What will our children think of the real-time web?

Not now, but rather… in a few years: what will today’s young children think of the real-time web we’ve posted them to? When they’re old enough to think through what it means. When they’re a teenager going through the awkward years. When they’re getting out of college, looking for a job. When they’re out on a date.

How will their experience be different, when all the world can watch exactly how they grew up?

Little Ryan Soroush Scoble – only a few days old now – will have a chance to live that life. One inside of the real-time web, right from the very beginning after his C-section entry into the world. His father, @scobleizer has publicly Tweeted, FriendFeed’, Posterous’d, flicrk’d, blogged, and a wide variety of other online tool’d the whole process. And I can only imagine he’ll continue the quest for good technology behind the real-time web as Ryan gets to grow up.

When do you think Ryan will figure out what the internet is, and be excited about all this cool stuff about him that he can see live, right now? (I guess 3 years old.) When do you think Ryan will realize that maybe it’s not so cool, and he wishes his dad hadn’t posted that video of him doing (insert embarassing pre-teen moment here)? (My bet is before 10.)

In some ways I had a similar early childhood, with a father who was a technology geek and a photographer. I remember baby pictures (of course), birthday and holiday pictures, and pictures of me every year the first day of school (every year), and sometimes the second day of school, and sometimes my haircut… But those were all private pictures; ones shared only with close family, and now, mostly lost somewhere in the maze of the basement. Heck, even today, even with my high-tech life and open source contributions, there’s still only a handful of pictures of me easily findable on the net. And videos, or stories about me on the net? Only the ones I choose to post, now that I’m an adult.

How will the continuing information revolution change our lives with this brand new and very personal sharing that easy blogs, flickr, and Facebook have given us? It’s an interesting question for adults, far beyond the simple “Dude, did you really mean to post that kegger on FB?”, but one that’s been discussed plenty. What I wonder is, how will it affect our children – those who aren’t aware enough to decide their fates now – what they’ll think about it later, when they realize what their parents did.

One thought on “What will our children think of the real-time web?

  1. One strange thing about childhood is that things are the way that they are. My kids use the Internet every day, but I don't think that they know what the Internet *is*. It's just there, much like phones, cars, and air. It is a reality of their lives. My kids can't conceive of the notion that a particular piece of information wouldn't be online. Any question can be answered with “you can look it up”, meaning the Internet.

    Likewise, the new generation will just know that anything that happens, anywhere, will eventually end up on Youtube. I increasingly find this a Bad Thing, for reasons that you articulate above, but which I can't often find words for. After all, I seldom do anything that I'm actively ashamed of having done. But that doesn't mean that I really want a permanent video record to be watched by strangers and be tagged with 'FAIL'.

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