Traveling with children today is easier than ever before. #1 sits next to me playing some Pokemon game, having recently turned off “Plants vs. Zombies.” Although the selfish part of me appreciates the peace that comes with modern technologies, I struggle with how strictly to monitor his screen time.
I am not alone in relying on a technological babysitter. Strolling down the aisle of the main cabin, I notice that every kid on the plane is sitting contentedly in front of an iPad or Nintendo, some watching movies, others playing games. Meanwhile, parents with earbuds firmly inserted are wrapped up in their own little electronic cocoons. Today’s cars come equipped with DVD players so that little Johnny and little Jane don’t have to endure even a ride to the market without digital entertainment.
I fall, perhaps, into that demographic that worries too much about the countless hours children spend entertained by electronic gadgets. I doubt the next generation will for a moment fret about the time their children while away in front of a screen. They won’t know of a world without the diversions of smart phone apps that save us from having to suffer through even a line at Starbucks. Imagine their horror at hearing tales of summers spent outside with no more than a bike, a ball, and, if you were lucky, a pool down the street. Stories of hours spent in cars or planes bored senseless until you created some silly game to pass the time will be mocked as readily as my generation mocks stories about walking uphill to school in the snow.
I’m no worse the wear because my walk to school was relatively short and usually dry and warm, even in the winter. Maybe this generation will be no worse for having seared images of Pokemon battling into their retinas or having never learned to cope with boredom. Maybe their imagination and creativity won’t suffer from having a nearly constant stream of predigested scenes projected at them.
But I fall into that demographic that worries they will suffer, that we are doing irreparable harm to them.
As I return from the bathroom and see all the kids consumed by their electronic nannies, I decide #1 and I are going to talk, to make up a game, to play something, even if it’s just tic-tac-toe on my iPad.