Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Raising an Electronic Generation


While out to dinner last week with friends, we observed three families being seated around us; the six parents sat to one side of our table while their children sat at a large round table to the other side of us.  We looked at that group of eight boys under 12 sitting unsupervised and visibly cringed. The looks on our face conveyed to each other that we all anticipated a certain amount of chaos and noise from that children’s table.  I even said a quick prayer that the expected chaos would not influence the seven kids at our own table who were happily coloring on their paper menus.

Several moments later, someone mentioned that it was really quiet at that all boy table.  We glanced over and noticed no one at the table talking or moving.  There was no goofing off, joking around or noise at all from them.  To our surprise, each child held a handheld video game or phone.  Throughout the entire dinner, this table of eight young boys remained silent, completely absorbed in their own electronic world.
 
Studies are showing that the current young adult generation has difficulty focusing on singular tasks due to constant multitasking and external stimulation.  I fear that the next younger generation, our children, will experience the problem tenfold. Look around at the number of businesses that cater to children - haircut place, dentist, nail salon –advertising videos or video games for children to use not only while they wait, but also during the service.  While I can recognize the benefit of using an age-appropriate video to distract a very young child during their first haircut to keep them still, it is my opinion that a child old enough for a dental cleaning or manicure is old enough to do so without constant visual entertainment.

Trust me, there are times I am extremely tempted to hand my kids a handheld video game or my iPhone in order to get a moments peace and quiet while out in public.  In extreme circumstances, I’ve actually done this, though that is the rarity and not the norm. Typically I find that simply engaging my child in a conversation, a game of “I Spy,” or hangman can bring us through almost any situation.  Sure, it’s easier to just let them take their electronic game with them or hand them my phone, but as parents we know that some of the greatest lessons we can teach our children come from not giving in to the “easy” things.
I fear that our society is raising up a generation who will not have the ability to develop interpersonal connections or relate with friends without relying on electronics.  

Those boys at dinner missed out on what should have been a talkative, active, social occasion with friends. Sometimes a loud and crazy dinner out at a restaurant is a good thing.  

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