Just Let ‘Em Use the Internet, Would Ya?

laptop keyboardThe cellphone. The computer. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.

If you know a kid of a certain age, you know the following truth is evident: a teenager and the aforementioned aren’t soon parted.

And if you yourself are of a much more advanced age, you are bound to sigh and gnash your teeth over the fact. Bemoaning the youth of today and their fascination with gadgets is practically a national pastime.

For us, “FaceTime” meant sitting backward on the swings and passing a friend who faced the other way as we flew back and forth. This we rant about loudly, wildly raising a mug of fiber-laden drink in the air to prove a point.

Darn kids almost made me spill my drink.

According to a 2010 study of 8- to 18-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average kid spends at least seven and a half hours a day consuming digital media.

>Apparently, we are supposed to find this appalling, and as the mother of an 8-year-old, I’ll admit it makes for precarious parenting. Do you kick them off the Internet if they’re learning?

Is it so bad if they’re on the Wii, after all the thing cost a pretty penny and you want to get your money’s worth? And what happens when you kick them outdoors to play, only to find them with their Kindle in hand?

After a Sunday afternoon spent rearranging my daughter’s bookshelf to separate books already read from books “to read,” I took in three shelves worth of unread books and was horrified.

How could she allow all these perfectly good books to go to waste?

I marched downstairs in a huff, ready to declare war on all things electronic and set off a reading marathon.

But then I stopped, or rather, my husband stopped me. Reading, he gently reminded me, was my thing (it still is!). If I could have moved into the library, I would have, if only to always have a new book at my fingertips when I’d reached the bittersweet ending of another.

But when I was a teenager, I was one of the lucky kids who had Internet in the house. I used it, as most teenagers do, wasting hours in front of a computer looking up the most random bits of information. See? Some things never change!

Of course, at the time, there was probably only half of what is out there today. No, no, that’s too much. A third? A quarter?

We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. There was no Wikipedia, no Instagram, no YouTube.

What there was plenty of was quotes, and I would spend hours copying pithy sayings into a notebook I carried around with me. Song lyrics. Philosophers waxing poetic. Celebrities nattering on.

A wise use of my time? Perhaps not. But then, we’ve all heard horror stories of what “today’s kids” really could be up to.

Maybe a little extra time on the Wii isn’t so bad after all.


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