I’m pretty sure that most parents who fall into the late thirties early forties age bracket can still clearly remember how things went when they were kids. What I remember is how much time I spent outdoors back then, with the threat of being kept indoors enough to make me toe the line on most occasions. It seems incredible to me that in such a short time the table could have turned so completely that kids are now threatened with being sent outside as a punishment. Sure, there is the argument that we live in a different world now, and that sending kids outside without supervision is not a sign of responsible parenting. I think it might actually have more to do with what is inside than what is out that is the major cause of the problem.
My bedroom as a child consisted the basics, with the only real form of entertainment being a well-stocked bookshelf and a horrible old record player that worked when it felt like it. If I close my eyes right now I can very clearly see a bunch of teenager reading this and trying to process what a record player might be. This was in the days prior to electronics getting to the point where they are now starting to take over our lives and the lives of our kids. The sad fact is that as parents we should know better, but we are in fact gleefully contributing to an addiction to electronics, most likely because we are falling prey ourselves.
I was out at a fast food restaurant last week, and as I sat waiting for my order, 4 teenage kids came in, sat down, and then proceeded to whip out their smartphones without saying a word to one another. They sat for the entire time that I was there, presumably playing a game or updating their status on one of the many social media sites. In fairness, I did check in online when I arrived at the restaurant, just so that I could score a few points on Foursquare. I do it without thinking now, which suggests that I am a little more addicted to social media than I would care to admit. The fact that a ton of my “friends” respond to those most banal of posts tells me that I am not alone.
There seems to be a constant need now to update everyone on the minutiae of our lives, which to me is a little sad. What we perceive now as social usually involves an anti-social act in order to share that info. We will casually ignore the person across the table so that our imaginary friends will know we are grabbing some fries. It’s not just social media that causes an addiction to the online world, though, with games also playing a part. How much of your Facebook timeline is taken up with requests for help to tend a virtual farm or help make meals in a virtual restaurant? These games suck us in by making things really fun and easy at the start, with cool rewards to boot. The further you progress, though, the harder it is to complete tasks, with many actually failing if you don’t check back in within a certain time period.
The people that make these games know exactly what they are doing, knowing that you will try to do better next time so that your crop or meal isn’t ruined. In the meantime, as you strive to do better in the game world with your virtual friends, you lose sight of the fact that your real friends haven’t seen you in eons. I wonder if they even notice, though, or are they too busy planting the seed for their own online addiction?
Written by John Watson of theinkedwriter.com