The fundamentals of being a kid haven’t changed. Kids enjoy playing games, interacting with their friends, and occasionally – or frequently – goofing around.
What has changed is the way children perform those activities, and technology is the reason.
Some of the things that kids did 20 or 30 years ago are practically nonexistent in today’s world, and if you ask the current young ones about old video games, or if they knew how limited mobile phone technology was in the not-so-distant past, they’ll either have no idea what you are talking about, or they will associate those things with a bygone era.
At that moment, you may start to feel old!
In any case, technology has changed the childhood experience. For those who were alive during those old tech years, it’s a stroll down memory lane, and for those who weren’t yet born, you’ll see how different things were then.
Ways Technology Has Changed the Way Kids Do Things Then vs. Now
Back in the 80s and even up until the early 2000s, kids played Super Nintendo, Sega, or Nintendo 64, and these gaming consoles known came with video game cartridges that were inserted into the console.
Occasionally the video game cartridge didn’t work when inserted into the console, but if you blew the bottom of the cartridge or the console slot itself, then the game would work. It might take a few times, but eventually you’d get it.
Whether or not that method was truly effective is up for debate. This video can explain.
Kids today don’t play games with cartridges, let alone know anything about blowing the cartridges. Today’s gaming consoles take discs, the controllers are wireless, and the consoles can connect to the Internet. If not consoles, kids are playing games on apps from their smartphones and tablets.
At one time, kids actually had to race home in time to watch their favorite afternoon TV shows once the school day ended.
And if it was Saturday morning, kids wouldn’t want to sleep in too late, so as not to miss their favorite shows.
There was a time when it mattered to watch TV shows at the specific time they aired. Now it doesn’t matter.
With the exception of sporting events, and perhaps the occasional breaking news police pursuit you’d see on TV in the US, watching shows at the time originally aired is an outdated concept.
Kids today have grown up in a world used to DVRs recording the shows, and the shows can be accessed online and via streaming services anytime.
Kids are no longer at the mercy of the clock when they want to watch their favorite shows.
Making prank calls definitely falls into one of the more clownish aspects growing up 20+ years ago… and now it’s a very dated practice.
The premise of a prank call is simple: call a person or business, pretending to be someone you are not, and tell them silly and outlandish things to see how long they actually take your call seriously, much to your amusement.
When landlines were still a thing, you could call classmates or look in the Yellow Pages to find a business to call. Because the recipient never knew who was calling, they always answered the phone. That was your time to shine, being the best prankster you can be.
However, with the invention of Caller ID, prank calls became a dying practice, or some would call it a dying art. As caller ID became a default feature on any new phone, landline- and mobile-based, it became nearly impossible to fool others, and with your phone number and name on display, you could now be tracked down.
Not only is it hard for kids to engage in such activities today, the phone call culture has changed so much to where there is less of an appetite to make phone calls and answer calls, especially from unrecognized numbers.
Similarly, millennials, no longer the kids they once were, now prefer texting over calling by a wide margin. Would Gen Z really be any different? Making any phone call is almost a “chore.”
In short, the prank phone call is dead.
With landlines still prevalent and cell phone usage limited to a small number of adults, kids used the home phone to talk with their friends, and sometimes competed with siblings and parents who also needed the phone.
When you wanted to call your friends, you’d call the other person’s home phone and ask “Is ____ there?” “Can I speak with _____, please?”
What’s more embarrassing, you could be talking with your girlfriend or boyfriend, and a parent or sibling could pick up another phone in the house to listen in on that romantic conversation.
Up until the early 2000s, it was still fairly common to rely on landlines for phone usage, but by the mid-2000s, cell phones became ubiquitous, and each family member had their own number.
Setting aside parental restriction settings on the phones, kids today can call their friends any time, no longer competing with family for phone usage, and no longer worrying about a family member listening in on their conversations.
If you were the ultimate PC gamer (or computer nerd) and you wanted to play computer games with your friends, you’d have a LAN (local area network) party.
Because the multiplayer games could not be played over an Internet connection, friends would get together at someone’s home, bringing their computers with them, plugging their devices up to a common connection that allowed them to play against each other on a private network.
You could play popular LAN party games like Counter-Strike, personally interacting with each other and watching each other’s reactions when someone wins or is dominated by the others.
But as games increasingly moved online, LAN parties became outdated.
While kids today may still enjoy playing online games with their friends nearby them, the idea of connecting a computer with friends’ because there is no online feature may be a bit strange or old-fashioned.
Observe the Trends in Tech from Then to Now
While looking at how children’s upbringings have changed as a result of technology may be interesting in itself, there are important lessons to be learned.
Things change, and technology is a key driver. From a business perspective, it’s important to know the technology trends in relation to your target market.
From landline to mobile, from playing games on local devices to online, from live TV to DVR and on-demand streaming services, consumers are showing their preferences. Businesses that adapt to the consumers’ changing tastes are in the best position to succeed.
Whether the market is kids or adults, companies have to know when to ride the wave of one trend and know when the end is near, ready to hop on to the next trend.
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