. I can remember going to college and my Sociology teacher said he wasn’t really bothered about getting a mobile phone. He eventually got one after his car broke down and he found himself unable to call for help. But to actively make that sort of decision now is a lot different to ten years ago.

If you don’t have a mobile phone these days then you can be so far out of the loop. People can’t phone you when you’re out of the house. Some people don’t even have a landline. And as for computers and the internet, if you don’t have access then you will struggle with a lot of things.

Applications for jobs are often done online, too. Job searches are all available on the internet. Finding out about council services can be done on their website. Looking for a fast food restaurant, for an address, for a telephone number; it’s all done online. If you don’t have access to the internet, you just can’t be part of many aspects of society.

I wonder whether people are happy to be on the outside; to not know the phone number for a local plumber because they’ve not had a Yellow Pages delivered in years; to be unable to find that DVD, that CD, that gift that someone they know is after because they don’t have access to online shopping.

I wonder whether those people feel like they’re missing out, or whether, as an internet and mobile phone user I just can’t understand how they might not be.