If Norman Rockwell had an iPad…


A couple things happened to me over the weekend that really made me step back and take a long look at how I interact with technology and the role it plays in my life and the life of my family.

The first thing was a normal meal at home with my family.

Now keep in mind, there is very little about my family that can be considered “normal”, however much we like to think of ourselves as such.

We had just finished dinner and were still sitting around the table.  My wife was reading a book on her iPhone Kindle app.  My youngest son was playing “Brain Age” on his Nintendo DS.  My oldest son was playing “Math Ninja” on my “old” iPad.  What was I doing?  You guessed it, reading on my “new” iPad.

Whoa! 

Dinnertime, and what were we all doing?  We were completely engaged in our little electronic gadgets.

As I thought about this, I was really conflicted.  Is this the new version of “family time” in our society? 

I mean really.  The youngest was playing a “brain” game that really is just that.  It’s a great mental workout.  He’s brilliant and loves puzzles and challenges.  So nothing wrong there, right?  The oldest; he was honing his math skills.  He’s smart also, but needs a little help in the math area.  Again, a good thing right?  So how about my wife? Reading a book, and nothing frivolous.  She’s a writer and reads for research.  Check.  Productive use of time.  Me?  I was…well, I’ll admit, I was checking out the SI Swimsuit thread on Flipbook.  Hey, at least I wasn’t playing Angry Birds!

So what’s the harm in this?  Right?  I’ll get to that in a minute.

The second thing is that I realized that my wife and I carry our cell phones (yes iPhones) around with us AT HOME!!  I get home from work, change clothes and shove my iPhone into my back pocket.  My wife does the same thing.

Beyond carrying them, we text each other in the house with our phones.

Several years ago, we were mocked by our friends for texting in our house via Yahoo IM on our computers.  “Hey!!” we would respond,  “I’m in the basement, and she’s on the third floor of the house.  It’s easier. “ Right?  Right! So back off!

Well, now…not so much of an excuse.

What I’m getting at here is that tech is invading our lives and changing it drastically.

Duh!  Nothing new there.

But it’s changing how families interact.  Gone are the days when the family gathered around the fireplace and the radio.  Everyone listening, mom knitting and dad reading the paper.  You know, the whole Normal Rockwell thing.

Now we all “network” around our own houses.  Literally.

Good or bad?  No idea.  I’m not smart enough to really figure that one out.  We do interact.  And radio is pretty much dead.  So have the devices just changed?

Want one more example of the sort of thing happening?

Two years ago, we bought our oldest a Nintendo DS for his birthday.  He loved it.  But as time went on the youngest wanted one.  He proved responsible, so last year we got him one also.

Now I don’t know if you know this, but with certain games you can play against other players via peer-to-peer WiFi built into those little devices. 

So picture this.

One night not so long ago, I go down stairs about an hour or so after putting our boys to bed.  You know, to check on them.  They have a habit of goofing around when they are supposed to be sleeping.

I peer into the youngest boy’s room and he has the covers pulled over his head and I hear a distinct clicking sound.  I creep up to the bed (me = sneaky) and pull the covers off in dramatic fashion expecting to bust him. 

Which I do.

Playing his Nintendo DS.

The look on his face is priceless.  Sort of that “deer-caught-in-a-headlight” look. I give him my best stern face, tell him I’m disappointed in him and take the game away from him.  I close the cover as I do, thus turning off the game.

From the other boy’s room I hear, “Hey!!  What happened to the game!”

Oh yeah.  Isn’t technology wonderful? 

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