Monday, January 28, 2013

If You Can't Find Something To Do, I'll Find Something For You

Christmas morning of 1990, Lensey and I awoke to find a Nintendo Entertainment System, complete with Super Mario Brothers, Duck Hunt, and Tetris, among our gifts.  While the system itself had been released in the U.S. for five years already, we thought it was brand new and the coolest thing that had ever been created.  I remember spending hours shooting computer-generated ducks, and getting frustrated when that stupid dog laughed at me for missing a couple of shots in a row.  And according to them, even Mom and Dad got in on the fun...They've said they would stay up hours after Lensey and I went to bed playing Super Mario Brothers, and we all sat in awe watching my cousin Brian beat the entire game in about five minutes.  For better or for worse, it truly was a revolutionary product.

That being said, my parents made certain Lensey and I didn't abuse the privilege.  We weren't allowed to play video games during the day, with the only exception being bad weather or a few minutes before we left for school.  And it wasn't until a couple of years later that we got our own TV, which was relegated to Lensey's bedroom (she was the oldest).  When we got our first Gameboy, the same rules applied.  In all reality, Mom played the Gameboy way more than we ever did...She played Tetris on it up until just a few years ago, when the device finally quit working altogether after 15 years of road trips and power outages.

While I consider myself to be fairly technologically savvy, I'm no tech-nerd.  I don't have to have the newest and best technological devices...I usually get ones that have essentially become obsolete, due to the swift-moving nature of technology today.  But they're always cheaper, and, for all intents and purposes, perform any task I could conceivably ask them to.  And even as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I, just like most other people, have grown to rely on technology far too much.

Perhaps it's the fact that I am surrounded by young kids everyday, but I truly feel bad for the generation that is growing up in today's society.  While there's no question they will have unfathomable access to technologies and devices that, until just a few years ago, only existed in science-fiction novels, these kids are truly missing out on having a childhood like my generation had.

Sure, I played video games, and we had a computer at home (our first one was aged when we got it, and still had a floppy B Drive)...But, we also played outside.  We rode bikes.  We got dirty.  DJ and I used to spend hours playing with a motley mix of G.I. Joes and X-Men in the creek behind my house.  We'd go "exploring" in the woods we knew like the back of our hand.  Lensey, our neighbor Katie, DJ, and I would create fake treasure maps, bury fake treasures, and race to see who could find the other treasure and make it back to the house first.  We built clubhouses, went fishing, we found anything to kill time.  Now, when I ask kids what they did over the weekend, I never hear anything like that, and it makes me sad for them.

The only thing I ever hear is this: "I played X-Box all day."  Recently, in one of my resource classes, I had four boys write an essay about their favorite possession.  All but one wrote about a video game system, and the one that didn't wrote about his favorite video game.

It doesn't take a genius to realize the impact that has on young kids. The epidemic of obesity in this country is a direct result of that (and poor eating and exercise habits).  Sure, a lot of blame can be put on parents, who themselves have become accustomed to relying on technology to keep their kids occupied.  But, what I can't seem to comprehend is how people don't get bored.  How parents can't look at their children and think, "I am helping my child to an early grave."

My parents worked very hard to ensure that Lensey and I grew up as comfortably as possible, with opportunities and luxuries they would have never dreamed of as children.  But, at the same time, they instilled the attitude that those luxuries are just that...Luxuries.  Not to be taken for granted, and not to be relied upon as necessity.  That's why they applied rules, and why, whenever we attempted to push the boundaries of those rules, were told forcefully, "Get outside and play."  One of Mom and Dad's favorite lines was, "If you can't find something to do, I'll find something for you."  Trust me...Whatever it was, would not be fun.

I guess parents just don't do that anymore.  I guess it's easier for them to drop a couple hundred bucks on an X-Box, set their kids in front of the TV, and let them pass their life away.  All the while, inadvertent as it may be, setting them up for a lifetime of lazy and slothful behavior that spills over into every aspect of their lives.  Call me cynical, but judging by increasingly poor performance and just an overall lack of motivation in school (and even on the sports field), the children that will soon be adults will not possess the necessary qualities to lead full, productive lives.  I guess the most alarming thing is how quickly that change has occurred...I'm barely 10 years removed from high school, and the difference between then and now is astounding.

I know you're probably thinking I need to come down off my soapbox and relax, and maybe you're right.  Every generation that comes along appears, to the generation that came before it, to be the downfall of civilization as we know it.  I'm not jumping off that ledge, just yet.  But, I do find myself feeling increasingly sorry for a generation of kids that will never get to have the same kind of childhood I had.  They can't turn their faces away from a video game, or remove their ear buds from their iPod, long enough to experience all the world around them has to offer.  Even things right outside their back door.  Maybe it's just me beginning to show my age, but I do find myself longing for a time before all that.  And I've also grown increasingly thankful that I came along when I did.  I just wish more parents nowadays had the attitude that mine did.  Thanks, Mom and Dad.


  1. I have to say I agree with everything that you have stated in this blog. (even if I am your mother-in-law). Working with kids on a daily basis allows a teacher to gain insight into their lives both on a personal and professional level. It's almost impossible to separate the two. As a teacher you have a huge impact on your students. You may be the one that can open their eyes to a world outside of the 4 walls of technology.

  2. Great article , Zach. You are so right, work on that with your students even though you can not control their home life! They will remember lots of what you tell them believe me. After 40 years I still have former students tell me something I said. (It really scares me when they start the conversation). Just last week I had a student who would be about 30 now said I talked about healthy eating all the time(before it became the big issue)!