Tuesday, April 08, 2008

UnPlug

After my trip to the various stores that make up Budget Bikes, I ended up at Chin's Asia Fresh, one of my favorite Chinese places around the office here in Madison. Their Hot & Sour soup is different than what I'm used to, and I much prefer the soup at Daisy's (Green Island). The rest of the meal is great.

So I'm enjoying my meal (chicken vegetable stir fry, hunan style) when a father comes in with his daughter and son. The daughter was in her early teens, the son ten or eleven. Give or take.

They both immediately sat down. She put on her headphones and plugged them into her iPod. He pulled out his Sony PSP and started gaming. Neither of them said a word to each other, or to their father, for the entire time they were there. The boy occasionally spoke to his PSP, the girl sometimes hummed along with her iPod.

The father never blinked. Tapped his son on the shoulder as he walked out with the take out. Son never looked up.

Recently a co-worker grounded her son from his cell phone. Seems he sent and received over 12,000 text messages last month. You do the math. She said she may just keep it away a while longer, because they actually communicate with each other when the kid doesn't have the cell phone stuck in his face all day.

What are we doing here? Cell phones and iPods and mobile internet and mobile email and chat and myspace and facebook and forums and... you get the idea. We're in danger of raising a bunch of kids that have forgotten how to communicate face to face, that are losing the art of conversation.

It's time for parents to declare electronics - free weekends, internet free zones. Declare the dinner table off limits to anything that plugs in or runs on batteries, wether that table is in the home or out. And FORCE them to eat dinner at home. At least once a week. Make the time. What do you have to do that is more important?

Declare an electricity free day. Every other Sunday, or one day a month. No TV, no electronic games, no iPod, no cell phone. Nothing. Sit down with your kids and talk, or play Monopoly, or Life, or a card game. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting around the table with the extended family playing that game with marbles on a board that I can't remember the name of. Aggrevation? Something like that. My mom would delight in sending me back to the start. I'd get to listen to adult talk, interact with adults. Have a conversation.

Unplug your kids. Unplug yourself. Get back in touch.
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