Tonight on the television I watched a little girl, probably about seven or eight years old, running through grassy fields and finding enjoyment in the butterflies, wild flowers, and her pet dog. Her long braids flew in the breeze and her carefree laughter and joy was contagious.
What a contrast to most children today, I thought. Multiple electronic gadgets occupy even sunny summer days. Booming music heard through earphones and earplugs blocks out the sounds of nature – singing birds, chirping peep frogs, and babbling brooks. Cell phones are set on vibrate and occupy jean pockets, so teens won’t miss a call. Family meals are sacrificed for TV shows. Picnics with friends, wading in a nearby stream, impromptu baseball games, and even whispered secrets seem to be foggy memories of days gone by.
I, for one, am concerned! How can parents know the thoughts and feelings of their children when they seldom enjoy a family meal around the table together? How can children come to know the wonders of nature or the comfort of a true friend, when their activity of choice is with an electronic gadget? Nothing compares to the human presence of a good chum.
iPods, computers, electronic games, and cell phones have taken over the world and kidnapped our children. Manufacturers and their advertisers make sure to convince kids and their parents that they just aren’t part of the “in crowd” if they don’t have these expensive “toys.”
Our eight and thirteen year old granddaughters live very near our summer retreat, and spending time with them is so enjoyable. However, when they come to visit Grandma and Grandpa, they leave their gadgets at home, at our request. “How come?” they wanted to know. “Because we want to talk with you, to enjoy you when we can be together- we don’t just want to sit in the same room,” we answered. So when they come, we eat around the table together, we clean up after the meal together, we visit in the living room and we play games around the dining room table. Our bright red Kawasaki “mule” is often seen tripping around “our valley” with us and “our girls” enjoying an evening ride to where the deer and elk gather to feed.
Statistics tell us that our children and families are suffering. American high school students of 1950 had a working vocabulary averaging 25,000 words. Today that level is 10,000. As of 1998, some 85 percent of all academic honors in the United States were taken by foreign-born students. Over a million daily doses of Ritalin and a whole group of other prescription drugs are given to alter the behavior of children. Kids as young as first graders come home from school, not to milk, cookies and mother, but to an empty house with TV and gadgets to keep them company. Parents are both working outside the home and family dinner time is often so late that kids are sent to bed right after a meal.. All of this to make ends meet or to make sure to match up to the “Jones.’”
Not all families have fallen into this trap, but as far as I’m concerned, one such family is too many. What do you think?