While eating lunch at the local KFC, I saw one of the uniformed staff-members holding a large sign and walking back and forth in front of the restaurant. The placard invited passing motorists to stop in for a buffet.
As I watched, I realized this young guy was not limiting himself to spreading the word of his employer’s food offerings. Instead, he managed to hold the sign with one hand so that, behind it, he could happily send text messages on his cell phone. He was a perfect example of today’s always-plugged-in generation.
Wherever I go, I see folks from pre-teens to middle-aged moms clasping electronic gadgets in their hands or their ever-present cell phones to their ears.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that these wonders didn’t even exist twenty short years ago. When you consider how vital everything from personal computers and iPods to cell phones and DVD players are for today’s society, it often seems the childhoods we senior souls enjoyed were hopelessly limited.
But then I recall the afternoons all the neighborhood kids would gather on the large front porch of my house to play Monopoly, all the evenings we’d spend telling each other ghost stories. Those visions of the past make me realize it’s today’s kids who are missing something vital. They don’t have many of the basic resources we did to feed their young imaginations.
I know some will tell you that the age of computers has given kids far more than we had to work with. But much of what computers offer are the thinking, the ideas, the imagination of others.
It seems to me that the forts we built with cardboard boxes or the dams of sticks and mud dams we constructed at the curb on rainy days accomplished two things today’s kids don’t often experience.
First, these things got us outside in the fresh air. And second, we were working with other kids, interacting, planning, carrying out. It was one-on-one, give and take friendships we were building.
Today, it seems even youngsters in the same building — often in the same room — prefer to converse through text messages or by cell phone.
I recently read the results of a study that found what I consider a disturbing fact. The conclusion of the study was: “Today’s kids spend more time each week with electronic devices than their parents do at work.”
One sixteen-year-old admitted he has a hard time picturing life without his cell phone.
And, a high-school student, asked how he’d feel if he had to give up his electronics, said, “It would probably be like drug addicts feel when they’re getting off drugs.”
The piece went on to report that “American youngsters....are now using cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices for an average of 7 1/2 hours a day, more than the equivalent of a full day of school.”
It’s obvious that today’s generation is redefining communication, interaction and entertainment.
I admit I have embraced many of today’s electronic wonders, but they have not taken over my life. I use my cell phone for emergency communication and my computer as a tool for writing and research. I have yet to add an iPod to my life.
As far as communication is concerned, you can keep your text messages. Give me a face-to-face conversation over a cup of coffee.
And when it comes to entertainment, I’m endlessly grateful that books need no batteries.