If I may, I would like to fire up the time machine for a trip back to 1980. That's right, as people finally awakened from the polyester induced nightmare that was Disco, the music scene started to change and thankfully t-shirts and Levi 501 jeans were back in style. That was fortunate for me, since the only clothes I owned were jeans and t shirts.
The fall of 1980 was also the year that yours truly first walked through the doors of high school. Coming from a very small town, about the size of Rumsey, a high school with over 1,000 kids was very intimidating. Our district was a bit progressive for its time and freshmen from all three district high schools attended a 9th grade high school before going on to their respective schools as sophomores. It really worked well, no upper class hazing and students were able to meet and make friends with kids the would otherwise never meet.
My first day at Nova High School was an experience I will never forget. My elementary school was one building with three classrooms, K-2nd, a class for 3rd-5th and the last class for 7th and 8th grades. I had never had a locker, I had never needed to get from one side of school to the other in 8 minutes, and I had been deprived of the joy that is a 45 minute bus ride into town.
We all made new friends, most of us had to. It was my first real chance to play sports. I actually was fifteen minutes late to my first practice because I didn't know how to put on all the football pads, I was totally lost. Most of the kids were exited to be in a new environment, and we made it through because we were all in it together. A common experience can bring you closer, but we didn't have any other options, or distractions.
When I think about my son's generation, and the way they interact with each other, I wonder if they are missing a very important part of growing up. There were no iPods on my 45 minute bus ride to school, I didn't text my friend during class to say "I'm soooo bored right now". No IMs, no watching YouTube on your phone, nothing. Today I see kids in high school and even middle school, all sitting together, but each listening to their iPods or playing a PSP. Everyone seems to be locked into their own electronic world. Back in my high school days, you talked to the person next to you, or you relied on a skill that is almost lost among today's youth, sitting quietly and thinking without being entertained.
I hate to sound like a cranky old guy, but I wonder if today's kids could go a week without the Internet, TV, their iPod, their cell phone, their Nintendo DS or their X-box 360? They would freak out on a scale seldom encountered by today's parents.
There is nothing going on! What am I going to do?!
Growing up in the country has its advantages, I learned to entertain myself as a kid, I had to. My nearest neighbor was 5 miles away. Being comfortable with your own company is a handy trait to have, and it will serve you well throughout your life. However, close friendships are very important for a young person to have. Face to face personal interaction is not only healthy for teenagers, its at skill that will become increasingly important in their adult lives.
How many high school age kids spend time just talking about life, their future, their values? Young women are probably much better at this than young men, but high school is where you will form the values you will try to live out in your early adulthood. If you are in need of constant entertainment and stimulation to function, how are you going to focus on school, or your job, or focus on your relationships when the fun factor wears off?
This face to face time is also critical for us as parents. It is all too common to come home from work and as long as our kids are plugged into some electronic device and staying out of the way, we can get caught up in our busy lives and we may not interact with our children until dinner, if we even sit down as a family together.
As our children grow up in this portable electronic age, lets try to keep them 'unplugged' from time to time. For me, a no-iPod day on a Saturday spent together is better that a week vacation somewhere with our children locked into their electronic cocoon for most of the trip. Well, that is unless they are fighting in the back seat......