Flashback: Kids and Handheld Devices (July 2007)
It was another camp pick-up day for me. I was sitting in a line of vehicles that were idling in the hot Georgia sun when I noticed a disturbing trend: children addicted to electronics. "This is camp!" I screamed to myself as I witnessed kids between the ages of 5 and 12 playing Game Boys, listening to iPods and texting their friends. "There's no safe refuge anymore!" It was on this day that I officially became my father, who 30 years ago, complained that I was playing too much Pong on our Odyssey 300 gaming system located in our basement. But, there is a huge difference between my "Pong Passion" on the family's 25-inch Zenith TV and what kids are doing today. These electronic wonders are strapped to today's kids. Who said, "You can't take it with you?" You can take it all with you and then some.
Don't get me wrong, I love modern inventions and in many ways they have improved and even saved our lives. When I was stuck on the side of the road, I was able to summon AAA right from my car. I wasn't able to do that when I became a driver many years ago. With my handy mobile phone, AAA came to help me in record time: 8 hours. In the old days, it would have taken three days to get roadside assistance. Now that's progress.
The problem with today's gadgets is that there are no limits - even at camp! It used to be that it was a shame to smuggle in an X-Men comic book into the camp's gymnasium. Now, it is accepted practice for a kid to be watching Ludacris bounce around in baggy pants while tuning out the natural sounds of summer. Whatever happened to fun, creative and original play?
It doesn't look like it will ever get better. With the release of the iPhone, I'm sure that every kid will have this device or something similar to it very soon. If you have been living under a rock, the iPhone is a combination phone, music player, Web browser, gaming console and missile launcher. OK, you might think that I'm kidding about the last one, but with the sorry state of military affairs, I think the Pentagon might turn to our electronically-addicted kids for help any time now.
Seriously, these portable devices make kids smart. That's good news to me. According to several studies, their logic, computer skills, hand-eye coordination and knowledge of important current events dramatically improves. Thanks to constant Web access, our children can view 24-hour news and find out the latest on their role models like Paris Hilton.
I must confess that I fear for the future. The downside to having this constant source of endless entertainment is that the kids' attention spans are shorter. These children will be running the world one day. That is a scary thought.
As my child jumped into the car, I asked her how her day went. After several moments of silence, I turned around and gasped as she was in a trance from listening to her iPod. I'm kidding of course. TheiPod is for me. It seems that my daughter was doing something much worse according to Laura Mallory, a book-banning activist in my community. She was reading a Harry Potter book.