I was born the last year of the “Baby Boom”.
In my life time, telephones have evolved from rotary to push button to cordless to whatever 4G is.
When I went to college the first time, I brought with me the Smith-Corona typewriter I had been given for Christmas my senior year of high school, a box of typing paper, and a bottle of Wite-Out. Only one kid owned a personal computer. The rest of us had to go to the computer lab and sign up for a time to use one of the 16 available IBMs, or 4 available Macs, armed with our five and a quarter inch floppy discs. Printing was expensive and slow.
It is no wonder then, that few in my age group were prepared to deal with our own children and computer usage. After all, aren’t computers great tool that help us find information, write papers, stay in touch with people who are far away? Don’t computers enhance our lives by allowing us to relive old childhood TV shows, find friends from summer camp, meet our future spouses?
My children learned to use computers by playing matching games on the Blue’s Clues channel of Nickelodeon. I bought them all of the Magic School Bus games, and they learned to navigate puzzles and quizzes that taught them about the ocean, volcanoes, dinosaurs, and other topics in science and math.
Somewhere along the line, I lost control. I’m not sure when or where that happened. For a while, when they were losing teeth and learning to ride bicycles, they had little or no computer interaction. Now I can’t pry their fingers off the keyboard with hot pincers. How did this happen?
I remember, as a child, being grounded from going outside to play with my friends. It was the worst 15 minutes of my young life. I sat in the second story window, gazing forlornly out at my friends on their bicycles and skateboards. I was the most pathetic child ever to take a breath of climate controlled air. The only thing that could prevent me from wilting away to a husk of a 10 year old child was the ability to inhale deeply from the humid New York City streets below. This air-conditioned prison was going to be the end of me. My step-Father could handle only so much. I was finally released back to the wild as the dinner calls from the doormen started coming in.
“Peter, your mother wants you in now,”
“Corin, time for dinner!”
Evenings meant meals and books. After all, there was only one TV in the apartment, in my parent’s room. I could watch what they were watching, or I could read. I read a lot.
I can not tell you the last time I saw one of my boys pick up a book to read for pleasure. Perhaps the Lord of the Rings series, when the movies came out.over ten years ago. I’ve since bought them such amazing classics as 1984 and Dune, only to be met with disinterested grunts as they turned back to the screen.
I’ve tried limiting screen time. I’ve begged for family time. I’ve cited studies about attention span and sleep patterns and health. I’ve set the router to turn off at 9:30pm. I’ve been met with such hostility and arguments of such high caliber that my determination was worn out within a few hours. (Not that it mattered, it turns out that the cell phones given to them by my ex-husband can act as wifi hotspots.) I’ve tried getting interested in their games. I find myself baffled at how these online quests could hold anyone’s attention for more than a few days, or a week at most. I’ve been promised by psychologists that the boys would grow tired of these games and want to live their own lives. I find no evidence yet that this could happen. Ever.
Worst of all, I cannot get these boys outside. They won’t walk, they won’t bicycle, they won’t willingly go hiking or camping and we live in the outdoor paradise of Colorado. Have you even encountered a teenage boy who wasn’t dying to get his hands on the car keys? I have two of them. My oldest didn’t get his license until he was 19. The youngest, now 17, regularly grumbles about having to drive to get the hours required before he can take the practical test.
I must be an awesome chauffeur.
Nonetheless, today I am getting that 17 year old to the DMV and we’ll see if he has learned anything this past year of driving. I’m exhausted. I simply cannot drive him to every event anymore. I have things I have to do as well.
I expect great resistance. There will be moaning, and probably groaning. I suspect he will gravitate to that computer as if it had a mystical power over his every movement. Voices might get raised. With enough coffee, I could triumph, but the day is yet to be won. Wish me well.