My son has a toy laptop that he carries around with him nearly everywhere he goes.
It makes fun sounds, teaches letters, musical notes, animals sounds — this thing is an orchestra of learning and interactivity. The simplistic keyboard and screen make it nothing more than an oversized calculator with a digital readout. Press a button and an action happens. But it’s edu-tainment with a price.
I was on the couch watching him use it yesterday, when he pressed a button and it emitted a phrase I hadn’t heard before: “NEW BLOG ENTRY.” I was startled by it and asked Finn, with my head cocked to the side, to press it again. He pressed it and the plastic computer, as if the volume had been turned up to push the point home, said, “NEW BLOG ENTRY!”
I MEAN, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?
I watched him for the next 15-20 minutes, now transfixed. This is what happened in the subsequent moments:
1. He’d push a button, and it would emit a sound.
2. Then, he’d furiously bang on the keys.
3. Next, he’d walk away to collect some other toys.
4. But, the evil machine would screech out a noise, a command or question.
5. Finn would drop EVERYTHING in his hands and sprint back to it.
It was my mirror image. I felt like I was looking at my life, now, as a blogger. Was he mimicking me? Was this addiction to technology and conversation and “social” media a genetic defect of mine?
I felt alternately sick and intrigued.
I want Finn to have a strong command over electronics, computers and technology. I know our society is ever-hurtling toward deeper integration into those electricity-sucking machines that do everything for us. His future depends, somewhat, on his skill with computers and data. But at the sound of a beep, he was enslaved by it. He was no longer its master, he was the hand servant. And, like me, he was acting anxious about it. He would squeal every time the mini laptop called out to him. Every little bleep and bloop was important.
I looked down at my phone and my computer behind me and my wife’s laptop and the television in front of me (turned off, mind you) and the phone in my hand and the DVR. I sighed and almost threw all of the electronickalmachines in a blender and shot it into space. At least, that’s what I wanted to do.
We are so encumbered by all this stuff. I remember my father used to throw random items out of the car window as we drove on long trips. He just couldn’t take it. When he got tired of collapsing an umbrella stroller, it became a javelin. I might be starting to follow his footsteps.
So, I stared into my son’s glazed eyes, wondering if either of us can break the cycle, wondering if the two of us were there at all. Thank goodness I saw in him what I probably do all the time and ignore.
We’re going to tell him the TV is broken, to start.
I know so many parents that have lorded over us how there’s no TV of any kind in their household. And if I’m being honest, we’re on the lesser end of spectrum of TV-childcare, but maybe we need to stop judging the “Anti-TV Parents” and try this out.
We’re going to do it for seven days and see where the experiment takes us. I’ll keep you posted.
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