Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dear Santa, Bring me Gadgets. And an Elf.

(The following has been spellchecked by a grown up to save you, dear reader, from translating kid spelling.)

Dear Santa,

I would like another dart gun and a XBox 360 and a iPod Touch and a iPhone and a limousine and a big T-rex.

Please bring all your elves so I can have one. And my own computer. And Play Station Three.

Two guesses who penned, rather penciled, that letter.

One hint: Deal can't do much more than write his own name.

Christmas lists sure have changed a lot since I was a kid (Oh, a sign of the age old generation gap!). Keep in mind Bird is six. In first grade. He has never seen an Xbox or a Playstation. And he doesn't ride to carpool in a limo, though I do wish I had a magic button to close that privacy window that limos have. Imagine driving in soundproof bliss!

I cracked up when I first read Bird's letter. I stuck it in his special box to save it. It's endearing in a way. But then I got to thinking. Some of you might argue that I was over thinking, but hear me out.

We are not a gadget family. Our television is almost 10 years old and weighs 200 pounds. Our other TV is a lousy 13 inch model that doesn't even have video inputs. And the remote is busted so it's stuck on local news or the Food Network most of the time. I still have a twirly cord phone in my office. Mac Daddy uses a ThinkPad that is more pad than think. I still have, and use, a camera that uses film. Gasp! We are not techie people by any stretch. We are clearly not hip enough to even be laggards. I bet you gadgety people out there are throwing up a little right about now. You must find us to be Losers, which I'm pretty sure is the technical consumer profile moniker for anyone ranking behind a Laggard.

So where does Bird get this affinity for all things electronic? What happened to his insatiable love of LEGO skyscrapers, Playmobil knights, and intricate art projects? What happened to his hankering for toys that spark imagination rather than suck it dry? What happened to his appetite for books and penchant for storytelling?

One visit from his uncle, my brother, and grandfather, my dad, changed his whole perspective. I'd go so far as to say it fucked it all up. They are tech heads. They get off on all things electronic and all things Apple. Their iPhones were appendages, as they so often are with all iPhone enthusiasts. They read news, checked scores, listened to tunes, flipped through photos, played games. Again, all the things iPhone addicts around the world do. But look people, there must be limits. Is it really necessary to always have phone in hand? I see it in meetings, lunch appointments, check out lines, and now among families.

The very contraptions that are supposed to be connecting the world are really just making us all more bubbled. We're connecting avatar to avatar, not face to face. Children should have no part of this world. What awaits them is even more mindblowing.

While children need to be comfortable with technology and wade into its depth at appropriate levels, they do not need to be immersed in it. They have a lifetime to wile away the hours in front of one screen or another. Their time to snuggle on a lap reading books or perching on the floor balancing blocks is limited. And Oh. So. Dear. Too much technology fast forwards them from precious to precocious in a blink.

And it sucks the creativity from the natural wealth of imagination that children harbor. Video games and iPhones might be cool, but they are not the way to engage a child. A six year old child. The time it takes to whiz through apps and gadgets is better spent playing Uno or coloring or playing frisbee or reading from chapter books. There's no benefit to dunking kids this young into technology. In fact, it's a diservice if you ask me....not that anyone did. You can't discount the power of play. Pure frolicking and mayhem peppered with giggles of glee. Kids develop relationships, build comfort, and gain confidence through unplugged means.

We are already a world of plugged in, uber connected, frenetic consumers (raising my own guilty hand here). There's no need, or value, to dragging children down with us. And yes, I do believe the direction we're doing is down. Etiquette, grace, articulate speech, proper punctuation, letter writing, meandering, stopping to smell the conversational roses. All gems from our past that are wilting as I type.

Needless to say, Bird's list won't be fulfilled this year. He had asked for a Nintendo DSi that we just might succumb to buying. That is, unless we find some cool new pieces at the LEGO store.

Oh, and that bit about wanting an elf? I'd love a psychologist's interpretation of that one! Then again, maybe I don't.
Dear Santa, Bring me Gadgets. And an Elf.SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Unknown said...

We are a techie family. My husband is a software developer, iPhone developer and all around super tech guru. We have a wii and an xbox. And amazingly my children hardly ever play them. They are literally collecting dust. Except for my husband, we just aren't gamers (and he has no free time for it anyway). That said, the technology of the iPod touch and iPhones are pretty amazing. The children use the camera, video camera, and all the cool art apps and make amazing collages, singing cards, etc that they then email to family. So for us, it's really just another tool for creativity, not a brain suck!

The Mother said...

We are toy collectors, too. iPods and iPhones all around.

Here's my take: the video games have been shown to increase eye-hand coordination, visual skills and strategy based thinking. For my geeky boys who won't go outside and can't hit a baseball with a barn, that's all good.

Plus, those iPhones and iPods are great productivity devices for the high school kid.

That said, they are not addicted to the games. They play, but the interest is fleeting, and they move on to something else. Like puzzles, or strategy board games.

Those video games are also springboards for their imaginations, not stifles of them. Would I rather they read? Sure. But three of them do, prodigiously, and the other is dyslexic.

As a parent, you can't win them all. You can only guide and hope. Video games and tech stuff is one battle I will not fight.

Now, about that elf...

Anonymous said...

What a funny thing! We are luddites, like you, which is funny since my husband owns a technology company. Our tvs are old, we own NO game systems, my cellphone is embarrassing. My sons each want a DS and a wii--we will get the wii, but only because the games for that have endings and it's a more interactive set up. Like you, I prefer my kids to play with bricks and tinker toys and blocks and their brains.

Deb Rox said...

It's interesting to think about when that happens, especially to kids now. Sad, too, I agree.

Now, an elf. I like that. I would like one. They are handy. I bet they mix a mean drink (you know the Clauses tip). Probably don't even eat much. Ha, imagine Lark with his new elf friend!

The Full Mommy said...

My husband could have written that. Well, just the ranty part, not the part in which you admit to still using a camera the requires film. (Really? Film?)

You make some good points. Given your eldest son's age, I'd get him a LeapFrog Didj and convince him it's cool. He had plenty of time to upgrade to a DS in the future. Plus keeps your little guy from the DS a bit longer, because by the time he's six, he probably will have his own iPhone.

Camden Watts said...

Great minds think a like. I wouldn't mind a limo, T-Rex, or an elf!

Totally understand what you mean about just being a kid, though. Always thought I was missing out because we didn't have cable when I was a kid, but now I look back with gratitude for all the time I spent playing outside and being creative. I'm incredibly thankful for time spent playing with friends, making up games, exploring the woods, and just being a kid.

Btw, if you need some more film for that camera, I have a shoe box full of it, haha. :)

DCUrbanDad said...

Everything in moderation. Not a big fan of deprivation. But not a big fan of giving kids everything they want. A healthy mix.

I did not get a Playstation until I was out of college. We spent many a day outside playing with our bikes and in our forts.

Anonymous said...

I feel you, Ilina! My sons have a playstation2 and a Wii, but choose to play outside rather than with them all of the time. Got our first PS2 years ago, and it has never been an issue. The Wii reminds you after a certain amount of time to go out and play.

The boys love digital cameras too and will set up scenes and video it. I did not even know my camera did video until they told me.

I am not up on the latest phones, but have one I can work off of in carpool, gotta make that money.

If it is radio controlled, though, they are all about it!

As to the elf, that is indeed interesting. Did he learn more about them from the latest Phineas and Ferb episode regarding Christmas? gphd it would not let me publish this with an id