I write this humbly with no psychology background or any real technical statics on the validity on my thoughts or opinions. I would like to ask you however to please stop, think back while you are reading this as an 80’s kid and question: how did that change?
Childhood in the 1980’s
A summer day always invited all the kids on the block to play a game of kickball. There was laughter, there were tears and maybe even some name calling but it was fun! No one was left out, no parents to supervise, just pure joy. When we got hungry we’d quickly grab something at someone’s house and be right back outside to play. There were “man-hunt” games followed by dancing with our transistor radios. We never once worried about the time or where we needed to be. Cars would pass by, we didn’t know them but it never mattered. Afterwards there were ice cream trucks, we’d all rush up running bare foot, stinky and dirty waiting to grab a tasty treat! When that street lights started to come on we’d go home still feeling like it wasn’t enough. Luckily we knew we’d get do it all over again the next day so it was “ok.”
Childhood in the 2000’s
Now for a look from these older and hopefully more experienced eyes I see today’s childhood as the following. The streets are empty and quiet, no one around to be seen or heard. If by chance you do catch someone, you don’t even know them and they are the family that lives 4 houses down. Our kids are inside on some device, playing a “game.” No acknowledgement when you walk in, but you don’t even notice because you are on the phone. Dinner is had, maybe the tv is on, some on their phones or no one has anything real to say. Time for bed, maybe you read a book, maybe you don’t. A kiss good night and off they go. They didn’t play with their friends, except maybe online. They had little interaction with you. You are exhausted/distracted trying to be a parent, homemaker, employee, partner, all while holding your own sanity together.
Now I ask you what changed? What do you see that is different? Aside from both parents having to work long hours to support their families, I see very little to no human connection anymore. Not amongst strangers and even families (insert sad face emoji.) And again this is just my opinion but I believe the biggest shift came with internet and smart phones. There is no need to connect with another human anymore when you can fill your time with social media and gaming. And with no connection there is no community. With no community there can be an absolute disregard for the love of thy neighbor including their safety. Is there a place for technology in our lives absolutely, but a place, not all consuming as it presents in today’s society.
What changes can we make?
We can assess and acknowledge how prevalent technology is in our own homes and how it affects our family life. To ensure quality time, try to take some steps to eliminate or dial back on tv, internet, phone usage. Make sure to make eye contact and smile at your neighbor or a stranger passing by, just as your kids would before they learned not to. Talk. Share. It is the little things that seem so obvious yet small that can make the big changes. It may sound easy but it isn’t because we are bombarded with technology and not enough time but it can be done. For society’s salvation I think it is worth a shot.
I will leave you with this last thought. If you haven’t heard the song “grandpa” by the Judds, I recommend a listen. It brings me back to a time where I believe we were better humans to ourselves and one another. I sing it to my son, wishing for another time today. Wishing won’t get us there so I use it as a reminder to try to make the steps that will. Until then make eye contact and smile at anyone you come across, it just might save a soul or a life one day.