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Just a Guy with a Lot of Screens (in His Life)

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Am I just old-fashioned, or am I the only one who misses the days without screens?

dad with sons and cell phones

Bruce Sallan: Screens, screens, screens. No, not the ones that keep out the flies, but the ones that are ubiquitous in our lives everywhere else. We've got video, cell phone, computer, game, movie theater, and MP3 player screens (I refuse to call them iPods, as I can't stand iTunes and their monopoly and the totalitarian way in which they force you to organize your music ... I have no heat on this issue -- HA!).

My boys are addicted to them, as with most of their generation. And, as my family would argue, I am addicted to my computer and phone screen (for e-mail), to which we finally instituted a limited after-dinner policy. One half-hour is all I'm allowed, after dinner, to check and respond to e-mails. Writing and such must be done during "work hours," whatever those are.

Fair enough, but my boys don't have these limits other than no TV on school nights. That doesn't mean no computer time, so really what is the difference? With YouTube, they can watch most anything anyway. With video chat and other options on the web, they're as addicted to their screens as I may be to mine.

What happened to playing outside? Or riding your bike? Talking on a landline phone while fiddling with the cord versus talking on a cell phone and texting? Reading a book versus hearing it or reading it via Kindle? Newspapers are already becoming anachronistic. Am I part of that older generation that can't keep up, or am I just a guy?

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
denise October 3, 2009, 7:21 AM

How do you get your gets NOT to watch TV on school nights? I just wish I had that sort of discipline! Good for you Bruce.

aaron October 3, 2009, 7:05 PM

dad! ipods are sooooo easy to use!!! btw if we are paying for unlimited texting, why do u always say STOP WITH THE TEXTING?!?! aaaiiiyahhh :p

Scott October 4, 2009, 6:38 AM

Well, I guess I drank the KoolAid a long time ago…I love my iPod and iTunes. I really appreciate the opportunity to organize my music into playlists and to invent new categories for music to which I listen.

However, I am also very appreciative for the example of discipline and focus that Bruce is setting. This is tough to learn and even tougher to teach/enforce. Hang in there, Bruce, the screens are aligned in your favor!

David October 5, 2009, 12:58 PM

Technological mediation of life in general is like any other phenomenon: it has its good points and its bad points. I am almost never unhappy when, during a hurricane or bad storm, the electrical power goes out in my neighborhood. It means I can revert to a 19th-century lifestyle — candle light, fireplace, reading, and no screens to deal with — while experiencing no sense of guilt.

bruce Sallan October 5, 2009, 9:05 PM

David - I can remember some of my best family times occurring when the power went out! Once was during Sukkot, which is the Jewish Thanksgiving that is going on right now. We had a sukka (the tent-like structure you build and eat in during this joyous holiday) and it was right next to the house and kitchen. The patio lights lit it and we were far from roughing it. With friends over, sharing a meal, we had a power outage. The boys were much younger and, at first, got scared. We got some candles, all settled down, and over the candlelight we talked. No power except the power of relationships and being with people you enjoyed and loved. It was fantastic. As it was a full moon, which is always the case with most Jewish holidays, we quickly got adjusted to the darkness and the candles proved more than enough light. So, I couldn’t agree with you more David. Thanks for the insight.

Anita S. October 6, 2009, 7:16 AM

English children are just as addicted. If it’s not the PS3, or the Wii, or the XBOX, or the Nintendo DS (latest version), or the PSP, then it’s something else. As long as it’s a gadget and it works wonders, they are totally hooked; but they’re not just happy with one of the above, they want the lot. Mobiles (cell phones) are stuck to the hip and no child goes anywhere without them – can see a good side to those, because you know they are only a phone call away. But the problem is, nearly all English children have a full entertainment system in their bedrooms, bought by parents because their child(ren)’s mates have them and they don’t want their child(ren) to feel left out – peer pressure. And if you buy for one child, you have to buy for their siblings. My mum always says, ‘We went out and made our entertainment. Found some wood and some wheels and we had us a go-cart.’ I remember doing similar. Society today now hands it to children. However, gardens up and down England are seen with enclosed trampolines to encourage children to exercise and take in some fresh air, and most are happy to bounce in them for hours. A good plus is that it wears children out and makes bedtime easy. But I have noticed that children seem a lot happier and more energised when outside more. In fact, my children love the garden, trampoline and water play – but they do love their gadgets.

Ari October 6, 2009, 9:53 AM

It’s no wonder that the new generation of kids are more obese and are going to be subject to serious health problems which we all are going to have to pay for because of the video game systems that they spend countless hours in front of. When we were little, we would spend that time outside playing or participating in sports. I absolutely agree with my oldest brother on not allowing his two young kids video game systems.

Andie October 6, 2009, 5:15 PM

Our kids play outside, but here it comes, ready…we disconnected the cable, got rid of the x-box, and said no to the cell phones. I know, sounds extreme, but they are outside riding their bikes, on a ramp they built, right now. It worked:) We read, Last Child in the Woods, it gave us a reality check!

Jeff October 6, 2009, 7:47 PM

I knew it would be trouble when we finally got a big-screen television with good sound. Now my boys only want to watch TV and we’ve had to put some limits on it. Then, I feel guilty when I watch. Ugh. Good points Bruce.

john alan dale October 8, 2009, 7:40 AM

I,m from the same generation so I totally agree with you.I’m from england,by the way,and I like your writing.keep up the good work.cheers.

Travis R October 8, 2009, 11:48 AM

I love the part about how “I refuse to call them iPods” I have noticed everyone refers to the iPhone as an iPhone, whereas every other cellular device is just a “phone” kinda like cotton swabs always being referred to “Q-Tips” Very good observation!

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