Generation FaceTime

Like most families this weekend, we spent much of ours getting used to the new rules Covid-19 has imposed on our lives.

Other than staring at empty shelves in the supermarket, this largely involved cancelling things we wanted to do.  A trip to the West End; a big family gathering on Mothering Sunday and a 14th birthday party for our middle daughter. But something else changed, too.  The sound of our house. It started on Friday, within hours of the Prime Minister’s announcement at the daily press conference of much stricter policies – namely social distancing.

Other than the usual noise that accompanies a young family (we have three daughters, 15, 14 and 10), we expected our house to become a quieter, more cut-off place.

The opposite happened.  To the echo of the three girls’ voices there were added at least a dozen others, all connected – via FaceTime and Zoom – in what became over the weekend one perpetual multiple-friends web-conference. Glance at a phone or laptop and it was the same picture across our house – a panel of friends faces, all similarly keeping their distance and unable to do the things they wanted to do, but all connected and sharing the experience.

Of course, FaceTime calls with friends is nothing new in our house.

We live with three prime examples of Generation Z, for whom Social connectivity is like oxygen. But it was the scale of it all that was different.

Our eldest daughter held a lengthy kitchen table Zoom conference with five friends to work on their (so-to-be-blockbuster) musical. Our middle daughter took her friends on an extended tour of the back garden, via FaceTime.  Key features: large trampoline, family cat climbing tree and me talking to the plants in the greenhouse. Our youngest daughter (who, if I’m honest, probably spends a quarter of her life online gaming with friends), spent chunks of time competing with friends on a school maths portal called RockSlam.

All three were connected at various times in one giant FaceTime call with dance school friends – the weekend’s lessons having all, of course, been cancelled. Apart from the noise of all those voices, of which only three were physically in the house, the thing that struck us most was the amount of laughter going on.  A FaceTime birthday gathering was even held for Daughter Number Two.

Social distancing restrictions the coronavirus brings will present major challenges for all of us over the coming months.

But for our three girls, and the millions of other children across the UK, I doubt connecting with each other remotely is going to be a problem.


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