DeTox – Day 18 Survival Parenting, Driving, and the Internet

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.

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5 thoughts on “DeTox – Day 18 Survival Parenting, Driving, and the Internet”

  1. I suspect todays youth is going to the computers because

    1. the world simulated there is simpler – there are real rules ( as compared to thec chaos of RealLife[TM] )
    and
    2. they do it to avoid real people .

    When I was a kid I was the ONLY person to read on the tram – often while walking to the tram stop too .
    Today one third of passengers read and half use their smartphone. non readers only are 1 6th now , a minority. – how and why has this turned into a nation of introverts.?

  2. You’re correct that kids today don’t particularly like driving: http://www.citylab.com/commute/2013/05/planning-our-transportation-future-millennials-mind/5575/

    As for why kids like those online games so much, remember that the major gaming companies all employ psychologists to help craft the correct reward/challenge system to keep users engaged. And with their frontal lobes not yet fully developed, I’m not surprised they’re more susceptible to that sort of thing than adults are.
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468

    If some bunch of idiots like Zynga can hook adults on games, imagine what a competent company like Blizzard can do.

    Finally, I’d like to speak up for the people Andreas mentioned. As an avid smartphone user while reading the bus, you’re darn right I’m avoiding people! With all of the apparently unmedicated individuals we have riding public transit around here, it’s much safer to have earplugs in and a screen to watch to avoid having to interact with people if they attempt to initiate anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t keep an eye (and ear–my music’s not _that_ loud) on them, of course, but it’s basically a get out of interaction free card that allows both the user and the person attempting the interaction to end the interaction without being rude (former) or losing face (latter).

    1. Oh I get avoiding people. I have been doing it for 50+ years. I am just noticing that the average tram user changed behaviour. I used to an outsider, a minority , a crazy person for reading while walking to the tram. Today it is practically normal.
      I am not sure I can deal with being normal 😉 I am not used to that.

  3. Maybe the level of conflict has gotten so high that we simply want to hide in books and iPods? In order to avoid a fight (which used to be an exchange of ideas or opinions) we simply withdraw?

    1. There is truth in that . I know I have been reading sometimes to ignore the other people and avoid having to get up to offer a seat.
      I think what worries me is that back when I was a child I may have had a form of high-performing autism ( only back in the early 60s that was not a common diagnosis HERE ) and now wonder if all those readers in the tram are too – and how this change came about.
      Or iof society has changed so much that now more and more people find it intolerable. And I rem,ember too well that some aspects of the early 60s were unpleasant ( mostly to other people – I WAS privileged )

      I also remember My American Uncle http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081176/

      about animals stressed by overpopulation changing towards more agressive behaviour. .

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