At our New Year’s Eve block party – amidst a moonlit game of hide and seek, an unlimited supply of colorful glow sticks, gorgeous fireworks, marshmallows, and an “it’s dark, way past our bedtime, and no one seems to care as long we don’t run into the street” atmosphere – Dylan asked for his Kindle Fire. Begged, actually.
This story (confession?) is both a glowing endorsement of the impressive HD Amazon tablet and a warning sign that my kids are overexposed to technology.
I remember being at a neighbor’s luau-themed 40th birthday party when I was a kid. I was probably about Dylan’s age at the time, and my parents (and most of the adults there) were about my age now…maybe even a few years younger.
Editor’s note: Does this happen to you? You recall a childhood memory and then realize you’re now the same age as or – gulp – older than your parents were in the memory. When this happens – and the frequency is increasing – I feel a tightness in my chest and a desire to fill an online shopping cart at piperlime.com.
Anyhow, the luau was awesome. We got to wear grass skirts and leis. We swam, ate junk food, ran around barefoot, and stayed up way past our bedtimes. Our parents were tipsy (sloshed?), and there was even a Hula dance contest. If I recall correctly, my neighbor’s daughter and I won. Our prize was that we could pick one night and stay up as late as we wanted. As late as we wanted?! It was like winning the lottery even though everyone knew we’d never make it past 10pm.
Whether or not my recollection of this night is accurate (we all know my memory stinks), there’s no doubt that it was a magical night and a memory – no matter how fuzzy – that has stayed with me all these years. And since it was approximately 1982, there were no Kindle Fires – and no “Transformer Rescue Bots” on Netflix, no “Where’s My Water” and “Cut the Rope” apps, and no Dark Knight movies on Flickster – to beg for at a neighborhood party under a starlit sky.
I’m not one of those anti-technology parents. Clearly. I mean, my boys don’t have cell phones or Facebook accounts (though that time will come soon enough), but they watch television. They watch movies. They play video games on the Xbox. They play games on the computer. I have apps on my iPhone and iPad for them. (Did I tell you I got an iPad for Hanukkah? I did!) They each have Kindle Fires, and they play with them at bedtime on some nights. Okay, every night. But, don’t get judgy. We read books, too. And never say never. Eventually, it’ll get you in trouble.
I don’t want to keep my kids away from technology (or hide it from them), but that doesn’t mean I know how to properly navigate the “on demand” world in which we live. No matter how much I enjoy having technology at my fingertips (and I do), I also grew up in a world in which it wasn’t. Dylan and Riley, on the other hand, will never know a Google-less, YouTube-less world. Their ease with technology will help them in life, but that doesn’t mean I want them to bury their faces in a tablet when they could be watching fireworks, playing hide and seek in the dark, or doing the Hula (not Hulu).
I realize this is a familiar generational conversation, but the mobility and speed of information, news, and entertainment nowadays is hardly an analogy to “I remember the when the remote control was attached to the TV by a cord!” (I do remember that, by the way.)
For the record, I said “no” to Dylan’s repeated request for his Kindle Fire at the block party. A bit later in the evening, Mike gave in and allowed him to hold it but not turn it on, which just might be an even more troubling sign of addiction, but, alas, my iPhone was in my back pocket the whole night, too. I didn’t use it except to snap this New Year’s Eve 2012 picture…
…but I did hold it close. All night.
I have no grand epiphany to share here except that there should be balance. For every minute spent glued to a screen, there should be equal amounts of imaginative, make believe, dirty, sweaty, sticky, smelly, cardiovascular, Hula dancing, giggling, scrapes-on-the-knees kind of play. As I type these last few sentences, I can hear all kinds of spirited “play” noises coming from Dylan’s bedroom where he’s playing with a bucket of superhero toys. Riley, on the other hand, woke up earlier in the morning crying from a bad dream about not being able to watch “Transformer Rescue Bots” on his Kindle. Worry not. He’s watching it now.
What are your technology opinions, aspiration, and rules? I know age plays a big role here, so if you comment, state the ages of your kids.