Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kids and Computers, Time for a Break?

I have two grandsons, aged thirteen and six. And through a weird set of circumstances, they now live across the street from me. Today as I returned from shopping, Ethan, the younger ran out of his garage and yelled, “Grandpa!”

It warms the heart.

Most days, unless I am taking him to school or picking him up, I don’t see him in front of his house. It is not so much that we miss each other as it is that he plays inside a lot. An awful lot. On a recent family vacation he packed his computer, as did his brother and of course, their father, my son. Ryan uses his mostly to play group games with his friends. He is never very far from contact with his friends, but rarely sees them. Ethan plays more personal games on his computer. Of course they also have Game Boy and I’m sure other computer games of which I am unaware. My son uses his computer and one of his Smart Phones for work. His personal Droid is rarely away from a Text message for more than five minutes.

A favorite author and columnist, Mitch Albom recently printed an article in Parade Magazine discussing summer vacation for kids. He lamented that computer camps and Sat Score Refresher summer courses have intruded on a long-held children summer pastime, vacationing. His suggestion was an unstructured summer with some travel, but also lots of time for lying on one’s back and making pictures of cloud formations., of “going out to play”, of entering the business world with a lemonade stand and, in the vernacular of the very late Amos of “Amos and Andy” sitting on the porch and “doing nothing, and doing it REAL slow.”

I couldn’t agree more. My two sons were entirely different when it came to jobs as they were growing up. The older was very materialistic and worked from the time he was seven to earn money to buy things he wanted that Mary and I considered frivolous. Tim, on the other hand, has very simple tastes and I think never had a “job” until he was in college. But both of them shared one thing in the summertime: they were encouraged to play, with their friends, and to travel, with the family. I like to think that explains why they both maintain a close relationship with us.

Lest you think that Mr. Albom is suggesting that your children or grandchildren may suffer in the competition because they lose contact with academia for 10 weeks, he has a suggestion to keep them sharp. Four simple rules, activities for each day:
• Have at least one face-to-face contact with a friend
• Read something
• Build something
• Get wet; with a hose, a pool, a Jacuzzi, a fire-hydrant or something

I don’t think Ethan or Ryan does any of those, although I have seen Ethan throwing water balloons in the street (I think that water balloons would count if you received some of them, and picked up the broken balloons). Both of them will swim on occasion, if the activity is organized by Sean or their mother, but the one I worry most about is the contact with their friends. I worry because that is what their memories will be built from.

At my fiftieth high school reunion we were quizzed by an interviewer under camera about memorable events while in high school. The one I spoke to was an evening when six of us “stole” or more accurately pretend to steal the car we were riding in. Eventually the police intercepted us and parents were brought down to hear the story.

The interesting thing was that all six of us chose the same story to tell on camera.

That story had become our most vivid memory. I can’t imagine Ethan or Ryan having that kind of memory from a computer game.

Well, next blog I think I will explain how one of my favorite poems gets mentioned in three blogs in one year.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post and hope that you continue with this more personal style. My 17-year-old just graduated from 9 weeks of Army Basic Training in Ft. Benning, GA. He used to be hooked to his computer and games as a kid, the age of your grandkids. I worried and now see a young man with passion and goals. I don't worry about the social because these kids connect with others online and it's just different. That's the way I look at it.