Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Kids and Technology

Why is it that every time I sit down to write a post, I need to use the bathroom?

We're getting a big snowstorm again today. I'd say we've gotten about 3 inches of fresh powder so far, and it's only 4pm. Hero was sent home early from work, which is wonderful. That sometimes happens for him on Friday afternoons. I usually take time to greet him well when he comes home. It's something that really fills up his well of joy.

We have a 1972 olive green rotary wall phone in the dining room at our house. We got it in order to have a family-friendly phone for the kids to use when they got older. I'm not a big believer in the idea of having my kids have their own cell phones. Fortunately, Primo's just 11 and Spark is 6, so that means we have some time to think about the issue.

In our 1920s house, it took a special trip from an electrician, two hours of fishing wire through the walls, a special digital adapter, and surgery on the phone itself in order to install the phone on our wall. But it works!  Now we have a phone that really does all of the verbs phones are supposed to do: when someone calls, the phone rings. No electronic tones there. (We turned our other cordless phones' ringers off after getting this phone.)  When you wish to make a call, you dial the numbers. When you're done talking, you hang up the receiver. I know it's not revolutionary, but it's satisfying to have a familiar piece of childhood around. If we didn't have it, they may never have seen one in person!

Today our DVD player died, though, and that means that if the boys want some video stimulation to chill out with, they're restricted to the broadcast channels in our city, most of which play shows that aren't suitable for young kids. We've never paid for cable TV. The PBS channels' afternoon kids shows are pretty limited. Whenever Super Why comes on, it's highly likely the Sarcasm Train will disgorge a whole load as the boys watch. It seems like they make fun of and critique every sentence and idea. I don't like them to get into that habit.

So, it being Friday and a regular family movie night, I did what parents in older generations could not have done: I signed up to stream movies via Netflix. Hero puttered for a minute or two with a connection cable, and viola!--movies on the TV. The boys were amazed. I'd never had a Netflix account, usually because when 9pm rolls around, I'm spent and wish I was already asleep. No energy for movies, no extra time for viewing much that isn't life or the written word. But I can't argue with being able to select the programs and movies my boys will see. I think that Saturday nights should be reserved for nature and science shows!

I just read another person's blog post about the end of coin-operated parking meters and pay phones. My husband and I are personally very fond of Old Time Radio programs and early twentieth-century culture. I wonder what my children will be nostalgic for as they reach my age.  How much is our cultural experience a product of its technology, and technology a product of an era?

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