My Dad saw it coming. Maybe not in so many words, but he did.
As a kid, the only good TV was on Saturday and Sunday. Cartoons on Saturday morning. Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evening. Three or four channels was the limit.
We progressed to cable TV on the tail end of the seventies. That still only gave us about a dozen channels, but that was the start. It was before the invention or acquisition of the remote control.
He came home one evening and realized that while he was slaving away for 18 hours a day, his children had taught themselves how to turn the TV dial with their toes, so we could conveniently lie on the floor and watch without getting up.
On one particular day, he snapped. “You oughta go do something. Anything!! That TV makes you too passive. It would be better if you went out and killed someone. At least you’d be doing something!” He was an amatuer Confucious. Speaking in koans, that I never understood until much later.
I’m sure I reached up with my right foot and clicked the channel over 3 spots…click, click, click while responding “Dad, who would I want to kill?”
By the time I was a parent, I realized the threat. TV was a menace. All that entertainment content. There was no way I could compete. We implemented strict time controls and electronics house rules. There was limited short-term success. I’m not sure we were successful long term. I’m sure I thought about giving my kids a lesson on”how to get away with murder”.
We skirted the selfie era, though. There are precious few pics of duck-face girl or sultry boy. Though there is some excessive concern about “likes” and views. “Hey kids! Does anyone wanna take shooting lessons?”
Flash forward to two events this past month. Mrs S.A.M. and I were eating lunch, when a family of three sat next to us. The mother and father conversed whilst an apparently developmentally normal 12year-old son was sedately engrossed in some show on his iPad. It was hard not to stare when the child’s burger arrived.
Mom continued to talk while she cut his burger into bite sized pieces and fed it to him. He never looked up. To his credit, he conveyed about half of his own french fries to his mouth. Mom took care of the rest, encouraging him to sip his straw in between occasional bites. It was hard to watch.
I heard tell then last week of a 2 ½ year old who, in his short lifetime, has reached a point where he cannot eat with out his food being pureed and fed to him while watching a tablet. His mouth is too weak to fully consume regular food without gagging. The electronic programming distracts him, so he can eat.
Now, there may be some physiological reason for this, but I can’t help thinking that this is one step down the road of electronic opiates and soylent. A generation of beings fed by tubes and transported by hover-rounds and no awareness of the world around them.