All things in moderation

Karen Haviland - File
Karen Haviland
— image credit: File

Where have all the children gone?

There was a time when our ball fields and basketball courts were alive with the sound of children laughing, playing and yes, even fighting. That was the background music of my youth.

I sometimes wonder if I am turning into the old fuddy-duddy that as a teen I promised myself I would never become. You know who I mean-the grumbling, complaining and crabby senior who sits around and analyzes and complains about everything.

I guess that could apply to me to some degree when it comes to today’s youth and what I perceive as a shameful over-reliance on electronics. That over-reliance, I believe, is evident in our empty ball courts, ball fields and playgrounds.

Organized sports? Where? You could fool me as I sadly look upon those former bastions of carefree childhood play free of iPods, tablets or the latest iPhone.

A 16-year-old nephew of mine, who is quite physically active, and I recently had a conversation regarding just that. He likes to stay active and he likes the competition of organized sports. It’s not that he has to win, it’s that he likes to compete. This nephew told me that he often gets frustrated with his peers who don’t care for sports and would rather while away their time inside the house playing games or texting their friends. He feels like he is an anomaly and is puzzled that his friends and peers would rather spend their time paying attention to their electronics than paying attention to their friends.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a child my parents would kick us outside to play whenever they had the opportunity to do so, good weather or bad. It didn’t matter to them.

What mattered was that their children were being active, breathing fresh air, sucking up the sunshine or playing in puddles.

We had a television, which I guess was quite novel back then and, in a way, equates to today’s electronics in that if allowed, we could easily have become addicted to it. But we weren’t allowed.

Television viewing was tightly controlled by our parents. First off, it was never watched until all our chores and homework were done. Period. No exceptions. Ever. When we were allowed to watch TV, the shows were of my parents’ choosing (think Ed Sullivan, Perry Mason and Dragnet) and our viewing time was limited to only an hour or so a night. That included the weekends. On those days our folks kicked us outside to play. There was no watching television, AKA the boob tube, in a dark house on a sunny day.

The real novelty was that because we didn’t have a fancy electronic to distract us we gravitated more towards group activities and were thus forced to interact with others. We honed our social skills on the ball fields and one-on-one conversations with real people in real scenarios. Our best friend wasn’t our cell phone. Our best friend actually held conversations with us and came to our rescue when needed. They were real.

There’s much to be said about today’s technology and electronics. I fully understand that such devices are an integral part of life, but must they be the be-all and end-all for growing children? For that matter must it be the be-all and end-all for adults?

There is nothing I abhor more than speaking with someone (adults included) who doesn’t hear a word I say because they are too busy checking their texts, answering the phone or even playing a game.

Sometimes I long for those uncomplicated days minus cell phones, hand held devices, caller ID and voice mail.

But then, there are the days when the GPS earns her keep and I realize that electronics are here to stay. It’s up to us to find the perfect balance.

As my mother used to say, “All things in moderation.”

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