Students once needed to pore over books for assignments.
Students once needed to pore over books for assignments. Bev Lacey

OPINION: Benefits of growing up before the internet

THE conversations we have to have with young people these days are different to the ones that my parents and teachers had to have with me.

And whilst I wouldn't want to undo all the progress of the last few years, I have to acknowledge that some things were less complicated for me than they are for current young people.

As an example, as a teenager I could do dumb things without any concern that they would be haunting me many years later on Facebook or Instagram.

Yet another advantage of growing up before the internet was research.

When I was at high school, some 25 years ago, there was an unwritten formula for writing assignments.

You went to the library, read about three encyclopaedia articles on your set topic, one or two chapters from a book exploring the topic and synthesised the information.

The assumption was that a printed text could be trusted, that it had authority and that it provided a certain sense of certainty.

These days we see that the old assumptions do not carry the weight they used to, yet people still seek a voice of authority.

In Christian circles there is an ongoing discussion about the authority of the Bible, and how it should be read. In the climate change debate, there is confusion because it feels like both sides are claiming the same authority, "the voice of scientists".

In politics all the parties want us to give them authority, to place our trust in them. Obviously the ideal would be that we would become experts in all the fields we rely on, but even in my own field, there is too much depth to make that feasible.

The other pathway is the one young people are taught in school these days, to always ask the questions about motive, intent and the assumptions of the writer.

They are taught to read and think critically, and some of them even learn to do so.

It leads to a more difficult path; but if lived into authentically, can lead to a richer and wiser path.