The Shadow Generation: How the Digital Child is relating to the Real World

THE POP UP GENERATION:  Here today, Gone by tomorrow. 

“Young people born with and behind the screen live in a shadow area; a no man’s land between the second and the third dimension that they wish to connect ..”

Nothing could be more arresting, than this quote that takes what we know to be true:  Without direct human interaction, children (researchers have proven with young chimpanzees) become withdrawn, violent and disconnected without early human contact.  An extreme example, perhaps; or perhaps not.  This generation of digital  “Shadow” children, has many challenges, not the least of which is how to relate from a one on one capacity, to just keeping up with a constant onslaught of media and technology that bombards them each day.   Perhaps it could best be described, as the “shadow space” where interacting virtually, could become a dangerous replacement for real live connection.  This is a question that advertisers are asking themselves; here’s a new generation of children, who spend their time online, how will we reach them? Well, of course the answer is obvious, but what are the long term implications of this type of advertising and how can advertisers justify the type of interaction they are creating?The digital child, has a new set of challenges that are totally different. They must become editors, set limits about how much they say and do with their digital tools, and realize that once its “out there” its there, forever in the digital landscape.  That’s why Parents are the “best” guides for this new grey 2-D world, teachers and leaders who need to provide a set of guidelines.

Soon, in perhaps 25 years or so, when the final “Baby Boomer” leaves the planet, a legacy of “old school” media will be just part of the memories of a past generation.  When I was growing up, the fear of the “Television Box” and its effect on children was part of the conversation.  Now, I suspect parents would be thrilled if it was ONLY television, with other media gradually supplanting this now almost “old school” delivery system for information and entertainment. The cow, has been let out of the barn and she’s really enjoying her foray in the clover field.

Now, to the branding issues here:  How do marketing people create a sense of morality, best practices and reach this generation in responsible ways?  Perhaps Disney is the master of the subtle brand experience by creating characters that children want to interact with and relate to.  Parents know that there is advertising here,  but they’re overwhelmed and can’t stop the products, toys, t-shirts and games that are being served up to their children.  They can only try to limit what is being consumed but the onslaught, is endless.  What this quote relates to, is not only the “digital space” that children are now living in, but the effects of this experience on them.  This is what we look at, in our discussion of how to reach certain markets, where technology, the arts, and advertising might collide either in a massive or bespoke way.

Without a “real time” experience, the world of brands, and messages, can get not only lost, but also buried in this gray zone of time and space.  This is where the children of tomorrow are heading.  This is a reason, to stop, pause, and really think about how to proceed.

A child, might depend on it.