The manner in which children are brought up varies greatly from generation to generation, and nannies and babysitters are first-hand witnesses that can attest to this. First semester, I nannied for a six-year old named Luke, who was more tech savvy at his age than even I was. While the first iPhone only debuted when I was nine, and I didn’t even own a cell phone until I was 13, Luke split most of his free time between his various Apple products: an iPhone, a MacBook and an iPad. The generation after Luke will surely become acclimated to technology even sooner, among other changes.
I talked to three NYU CAS freshmen who also spend a good amount of their week babysitting children of the next generation. It turns out that even with just 10 years of difference in age, there can be a huge difference in how children are brought up.
Aiyer looks after two children: eight-year-old Uma and four-year-old Marlo. The biggest change Aiyer sees between her and these children is their degree of independence.
“Uma is much more independent than I was,” Aiyer said. “She knows how to take the subway and is great with directions.”
Although both children do interact more with technology than Aiyer did at her age, she doesn’t necessarily see it is a bad thing. In fact, she thinks it has made one of them more aware of the world.
“I love seeing just the cultural differences between us,” Aiyer said. “Uma knows so much about technology and is way more globally conscious than I was at her age. She also has no clue what tapes or VHS are and isn’t familiar with old TV shows — I asked her if she knew what ‘That’s So Raven’ was and she asked if it was a book.”
Maturity and independence seem to categorize many children of the next generation. Reynolds, who babysits 10-year-old Rosemary, describes her as “the most mature 10-year-old” and “extremely advanced and bright.”
Growing up in New York City is the biggest difference between Rosemary and Reynolds, who grew up in the suburbs of Ohio. Reynolds believes that the city itself forces kids to be more mature. But even with this large difference, Reynolds is fascinated with how interests change from each generation.
“I’m constantly thinking about what it will be like to have children who grow up and have the ability to see what their parents’ social media presence was like; an unprecedented way to look at how your mom or dad used to act like as a teen,” Reynolds said. “So, while we are not quite at that point yet, it is really cool and interesting to see what movies, books and TV shows kids these days are growing up with.”
Sharma takes care of 11-year-old Charlie after school, who is growing up in a completely different environment than Sharma was accustomed to. Charlie is part of an affluent family and is surrounded by a lot of extravagance, but despite this, still retains his relatable sense of humor.
“He’s almost in middle school so he’s becoming more aware of the media and pop culture,” Sharma said. “Every week he references the newest catchphrase online.”
Ultimately for Sharma, babysitting is almost a nostalgic experience. Despite the changes that both of their upbringings might have, it seems that the basic child-like sense of fun and curiosity remains the same.
“Babysitting gives me the opportunity to look back at my past,” Sharma said. “Seeing Charlie’s made-up language with a friend reminds me of the time I was in elementary school creating a fictional world. It’s clear to see that this generation has a few tools that we didn’t, but in essence, they still have the same creative ideas we had and are amazed by the same things we were.”
A version of this article appeared in the May 2 print edition. Email Ankita Bhanot at [email protected]