Google Doodle: All hail the post-Google parent
Today Google celebrates its 15th birthday with an interactive Google doodle game. One father reflects on how Google has changed the face of information, learning, and parenting.
In the 15 years since Google was founded (you can see that momentous event commemorated here in today's cute Google doodle piñata game), the company has had a massive impact on the way Internet searching works. And by improving the Internet search from a largely ineffective random grab into a powerful precision tool, Google has also transformed a number of other massively broad spheres of activity, including commerce, government, and leisure.
Beyond that: Google has changed the way parents do their thing, too. We are now armed with the rapid ability to obtain knowledge on nearly anything we want, which makes us more effective (or more efficiently ineffective) parents than the world has ever seen.
In short: the post-Google parent is aware (possibly over-aware) of trends, ideas, and occasionally actual knowledge in a way that his or her pre-Google counterparts weren't. That includes ...
Keeping up with slang
Since time immemorial, language has changed and adapted, with hallowed traditions defended by increasingly scarce and embittered graybeards while young whippersnappers dish up hot dishes of new, nearly impenetrable slang seemingly for the sole purpose of confusing and annoying their elders. And then, of course, the students become the masters, confused in turn by the next wave.
Having some idea of who Drake is
And what good is having a crude, dictionary-derived understanding of slang terminology and usage without understanding the various horrible pop cultural influences who will be teaching your sons and daughters these desecrations of the English language? Again: Google to the rescue. From Arabella (from Teen Mom 3) to Zedd, the Internet oracle serves up a quick thumbnail biography so that parents can be roughly conversant in current events with their kids, if not actually fluent.
Obsessing over baby milestones
Once upon a time, parents needed to buy tedious parenting books in order to worry about the minutiae of evolving sleep patterns or the potential implications of being three days late to start crawling. Thanks to Google, we're guaranteed democratic access to literally dozens of sites that let us track, quantify, predict, and otherwise dissect every move and sound made and uttered by our poor, over-interpreted offspring.
Being hyper-aware of baby-naming trends
Naming your baby used to be easy: You picked a well-known name held by an elder family member and/or inspirational figure from your faith, and you went with it. Now, the challenge is to be more original than anyone you know, for fear that your son or daughter might suffer if given a name that can be easily spelled and/or pronounced.
Fortunately there is a host of Google-accessible websites dedicated to the sole purpose of helping you find a name for your kid, citing naming trends going back to the 19th century and coughing up diamonds like "Isla" or "Bentley" for parents racking their brains for the new hotness.
And if you're agonizing over whether to name your little girl Leighton, Kieran, or Brinkley, agonize no longer - other parents are talking about it, and you can learn from their thinking, or, at times, what passes vaguely for thinking.
Knowing it all
When I was growing up, I considered myself fortunate to have a father well-grounded in science. His oracular knowledge (Why is the sky blue? How do fish breathe water? How do you make a Molotov cocktail? Can we make a diamond in the backyard if we bury coal for long enough?) seemed darn near magical. Having a dad who could explain the mysteries of life was exciting and, more importantly, it put me ahead of the game vis-a-vis other kids with less knowledgable parents.
Now, any parent with a smartphone or laptop or tablet computer can enjoy that same sense of knowledge and power ... until their son or daughter turns four and is able to out-Google them.
Knowing too much
Knowledge can be enlightening, empowering, dangerous, or worrisome, and that extends to parents' knowledge (or "knowledge") of what kids are up to these days. That can include the rough stuff that kids face: bullying (particularly cyber bullying) and the horrors of sexting (which, sadly, can sometimes feed back into a particularly nasty and damaging form of bullying.)
It can be hard not to fuss and worry when handed this dizzying array of intel about what can go wrong with kids. But then, there's also nothing to stop you from Googling a decent massage, a vacation at a cabin – or well-rated child-care.