Living on the wild side has meant different things to different generations.
At one time, daring meant phony phone calls.
The rite of passage, the sign of courage, was calling a person to tell her to hurry to catch her running refrigerator, or calling the bakery to ask if the bakers have any dough, or calling the corner store to ask the owner if he had Prince Albert in a can, and if so, he'd better let him out.
That was back in the days when a family had one car -- two at most. There was only one phone in the house and it was a rotary dial. Phones came in only one color -- black. There was no such thing as Wal-Mart, and if your family had a color television that was a big deal. Personal computers weren't even a blip on the radar screen, and flying in an airplane was a big-time event.
Parents hated their kids' music. They were disgusted with the clothes. And the hair-dos, well, you can forget about that all together.
Times have changed; they've changed dramatically.
Today, living on the wild side is so foreign, so incomprehensible, to most of us that it is nearly impossible to understand this "new" generation.
Forget the music; forget the physical appearances.
The life of the kids of this new generation is centered on technology and the entertainment it generates for them. It's something most adults can't begin to understand.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead explained it best. She said as the world changed -- and we moved from a society in which children were dependent upon learning from their elders to a society in which the change happens so quickly that children adapt with greater ease than their elders -- the children would become the teachers.
Most adults today accept the changes technology has brought to the world. They use the Internet, or if they don't and they need information, they find people who will help them retrieve the information. Most adults use cell phones to keep in touch with work, with family, and with friends when a land line isn't readily available.
But for kids, this techno stuff is entertainment as well as a means of communicating; it is a way of life. They use their cell phones incessantly, and when they are not chatting on the phone, they are text-messaging. They can use the phones play video games, download music and watch a television show. For kids, personal computers are not only a roadmap for the information highway, they're also another way to keep in touch.
The personal computer has brought with it a new way of living on the wild side for some kids in this new generation. The phenomenon of chat rooms has been well-publicized. The dark side of chat rooms has drawn a lot of media attention.
Perkins Police Detective Darren Martel said technology is a whole new beast. For kids it is a form of entertainment, and some even use technology to meet people. The language barrier and the technology barrier make it difficult for adults to understand where kids are coming from, and the learning curve for the older generation can be a steep one.
Martel and Perkins School Resource Officer Tanya Corbin have a unique perspective on the differences. After extensive training in how to catch online sexual predators and after hours of monitoring and participating in some chat rooms, they have seen the dark side of today's online world.
As much as parents have to teach kids to watch themselves and be wary of strangers, Martel says it's not only "the guy in the trench coat coming up to kids on the playground" that needs to be taught anymore.
Before I tuned her out entirely, I used to hear my least favorite Dame-ocrat, Hillary Clinton, say it takes a village to raise a child. I'm not really sure what she meant by that, but I think the viewpoints of the people in the trenches, people like Martel and Corbin, are far more perceptive than those of dithering politicians.
"The community centers of today are chat rooms, not bricks and mortar," said Martel. They are easily accessible and kids do not need parental approval to participate. They are not only a form of entertainment but also a place to ask questions and seek advice.
Some kids don't want their parents involved in their lives and the inability to communicate goes both ways. The communication breakdown is no different in theory than the breakdown decades ago, but technology makes it all the more frightening and frustrating.
Parents need to monitor what their kids are doing. That hasn't changed with the times. But Martel cautions that personal profiles on MySpace.com, participation in chat rooms and all the things that go along with the age of technology can hurt even the innocent child.
There have been several steps taken recently in our community in an attempt to bridge this ever-widening generation gap. Organized discussions with community members about the need for facilities for the area's young people, moving existing facilities to more centralized locations, and even offering kids an opportunity to express themselves during the Sandusky City Schools Youth Summit scheduled for May are all steps in the right direction.
But adults need to take additional steps as well. Seminars are needed to learn what kids are doing and how they are doing it and to understand how peer groups operate. The adult population needs to catch up on technology and the way kids use it.
It's just something we need to do.