Technology has become another member of our family, with a personality that swings from bully to reliable companion, from helpful nerd to class clown, influencing our relationships and life. It has been insidious, unavoidable and with good and bad: homework cannot be completed without internet access and word processing; science Fair projects look polished and professional, thanks to slick graphics and stock photos printed in crisp multi-color formats.
At what cost does all this “gee whiz” cyber power come? I struggle with our kids to use printed books as resource material. “Why do I have to search by hand through the pages of a pocket dictionary instead of Googling?” they ask. “Because… Because you need to know how to use a variety of resources! What if the power goes out?”, I respond. And penmanship? Forget about it! Our kids’ schools barely teach cursive! Even though my handwriting is abysmal, when I see pictures of the hand-written Constitution, I mourn the loss of a beautiful art, and an integral part of our culture.
Most powerful of all, though, are the personal electronic devices and gaming systems. All my kids have some combination of silicon power: MP3 players, personal gaming system, cell phone, online gaming, PC, laptop. Much to my chagrin, these “toys” have steadily infiltrated our lives. Yikes! How did this happen? I never encouraged this- in fact, I tried to discourage these gadgets and purchased very few of them for my kids. But with gift cards, allowance, and generous family members and friends, they have acquired this impressive stockpile right under my nose. Managing their use of this vast array has become a hated chore and incited much conflict.
Family road trips are now fairly quiet, thanks to personal gaming toys; but I fear my kids are missing out on beautiful countryside and the personal introspection fostered by hours in the car on the road.
When I was a tweenager, I was addicted to powerful entertainment technologies. I would bike to the neighborhood video game joints and plug my whole allowance into the first generation of game machines. Pong was followed by Centipede, Asteroids, Pacman, etc. My obsession was only limited by external factors: the number of quarters in my pocket, whether I could bike to the store, was the place open? Left to my own desires, entire days would have been spent indoors, pushing buttons and chasing aliens. Today’s technology is infinitely more powerful, attractive, interactive and addicting. Without the external limitations and the separation between home and game location, it is up to me to limit my children’s access. I am the bad guy- the bummer downer dude. Not a fun place to be, and a role that brings little satisfaction. But it is vital. If I do not, I believe my children’s lives will be outta whack. In future blogs, I’ll share more experiences with our unruly, obnoxious new family member, Technology.
Am I a techno-phobe? A techno-dino? Techno-ignoramus? Maybe all three? But this is one dad who is concerned about the impact of technology on family life and who will continue to follow my gut and place limits on this questionable force. It may have squirmed its way into our family circle, but I’ll be darned if it’ll replace me as king of the castle! (I can just hear my wife laughing now)!