A Letter to Parents (Part 1)

In the following 2-part essay the author takes on the voice of the generic youth in contemporary Singapore. Parts of this essay have been drawn from her own experience growing up in Singapore. The views expressed are of the author alone and are not representative of www.onsponge.com. She hopes that inspired parents will take some time to ponder their relationship with their children and find their own unique ways to become more involved in their children’s interactive environment.

Dear Parents,

I’d like to start by acknowledging your support for us over the years, be that in the form of the hard earned money that fed and clothed us, sent us to school – the money that currently nestles in our faux wallets and piggy banks – or the times you held our hair back when we were sick, caressed our foreheads and tucked us into bed. You care for us deeply and you’ve given us much. We appreciate it.

We live in a digitized and fragmented world. We know sometimes that is difficult to understand. It seems we value most what we can immediately have in our hands, living off the current 5-minute satisfaction to the next – whatever has the ability to engage our attention span till the next moment arrives. At times it seems even you are in competition for an appointment slot in our lives. What can we say? We were born into a wired world, dropped off at the entrance of the information super-highway. This is our starting point, our blank slate. Time magazine’s person of the year in 2006 is “YOU” – the wired individual who is harnessing the collective power of a global online citizenry and distributing ever more weight into the hands of the masses from what used to be the hands of an elite few. While we live in Singapore, we hold concurrent citizenship to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, iTunes, the 3 and 4G networks, and all of blogosphere. We noticed some of you have also set up your Facebook accounts alongside ours. The difference is, while this is something you’ve picked up along the way, the online and mobile world has always been our constant. Thomas Friedman called this a flat world where competition is that much tougher when all parties are lined at the same starting point, ergo it is that much harder to get ahead of the mass of people next to you.

The evolution of things considered, the sandbox playgrounds that encouraged the practice of face-to-face social skills have given way to the necessity of Internet savvy where a whole new set of writing-based social nuances supplement, if not match, the physical interactions that already take place in schools, extra-curricular classes and tuition centers. Schoolyard bullies have upgraded themselves to Internet bullies. The quiet joys of daily journaling may or may not have given way to the succession of 2-sentence tweets in expression of our everyday lives but hey, that’s not all bad! Even The New York Times Education section has paid dues to the trend and is encouraging the use of social media to teach concise writing. (Here’s a look at the lesson plan: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/28/less-is-more-using-social-media-to-inspire-concise-writing/?smid=fb-nytimes) The game has certainly been changed but take comfort in the fact that we are all in this together – for the first time.

And then there is school. We know the pace of our school curriculum scares you; that we are already learning in Primary 1 what you used to learn in Primary 4. We know it also amazes you that we’re actually good at it. It’s ok. We worry about that too but mostly we take that cue from you. We saw you getting worked up over how we did on that last test. And as you teach us the value of discipline and hard work, remember to remind us that you love us no matter what grade we get. We love you so much that often we have a hard time differentiating between the unconditional love and your conditional approval. Remind us again what it should be; what is more important.

Continue to read Part 2 of "A Letter to Parents"