Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cultural Perceptions

A couple of events in the last day or so has made me think about cultural expectations and perceptions.

Earlier this evening, I was talking with a friend who just returned from Asia. While on a flight in Asia (Taiwan to Korea, maybe?), she noted the UNICEF promo video they played. The reference to "starving children on the other side of the world" caught her attention, since Americans normally think of "starving children on the other side of the world" as being from Asia. I suppose for Asians "the other side of the world" could also be Africa, or Latin America (Haiti comes to mind), but I found the reference of "other side of the world" interesting. Rather than face the fact we all have problems and people who desperately need help in our own backyards, we put a spin on it and make the problem seem far, far away - "on the other side of the world."

The past couple of days, I've been babysitting a three-year-old, which has been an experience in of itself. She was fascinated with my cell phone, wanting to look at it, the pictures on it, and play pretend with it. Today I brought her a really old cell phone of mine that doesn't even turn on anymore. I was much more confident to let her play pretend with an old brick she could throw around with no harm done.

Throughout the day, she would take it out of her pocket and make "calls" to her parents and friends. But what really caught my attention was her "texting." She would pull it out, punch the keys for several moments, then put it back in her pocket. A minute later, she would pull it out again, look at it, and then punch the keys again. I was amazed that at three years old, she had mastered the concept which comprises the extent of some people's communication. Technology has radically changed our world in the past two decades. When I was three, cell phones barely existed. Now, little children -even toddlers- know how to operate them. While technology offers many benefits, we may yet see negatives outweigh the blessings.

This three-year-old also liked to look at my phone. My default background is a picture of my brother and my guy cousins at a baseball game. While looking at the background, she asked a question that through me off guard. "Is this your boyfriend?" "No, that's my brother, and that's my cousin." I assume that the other girls who have babysit her have pictures of their boyfriends on their phones. But I found it pretty ridiculous that a three-year-old has an cultural expectation of boyfriends and dating and all that great stuff.

Kids soak up the culture they're surrounded by, and often reflect this back in statements and actions that can be surprising. I think it's crazy the things three year olds know and expect because they've been taught by their culture.

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