The Phone, the Television, the Gameboy, and the Dad

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The Phone, the Television, the Gameboy and the Dad

There has been a ton of publicity and media attention to the myriad of studies about the amount of technology to which we’ve exposed our kids.  I have to be honest, it all comes with this massive weight on it that has the implication, from the beginning, that it’s just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing.

What cracks me up about it, though, is the fact that those same articles, video clips and news anchors then promote the segments…on Twitter, on Facebook, Pinterest and whatever other social media they can find.  Where do you see all this material?  Let’s face it: your phone, your iPad, your Kindle and whatever technology you happen to have in your hand.

I write this with a certain caveat: I don’t let my 11-year-old sons have a cell phone.  Not yet.  I face, however, with little reservation, the fact that the boys will eventually have to have one.  My two daughters already have iPhones.  But my sons, having earned the technology from chores and other things, have Nintendo Game Boy 3DS’.  I have to be honest…I think the technology in their games is pretty damn awesome.  It’s 3D, no glasses, you move a screen back and forth – just like the old Viewmasters used to do – and it’s a 3D world.  What an amazing piece of technological achievement.

But let me address the technological terror that seems to be gripping everyone.

When I was little there was this horrific scare that kids were going to be slaves to the television.  If you sat too close you might go blind…or get irradiated.  If you watched too much you’d be “dumbing down” your brain.

Yet coming out of that era was Sesame Street, the Muppets, Masterpiece Theater, Reading Rainbow and other programs.  Growing up, I was not able to play outside as much as other kids because I had asthma so I watched PBS.  On Saturdays we watched cartoons all morning.

Sure, I went into television, but Grover the Monster had nothing to do with it.

Enter the iPhone and the iPad and the Kindle and laptops and game boys.

My kids know how to use them . . . but we don’t just use the technology.


We go to the water and skip stones.  We take walks, we go to the Big Trees…we have fun and adventurous times in the places you may not even expect.

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See that photo?  The only phone is use is the one being used to take our picture.

We use the phone, but we’ll play games at the table.  Sure, my kids use them.  Yes…I have to take the headphones out of my daughter’s ears so I can have a conversation with her.  But I used to walk around with a Walkman tied to my head on a regular basis.  I’m a musician now, and not a bad one if I say so myself.

The reality is that technology is here . . . we’re stuck with it.  But it need not be the dominant species on the planet.  With apps . . . like Don’t Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus for little kids, or – and this one’s amazing – The Fabulous Flying Books of Mister Morris Lessmore lets you use the book . . . the it comes to life when you aim the phone or iPad at the book.  That’s pretty spectacular.

When we’re at the dinner table at home the phones are gone.  Period.  We use a turntable and vinyl for music . . . just because it’s pretty cool and it sounds better.  When we go out to eat the phones are there but we have conversation.  You’re not allowed to “zone out” in the household we live in.

So when technology is pegged as the death knell of society I feel the need to remind people that so was the radio…then the television…then the personal computer.  The people who have developed all those technologies are the same people who were kids in front of the television.

My brain, as far as I know, is only slightly mushy so far.

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