Kids these days…

Like I said yesterday, schools up here in Virginia have been closed since Monday. When you factor in that they’ll also be closed this coming Monday for President’s Day, you realize that the Gooblings were recently handed a 7-day weekend. And so far, they’ve each spent 98% of their time off indoors either on the computer or in front of a TV.

I hate to sound like an old codger lamenting about the “good ‘ole days,” but it’s easy for me to see how childhood has changed in the last 10 to 15 years. I was part of the last group of kids who grew up without some form of technology pervading my every waking moment. And this is coming from a guy whose dad bought an NES before anybody else on the block – just as much for him as it was for me. The same went for just about every other technology breakthrough over the 90s. Personal computer, big screen TV, high speed (56k BABY!) internet, you name it, we most likely were the first in the neighborhood to get it.

And yet even still, the majority of my childhood memories are void of complex technology or machinery. In elementary school, I didn’t touch a computer until 4th grade, and that was to play Math Blasters in Horizons class. After school was spent watching an hour of cartoons on FOX (who else remembers when Nickelodeon didn’t have any Nick Toons and Cartoon Network didn’t exist!? Just me? Okay…) before walking down the street to Michael Mace’s house to hang out. I do remember playing my fair share of Battle Toads, Ninja Turtles, and Zelda at his place, but even more of my memories from that early on in life are of me on my bike, racing around the neighborhood with my dog, just looking for something to do. Well, that, and playing in the woods where I found a dog bone and was convinced it was an Indian burial ground. In fact, that was my greatest asset as a kid. My imagination. God, the hours spent playing outdoors or with my Ninja Turtles or Ghostbuster toy gun. I may have played alone a lot as a kid, but I never felt alone after I let my mind run wild for a little bit.

By the end of elementary school and throughout middle school, my main after school activity was calling Chong to see if he wanted to “Play.” For us, Playing consisted of walking around and trying to entertain ourselves. Sometimes we’d find a house being built to Play in. Other times we spent our Play time chopping down trees in the woods in order to make a bridge over a 10 inch creek. Or even more often, Playing meant wandering around in people’s yards, down the nearby streets, along the abandoned railroad tracks, simply looking for something interesting and using our imagination whenever we found it. Yeah, we were older, but using our mind as a source of entertainment was still our key toy.

Sure, we played SNES and Genesis whenever we felt like it, but I can’t seem to remember playing video games for more than a few hours at a time, if that. They just weren’t that entertaining! You can only play so much Madden ’94 before you realize that it sucks. And I’m not trying to make it seem like I didn’t play video games as a kid. I played a lot. But only in relation to other kids back then! Before, I may have been a video game master, but compared to kids nowadays, I would be the kid who couldn’t figure out how reload his gun on Halo. In all honesty, I’d say only about 50% of my free time before hitting high school was spent either watching TV or playing video games.

I’d put the Goobling’s at about 90%, minimum.

So is that bad? Do I think their “generation” is failing at something? No, it’s simply a fact I’ve noticed. It simply make me wonder what their memories are going to be of when they get to be my age. I don’t see how they can be anything beyond video games, computers chats, and disappointing TV shows. I can’t help but feel like they’re missing out on something that I was fortunate enough to experience, something which is gone from kid’s lives forever.

I’m sure my grandparents said the same thing when TV entered my parent’s lives. And the same was probably said a generation earlier when radios began popping up into homes across the country. That doesn’t change the fact that they were right. Things did change and it’s the elder people who see it happening because they remember what it was like “before.” Are either generation better off or worse because of the change? I doubt it, but it’s still hard to watch it happen.

During a week long snow storm, God…I probably would have spent only enough time indoors to eat, sleep, and cure my extremities from frostbite. The Gooblings haven’t even desired to touch the snow. I can’t even think of a moment beyond dinner time when any of them haven’t been in front of a computer, TV, or video game. Literally. No forts have been built. No surprise snowball attacks have been made. No giant snowballs have been rolled into the size of a small car and placed in the middle of a road at the bottom of a hill for a pickup truck to slam into, which caused the driver to chase after us….

I wonder what my kids will say when my grandchildren’s generation welcomes the invention of internal brain computers or automated chore & homework completing robots or something along those lines. I bet they’ll lament over the days when their games were only played on TVs instead of in full life virtual reality rooms, which totally made them better and more hardcore. They’ll recall when Google searches were inaccurate at best and how information on the Internet only seemed to be organized or sorted until you actually wanted to find something and couldn’t no matter how hard you tried. Or even how they had to hide their porn stash in C:/My Documents/Important Files/Saved029/Computer Logs instead of downloading them directly into their brains, which…well I think my grandchildren will have the advantage there.

But my kid’s will be right. Just like I am. Just like everyone before me was.

We all have missed out on something previous generations had. But such is the nature of change.