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February 23, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A future without tech? A future without tech? (February 23, 2005)

Many Palo Alto kids would rather pursue careers outside of technology

by Alexandria Rocha

In second-grade, Libby Craig honed her skills as the teacher's pet. She would stay after school to help file papers and grade assignments, choosing the perfect "You're a star!" sticker for each of her classmate's work.

That year, Craig wanted to be a teacher.

Now at 13, Craig has bagged the idea and is thinking about writing a magazine column or becoming an interior designer.

Like many of her peers, Craig's aspirations rest far away from the buzzing fast-paced world of technology. It's a bit surprising, especially coming from a laptop- and cell phone-toting generation that knows anything hip begins with an "e" or "i."

"Computers have been around since we can remember and now they're boring," said Zach Harris, 13, an eighth-grader at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School.

Or as Harris' classmate, Monica Alcazar, 13, puts it: "We've been surrounded by technology. We're kind of sick of it."

What is it they want then? Many say they're not driven by money. Some want to work from home or be self-employed. They want to help people, stand up for things they believe in, and -- more often than not -- travel and be outside.

"I know I want to make a difference. I know I want to be remembered forever," said Mariah Cannon, 14, also a JLS eighth-grader.

Turns out, they just don't want to be Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

"Most kids use technology as a tool, they do not necessarily want to do it full time," said Richard Stolee, a family therapist at the Children's Health Council on Clark Way.

Some experts say it's not the profession that influences children, but how happy the person is doing it. With so many parents in Palo Alto working high-tech jobs that require long hours away from home and cause a significant amount of stress, today's adolescents are turned off by what they see.

"When we see our parents doing it, they don't seem that excited. My mom used to be in selling and advertising and now she makes art," said Catherine Chiang, 14.

"Parents and adults try to pressure us about what to do and what to be, but we're not even in high school yet. It's 10 years from now," said Alcazar.

In general, Stolee said, there is a societal trend to move away from the traditional 8-to-5 office job. Future generations are more inclined to strive for flexible schedules so they can spend time at home with their families or make time for other areas of interest.

Today's adolescents also seem more interested in the humanities. In Palo Alto, they have a drive to make things better.

"Most people we know use the Internet for social reasons. It seems more important to be a doctor finding cures and helping people," said Craig.

Despite such antipathy toward technology, Stolee said careers in that field are not out of the question. "My kids grew up saying 'I don't want to talk about psychology,' yet they internalized some of that stuff and when they got to school they saw a career that seemed comfortable to them," he said.

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