New Castle News

September 9, 2013

Lisa Madras: Without technology, what’s a kid to do? Plenty!

Lisa Madras
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — What’s one downside of the modern day world?

Isn't it always the case that the things we love the most are the worst for us? Life is so much more fun and interesting and varied now that we have things like Facebook and smartphones and Words With Friends.

It sometimes makes me wonder if I spent my entire childhood bouncing a rubber ball against a garage door. Whatever did I do to occupy the endless hours of my youth?

When I tell my kids it's time to unplug and do something away from the computers and television sets, I'm always met with the same reaction: a sort of confused stare, followed by the question, "So what should I do?"

And I always say the same thing in response. "Go run around outside and play. Ride your bike. Read a book. GO BE A KID."

This is invariably met with an even more confused stare, because to them, being a kid IS computers and TV shows and video games. To be honest, I'm not sure if they have the manual dexterity to even bounce a rubber ball against the garage door. They'd have to get past figuring out where to plug the ball in first.

This is entirely my fault. I'd wanted a computer since my first basic programming class in the seventh grade. I was well into my 20s before I could afford one of my own, and it all pretty much went to heck in a hand-basket from there. I'd been waiting over 10 years, and I had so much time to make up.

The news, celebrity gossip, basket-weaving, how to replace a kitchen faucet, the statistics on the mating rituals of African howler monkeys, recipes for baked Alaska — lions and tigers and bears and — oh, my gawd — anything you wanted to see or hear or know!

And then they took all that stuff and put it in a phone! And you could take it anywhere with you! If I wanted to know the atomic mass of hydrogen while sitting on a public toilet in a McDonald’s in Back Swamp, N.C., I could! I could do that!

Now, from my rather enthusiastic testimonial, one might surmise that I'm a technology addict. This is not the case. I prefer the term "enthusiast." I'm not glued to my technology, but I sure as heck wouldn't want to go back to a world without it.

A world, I might add, that our children have never known. My own kids were taught to type and right-click almost as soon as they were walking and talking, because I wanted them to be the most advanced they could be in this glorious digital world.

Sure, we take them camping and fishing and bike riding and read together from books like "Harry Potter," but at the end of the day, this is still the world they return to.

Where this world becomes a scary place is on the roadways littered with drivers talking on their phones, Little League bleachers filled with parents scrolling through Facebook, relationships that have deteriorated to text messages, and friendships that amount to nothing more than status updates.

It's not technology that is the downside of the modern world. Far from it. Technology has opened up doors that had previously been closed to millions, made life easier for everyone, and allowed us to explore opportunities to become an incredible race.

Nobody ever said that we had to become so submersed in the machine that we forgot what it meant to be human. WE did that to ourselves. No, technology is not a downside of life. Our abuse of it is, and I'm just as guilty as the next guy. As Spider-Man is known to say, "With great power comes great responsibility."

And so, in the end, it's our job to teach our kids balance in this great but greatly unbalanced world.

This is now our children's world, and our children's children's world. It's amazing, and the advances that are yet to come are unfathomable.

But none of it going to mean a thing if we don't keep a stronghold on our humanity.