Are Kids in the Internet Age Suffering?

I went back to my hometown last month. Prince George. I was there for a week. I had a high school reunion and all sorts of fun adventures including … oh, I dunno, going to the Mall, Rollerskating with a cute girl, lunching with my teacher from Grade 7, hiking up Cranbrook Hill with my ex-girlfriend, talking about Buddhism with my old friend Nathan etc… But one thing I found disturbing when I walked around my old neighbourhood was the fact that the kids weren’t outside playing. The streets felt so empty. I was flabbergasted. Where were the kids?

I saw a couple of kids walking around now and again but for the most part, the streets were devoid of children.

Years ago, when I was living in that neighbourhood, on that street, I seem to recall the streets being chock-full of kids. We sold lemonade from our little lemonade stands, we had yard sales, we biked around, we played street hockey, my brother and I made videos (involving other kids in the ‘hood), I put on plays in the basement… the list goes on. I had a full and active life. Other kids in the neighbourhood seemed to have full, active lives as well.

I asked my friend why she thinks kids don’t play outside. She made a gesture with her hands that suggested texting (which is also the same gesture you would use for playing video games). I was immediately filled with sadness.

Of course she’s right. Of course most kids (in North America, at least) own iPhones, iPads, loads of video games and I’m sure they’re all consumed with their online lives. I’m sure 1/3 or half or even more of their lives are spent in cyber-space (versus Meat-Space).

A telling moment. When I was on the plane arriving in Vancouver, a teenage girl was glued to her phone. “This will be the most EPIC Facebook status EVER!” she claimed. “It’ll probably get, like, 25 likes!” Perhaps it will, my teenybopper friend, perhaps it will… but does it really matter? What do you want, a brownie?

Everything is about moderation. Technology is fine with moderation. Spending excessive amounts of time online, playing video games or texting friends seperates you from reality… from real, 3-Dimensional reality. For me, there is still something nice about going to a coffee shop (preferrably not Starbucks) and sipping on a cup o’ Joe as I read a good book… or chatting with a friend… or drawing…

I had a fairly active childhood. I’m sure, with the right parenting, kids today can still have a full, active childhood, but I can’t help the feelings of sadness that I felt when I saw those old streets so empty and lifeless, knowing that inside, the kids were more than likely glued to their Macs, iPhones etc. etc… I don’t want to be a curmudgeonly character railing at the “foolishness of youth”, because I also benefit from all of these new, fancy technologies… but … y’know… I think balance is important.

Hey, at least we can still make “EPIC” Facebook statuses, right (or as my friend calls it, “Wastebook”)?

Here is a great article about it.

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4 thoughts on “Are Kids in the Internet Age Suffering?

  1. kids are suffering in this 2 dimensional world. they are losing their social skills and penmanship seems to be a lost art form. they dont pick up on facial ques or look you in the eye.

  2. I think it definitely is a problem. Of course all major developments have been criticised for being a threat to social skills/brain skills, even books. there’s advantages and disadvantages. But I think the internet poses a bigger problem than books, since books don’t substitute reallife social relations, but internet does in a way. You think you have friends, but you don’t really know them and you are easily replacable for another ‘friend’. I feel kind of glad that I grew up partly before internet became popular, I remember playing outside a lot and dressing up, reading books till late at night, those are the best childhoodmemories.Though I’m afraid I was always kind of shy and never that good at social relations…internet had nothing to do with that.

    On the other hand, if we compare internet to television, I think it is actually an improvement, because you do communicate and have to do stuff yourself. I read somewhere that you burn more calories while sleeping than while watching TV :-s My parents always wanted me to come downstairs and be ‘social’, but for them that mostly meant watching TV together. Then I preferred being on the internet, sharing poetry on forums, making my own website and stuff like that (the internet was also much more than facebook back then).

    Phew, long story, its an interesting topic. I also saw a tv-programme about it the other day, if it works in germany, its in english: http://beta.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1111994

    xxx Bean

  3. Stephen. I completely agree with you that the kids are becoming increasingly insular and complacent. They just don’t have the same values of appreciating nature, the outdoors, activities and games (real games, not video games). I myself was brought up on cards, lego, piano lessons, swimming and art classes. There wasn’t a day of the week that I didn’t have something going on and if I was bored? “Go for a walk in the park” my dad would say. Video games were absolutely BANNED from the Bunting household and I feel like a better, more productive person as a result. All of these values I had as a child contribute to my overall productivity and health. Kids sitting in front of a computer all day is surely not good for the child obesity issues in Canada and many other countries for that matter.

    The problem I find myself thinking about more and more as I reach the age where I am considering motherhood is the fear that I won’t be able to instill these same values on my own children. Technology, social networks and peer pressure combined make it very difficult to steer your children away from cell phone apps, video downloads and countless hours updating one’s facebook status. It’s par for the course these days and it’s becoming harder to find people my age who don’t follow this patten, let alone their children! I fear for the future generations and their social interactions and can only hope that some shift in the trend will occur that will make three legged races and Jenga popular again. Anyone up for a game of cribbage?

  4. Well another problem is that children in some way have to learn how these things work, because without being familiar with the internet they would have problems when they into work… even school. It’s being used everywhere. I guess for smaller children a time-limit would be good. Not too much. Not everyday. Keep an eye on what the children are doing on the computer. Make it easy for them to SEE their friends, so they don’t even want to “meet” them online. I guess too much computer and internet is bad. For everyone, but for children especially. But keeping them completely out of it wouldn’t help them either.
    And I agree with Beanhead. TV could be a lot worse. When your kids are using the right websites internet can be way better than most of that crap you see on TV. Also I’d rather see a parent playing a videogame with his/her kid once a week than drag them to the TV and watch some sitcom bullshit every day.

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