I had to take Daniel to an ENT today because we found out last week that one of the tubes that was put in his ears in 2009 or 2010 is still in there. He hasn't been having any issues with it (obviously, or we would have known that it was there) but his pediatrician wanted to have it checked.
Because of the distance and timing of the appointment, I pulled both him and Alex out of school for the afternoon. The Dude went with us and we headed out for the appointment. When we got there, The Dude and Alex hung out in the main waiting room while Daniel and I went to various locations throughout the clinic - one place for the check in, one place for the hearing test, another place for the actual exam....
While we were in one of the waiting rooms, I watched a little girl who couldn't have been more than about 2 years old. She was there with her mother and as soon as they walked in, the mother handed her cell phone to her and the little girl proceeded to watch a video or something on it (I'm not sure what it was, but the accompanying music was ...... interesting). I didn't think too much of it until the phone dinged with what I assume was a notification, and the mother took the phone from her to check it. The little girl FREAKED OUT and started screaming, until the mother handed it back to her. A few seconds later - same thing.
Around that time, a boy walked in with his mother. He was older, maybe 4 or 5. He sat down and immediately started doing something on an electronic tablet gizmo. When they got called into an exam room, he pitched a fit about having to put the tablet away.
In the meantime, Daniel was sitting on a chair beside me, reading an old copy of Sports Illustrated. He occasionally pointed out a picture to me or asked me what certain words meant. When it was his turn, he put the magazine back on the table and walked into the exam room.
The exam went well. This is a new ENT to us because ours apparently left town at some point in the past few years, but this guy seems pretty cool. Daniel's hearing is perfectly normal, although the wayward tube does need to come out of his ear. It's not an emergency, so we're waiting until after he is done wrestling in a few weeks to do it. It's all good. No biggie.
When we were done, we got The Dude and Alex from the main waiting room where they had been reading an issue of Time together. I said something to The Dude about the kids in the other waiting room with their electronics, and he said that he had seen some of the same while he was waiting for us.
After that, we decided to take the boys and go see a movie and get something to eat. We had a blast just hanging out and goofing off and made total pigs of ourselves at the restaurant. While we waited for our food to arrive, the boys worked on the word searches on the kids menu, and then had more fun finding words that weren't even on the list. But while we were sitting there eating, I noticed it again. There was a little girl, maybe 7 years old, playing on an iPad-like gizmo. But she wasn't just sitting at her table - she was wandering around the restaurant with it, staring intently at it the entire time. She didn't look up and ran into several people, including waitstaff with trays full of food. The adults with her (I assume her parents) just let her go for the most part, although I did see the woman go and get her and bring her back to the table a time or two.
When we go on our family road trips, people always ask me what video games I take along to keep the kids amused. Or they want to know if we want to borrow their portable DVD players for the ride. They are always stunned when I say that we make these trips without the electronics. (The girls do have iPods that they bought with their own money, but without wifi all they can do is listen to music that they've downloaded - which they do because they don't like our music.) Instead of playing with the electronics that would inevitably get lost, broken, or tossed aside with dead batteries, we play those silly old travel games. Or we look out the window to see the scenery. Or we teach the kids how to read a map. Or we talk to each other.
Personally, I think it's pretty cool that we do the road trips the "old-fashioned way".
Seriously people - when did it become "normal" to shove an electronic gizmo into a kid's hands and count on that gizmo to keep the kid amused instead of doing it ourselves?
I see it more and more. Kids who are barely more than infants who pitch an absolute screaming fit if Mom takes away the phone or the iPod or whatever the gadget of the day is. Older kids who can't even go to the grocery store without their iPod. Teenagers who aren't able to find their way to the local grocery store because they are so busy playing handheld video games that they've never paid attention on the ride there. Kids who have crappy social skills because when they go to the neighborhood block party they are too busy looking at a screen to even figure out that there are other kids there and they could all be running around playing and having fun if they weren't trying to get the next high score.
Why is this becoming the norm? Why have we become so electronics-centered that we can't go anywhere without them?
I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to my phone. It goes everywhere with me for many reasons. Besides the fact that as a single parent I rely on it in emergencies, it's also the only way that the school can contact me if something happens with the kids. It's how my family reaches me if something happens with my parents, which sadly is happening more and more often these days. But I also play around with it in waiting rooms at doctors and while waiting for my food to arrive - but I can also put it away while I'm eating or while I'm at the movies or whatever. Other than the girls and their iPods, the kids don't have electronics. If we go somewhere that might involve waiting, they bring books to read or draw pictures or people watch.
We don't have video games at home. We don't even have cable. They watch DVDs or occasionally play on my laptop - or they read or color or play with Legos or ride their bikes or play ball in the backyard.
They aren't perfect. They can act spoiled or self-centered or entitled or downright nasty at times. But for the most part they are fairly well-behaved and can have awesome social interactions with people and are excelling in school and sports and almost everything else that they do. There is no way to know if it's because they have limited screen time, but I do think that it has something to do with it.
I do know that when they get bored, they can usually create a game to play with each other. Granted, sometimes it ends in a fist fight, but more often than not they can amuse themselves for several hours.
I know that they love to go to the library to get new books to read, and that even my very hyper and active boys can plop themselves down on the couch when the weather is bad and get lost in a pile of books for an entire day if I let them.
I know that they enjoy the road trips and love to talk about things that they've seen along the way, even if we didn't stop to play tourist at that particular spot. They've also asked me to find out more information on things that they spotted, so I know that they're paying attention to the world around them.
I also know that avoiding electronics is impossible in this day and age. I just wish that more parents would find a better balance in their use.