So, it’s August, the sun is shining and it’s about half way through the school summer holidays. Not that you’d know it if you stood and looked outside our house – no kids playing in the garden and enjoying the weather to be seen.
In fairness, that’s a little harsh on two of our kids. Although they have spent a huge amount of time virtually attached to a variety of screens they have also managed to spend some time outside and find other things to do with their time.
The teenager in the house, though…
Back in 2007 the progressive rock band Porcupine Tree released their ninth studio album “Fear Of A Blank Planet”. Frontman Steven Wilson stated that the record was primarily a concept album told from the perspective of an eleven year old boy who was, in Wilson’s words “…this kind of terminally bored kid, anywhere between 10 and 15 years old, who spends all his daylight hours in his bedroom with the curtains closed, playing on his PlayStation, listening to his iPod, texting his friends on his cell phone, looking at hardcore pornography on the Internet, downloading music, films, news, violence…”
The title track alludes to this in the lyrics when he sings “Sunlight coming through the haze, no gaps in the blind to let it inside. The bed is unmade, some music still plays. TV, yeah it’s always on, the flicker of the screen…” – and that pretty much sums our teen up.
OK, the curtains aren’t closed (because I open them!), there’s not much in the way of texting mates and music only seems to enter the equation during rarely enforced breaks when the rest of the household are then “treated” to a variety of guitar riffs played (admittedly pretty well) by said teen on a seemingly endless loop. If we’re really lucky he may play through a whole song, though that’s rare, but essentially it’s a case of twelve or thirteen hour stints in front of the PC talking / shouting with people he’s never met and is highly unlikely to, with occasional and as brief as possible breaks for food.
Worryingly enough, these doesn’t seem to be at all unusual these days. Although I believe I do have an addictive personality myself and can get caught up when I’m writing something for this blog, and my wife can be hard to separate from her mobile / tablet sometimes, we do still manage to do lots of other things in our daily lives and looking back to our own childhoods and teenage years this phenomenon is completely alien to us.
We appreciate that the world appears to be a more dangerous place for kids these days. Is it really? Do more bad things happen to kids these days? Or is it just that with wall to wall news via TV and the internet / social media that we are all so much more aware of the bad things that happen?
In any event there is an element of wanting to protect your kids from the dangers of the physical world and try to keep an eye on what they do in the virtual one, but I do worry that kids are becoming detached from the real world too much.
So what do we do? We’ve tried numerous strategies to manage the amount of exposure our kids have to screens. All have met with varying degrees of resistance. It seems that unless you’re willing to physically take them out of the house and entertain them or there’s money in it for them (and that is often not enough of a motivation!) then there is zero interest in anything apart from their various computers / mobiles / tablets / PlayStations. Yes, maybe we, as parents, should be tougher and keep it that way – but it’s incredibly hard work in the face of such apathy for real life.
I remember playing out in the woods near to my home in my teens, riding my bike, reading books, drawing etc. Kids these days just don’t seem interested in anything apart from instant entertainment without having the leave the house (or preferably their room).
I haven’t been able to get out and about as much as I would like myself during the holidays so far – due in no small part to making sure that our beautiful puppy is able to get the rest that she needs during the day to develop properly (especially as the kids are too busy with their gadgets to take much notice of her) – but we’re off on a last-minute family holiday to Exmoor before the kids go back to school so it will be interesting to see how things go then…
All in all it makes me wonder how are today’s teens, who seem unable to relate to real life for much of the time, going to be able to cope in tomorrow’s grown-up reality – let alone manage to repopulate it? Is this nature’s way of implementing a cull of the overpopulated planet? Given that the cause is entirely man-made that seems unlikely, so perhaps mankind truly is doomed. Humanity won’t go out with a bang, it’ll just waste away one addict at a time…