Duff ’n Stuff | Please look up from that screen

Posted in Blogs, Duff 'n Stuff, Literary

May 30, 2014

My 17-year-old son doesn’t understand why I have to disconnect the Wi-Fi in our house daily, why we have to literally cut him off from the Internet. He thinks that we should let him use his laptop, X-Box, etc. without limits. If we did, I’m sure he would stay in his room continuously with his computer and might only come out for school, eating and to shower. He sees no reason why we should be alarmed by this scenario.

Image created at www.behance.net.

Illustration Artwork for Computer Arts Project mag / issue 121 – March 2009 / The Art of Videogames, Behance. From the portfolio of Seb NIARK1 FERAUT.

I am alarmed.

I’m caught in this technology trap. What happened? When I prepared myself for parenthood, I never dreamed I would have to deal with these seemingly impossible issues of how to keep my children safe from the global internet community; from the insidious addiction of technological instruments; from a dangerously sedentary lifestyle; from living your life with your face looking down at a screen; from a teenager-hood devoid of meeting your friends at that spot in the woods, or at the lake or the local cafe for face-to-face conversations; from the fact that Facebook (and the rest) stealthily rob you of the delicious privacy that we all used to have in our teenage years and the blissful ignorance of parents; from noticing the world through your real time eyes and ears instead of through a screen or headphones. Well, I should have realized it sooner, when I noticed that kids don’t really meet in the backyard anymore to play SPUD, Dodge Ball and Freeze Tag. I feel so old.

When I began parenting, I never considered I would end up here, policing a household connection to the rest of the world. I thought I was doing everything right. I modeled good lifestyle skills; taught my children how to eat well, exercise, engage in conversation with other people, show respect, practice good manners, and how to be curious about the world. We read to the kids every day and evening. We showed them things; we introduced them to music, art, a love of nature and the joy of animals; to fun family vacations and swimming and road trips. They are good kids. They are intelligent and funny. But if I could only get that stupid computer out of my son’s life, it would be better. Where did I go wrong? I made my bed, the voice on my shoulder tells me.

Damn you Bill Gates and Steve Jobs! Damn you Mark Zuckerberg!

I know. It’s not the inventors’ fault. We were wrong to allow too much of it and now we’re paying for it. Now we have to play the “heavy” parents. Now we have to consult psychologists who specialize in the “unmotivated teen.” I worry that my wonderful son will end up one of those pathetic, coming-up-on-middle-age guys with a penchant for spending long hours in dark rooms playing video games and getting fat on beer and Cheetos. Help me!!!

How did this happen? Who told me I could raise people to become well-adjusted adults in this fast-moving culture of strange customs involving devices held in one’s hand and on laps? None of us knew we were going to end up with the generation glued to screens, parents who are charged with defending our young against the succubus that is the Internet? My parents never had this problem. I’m envious of them for this. I know they had their own challenges, that every generation has had to deal with some major cultural changes—but this is different.

Behance image from www.behance.net.

Illustration Artwork for Computer Arts Project mag / issue 121 – March 2009 / The Art of Videogames, Behance. From the portfolio of Seb NIARK1 FERAUT.

I am appalled by the number of people I see in public looking down at a screen while they are out in the world. So many people are missing everything!

In the end, I know what we’ve done here for Henry has been our best. He lives with a family who loves him and I know he knows that, even if he hates certain rules of the house.

Let the almighty gods of technology beware—I will defend my young! I will hold up my sword against that great, ensnaring snake-in-the-grass, that Darth Vader of our virtual world, that great unseen succubus (yes, I’ve said it again because it’s the best word for this particular monster), the Internet.

Patricia Duff is a freelance writer and editor and owner of Patricia Duff Writing Services. 

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