I remember when I was a child and my family would have to move across country or go on vacation and my father would elect to drive. In those days, we didn’t have iPods, iPads or even a Walkman yet.
I remember sitting in the rear of my parents’ car with a black-and-white TV plugged into a cigarette lighter converter with rabbit ears for reception. My brother and I would struggle to find anything on unless we were close to a city, and even then it was not great reception. This caused us to read books, like the one we would turn to in each state we entered that had state facts in it. It also drove my parents crazy because we got bored and fidgety; but for the most part, we found things to do like reading or playing with small toys.
Fast forward to today. I have four kids of my own, and we recently took a trip to West Virginia to see some family and the mountains. As with my father before me, I decided to drive. I also decided to outfit the car with dual DVD screens so that they could watch movies on the way. My kids, being that I am a big techie, have lots of gadgets. The two 9-year-olds have iPods, the 5-year-old has a Nintendo and we have assorted other stuff such as a PSP and my iPad.
I am not sure that all this technology is doing anything more than shortening attention spans for kids and adults. We need everything now — immediate satisfaction, and with increasing impatience. Text me, because calling takes too much effort. It is not just that things like the iPod are cool and can keep a kid — or big kid — busy, it’s just interesting to me that even the games are short spurts of work.
Angry Birds has tons of levels, but each one can be accomplished in a few minutes while you are waiting for the bus or your burger. Time is shrinking with all our responsibilities, but we still seek out things to fill what little time we have to entertain us and keep us busy.
My wife and kids enjoyed our trip to the mountains, and I was pleasantly surprised that what they loved the most was going on some very long hikes in the woods. Nature was the best part of the trip for them, but of course when we got back into the car to go home, the buzz of iPod games and DVD movies began again. Funny thing: I am no different and just as guilty. When it wasn’t my turn to drive, I simply opened the iPad and read a good book just like I did when I was a kid, but now with a gadget.