Thursday, November 10, 2011
The world today really isn’t so much different than when I was younger. Wars happened, natural disasters happened, politics and religion were corrupt, demonstrators marched, our parents didn’t understand us and yes, we even had the wheel and fire way back then. The biggest difference I see is with how the basic building blocks of childhood are developed. What we didn’t have was the kind of electronic “crack” that children today are exposed to 24/7. Children actually played outside from sunrise to sunset exploring their own little corners of the universe and watched television only on Saturday mornings and in the evening before going to bed with the rest of the family on the one and only television in the household located in the livingroom. Children used their imaginations and weren’t dependent solely upon outside stimulus for entertainment. Our minds were our greatest asset, not our gaming system or computer.
In schools, we had physical education, art and music. At home, we rode bicycles, ran, jumped and climbed trees. Some of my fondest memories as a child were of the games we’d organize as a neighborhood. We’d play hide 'n seek, kickball and dodgeball just to name a few. We'd have water balloon fights and snowball fights. My days were filled with interacting with other children and not being stuck off in my bedroom alone with my computer and who knows what! When I see how lazy and unmotivated most children are now, it easily explains the obesity and apathy that runs rampant in the youth of today. Sure, I ate potato chips and drank Coke, but I ate them and worked them off. I didn’t grab a bag of chips and a can of Coke and then barricade myself in my room for the rest of the day only to come out for more food. We only remained inside on those days the weather prevented us from being outside with our friends...and enemies. On those “bad” days we usually read books or played board games with our siblings or with our closest neighbors. The amount of sophistication required now to hold a child's attention is ridiculous, not to mention very costly. No wonder so many of our youth suffer from attention deficit problems.
Is there a solution? Not as long as parents use electronic devices as babysitters. Not as long as parents don’t see the long-term effects of the “crack” their children are given. Not as long as parents stay as unmotivated as their children are and don't take an active roll in their child's upbringing. Try having a “family night” for starters. Turn off the TV and play a board game or go learn to play a sport as a family. Try getting together with the other parents in the neighborhood and organizing “play days” for the young children. Find afterschool activities that require not only social interaction, but also physical activity. I think all children should be challenged to go some extended period of time without having access to televisions, computers and any electronic devices while at home. This isn’t as a punishment, but as a learning experience. We did that on occasion and actually found it to be a welcome break at times and nice to connect with each other on a more personal level. After the whining ceased and the effects of cold turkey withdrawal subsided, my children prevailed and discovered sunlight did not cause spontaneous combustion and social interaction didn't cause some terrible social disease.