This is the second in my last week of the year, things I need to be mindful of next year articles. Whew! Maybe I need to come up with a catchier name?
Are you concerned about distracted driving?
You should be. In the U.S. alone, distracted driving causes millions of accidents, hundreds of thousands of injuries, and tens of thousands of deaths each year.
But where did this start? It didn’t start in the car. No one ever said I need to send some texts; let’s go for a drive.
It started with our lifestyle. It began with the fact that we no longer live in the now; in the present. We live in a virtual world where all of our input and output goes through that little device in our pocket. We receive and send every piece of information via Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, and texting.
Conversations are held between people in the same room via instant messaging.
How often have you gone to a restaurant and witnessed a family sitting around a table, each one looking at their screens? There is no verbal communication between them. The parents are emailing, and the kids are texting.
How does this start? It starts in infancy. From the first time we strap a baby into a car seat, there is a screen in front of them playing videos. We put the child in a high chair at the dinner table, plop a pile of Cheerios in front of them, hand them a screen showing Sponge Bob so Mom and Dad can read their Facebook timelines undisturbed.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a technophobe. I embraced technology before 90% of you. When I got my first computer, I knew exactly two other people in the world that had one. I owned the original Palm Pilot and every model after that. I had a cell phone when you needed a bag to carry it around in, and calls cost $.20 a minute. I’ve always been an early adopter.
So, maybe I’m the problem. And people like me. The early adopters.
Maybe we adopted too early and too often.
Technology is important. It’s crucial. And we need to make sure our kids grasp technology from an early age. As if we could stop them. When a neighbor asks me if I can help them with their computer, I say sure I can, or just stop the next six-year-old you see walking down the street.
Kids and technology. The future’s so bright; I have to wear shades.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way all the time. Perhaps 24/7 is a little too much screen time.
Is it just possible we could carve out just a few minutes a day to talk to one another? You know, IRL? Not FaceTime, face to face.
Entertaining your kid in the back seat with a video wasn’t a bad idea, in theory. Keep them entertained. It keeps them distracted. But aren’t we training them that using a screen in a car is the norm? Aren’t we teaching them to focus only on the tiny screen in front of them at all times? Training them from infancy to be distracted in a car? Then they grow up and use the screen in front of them to text, just like we taught them. Remember looking out the window? You know, seeing stuff.
Maybe, at the dinner table, we could start interacting with the children from the beginning. Teach them that for just this one hour a day, we will look at each other. We will talk to one another, and more importantly, listen to each other.
It’s a fact that babies begin absorbing information from day one. We teach them with our actions, words, and deeds from way before they can speak. If a screen is their reality, then taking that screen away will be a problem. If they are exposed to people talking to one another, that’s what they will learn.
Should we teach our children always to have and use a screen for every task? Is it possible to turn this around, or is it too late. Can the children of tomorrow be trained to be in the present, at least some of the time?
It is an unfortunate truth that personal security is something that has to be taught in schools these days. And a big part of that is situational awareness. We have to teach them that because they don’t know what it is. That family at the restaurant with their faces planted in their screens have none. Zero. If a tragedy occurred, they would not know of it until the bullets started flying.
Technology is a wonderful thing. I am always amazed at the power and knowledge in that little device in my pocket. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have one; it’s been thirty years or more. And I am guilty of never being without it. If I leave home and realize I’ve forgotten my phone, I turn around.
And I’m as guilty as most of pulling it out at inappropriate times and checking email, texts, or social media. But I spend more time than most in the now. I live in the present. I know where I am and what is going on around me at all times. That’s important. I know how to have a conversation with a live human in front of me. That is crucial.
I know how to live without being distracted. And that is vital. Vital to us, our children, and our children’s future.