My years on this earth are starting to mount up. I have seen a President, his brother, and a civil rights leader all assassinated in the same decade. I heard that same President declare we would not only put a man in space but have one walking on the moon by the end of that decade. I went from having no color in the school I attended, to having multiple colors and nationalities by the time I graduated. I’ve also seen great strides and advancements in technology and our everyday living. I can remember those unbearable summer nights before air conditioning, listening to the radio before we got our first TV, and picking up a block of ice to put in our ice box to keep our food cold. Yes, I’ve seen changes that have improved our quality of lives more than I could have ever imagined.
For all the post baby boomers, you have witnessed your frozen moments, too. The shuttle disaster, the Simpson verdicts, and yes, 9/11. Moments that you will always remember where you were when you got the news. As far as technology goes, well where could we even start? Even Einstein would be amazed at the progress over the last 3 or 4 decades. These advancements have changed the lives of every living generation forever. But to say that all change is for the good is, in my opinion, up for debate and will be for years to come.
Technology today can be ‘round the clock entertainment, no matter where we are, who we are with, what time of the day, night or morning it is, and any other scenario that might arise – we have total access to it. There is no questioning the fact that our internet, TVs, smartphones and other tools of entertainment and knowledge resources can be beneficial. But I believe our use, or should I say dependency, is tinkering on the border of obsessive, rude, detrimental to interpersonal relationships with our family and friends, and downright dangerous to ourselves and others.
Let me give you a few examples. Go to any restaurant on a Friday night. In my era, this was a time when a family enjoyed a night out talking about the week’s events or upcoming events. Married couples would have time to reconnect, let the week’s work stress go and enjoy their intimacy. Dating was a time to talk and get to know the person you were with. Interacting seemed to foster closeness, connectedness, interpersonal trust, and perceptions of empathy—the building blocks of relationships. But now on Friday nights, our first order of business is to get out our cell phone and make sure we didn’t miss anything important over the previous minute while being seated. During the course of the night, there might be some conversation, but phones definitely direct our attention from our current environment and inhibit our ability to connect with the people right next to us. The once sacred night that was reserved for family and friends is gradually being seduced by Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and emails.
Another example of the negative effects of technology is the obesity in our country. Most alarming is that of our youth. Parents are getting their kids smartphones as early as age 10 (some even younger). The reasoning for this is so they can get in touch when needed. At this age, if you don’t have a good idea of where your child is and what they are doing, you might want to reevaluate your parenting skills. Do you really think you can monitor everything they see and read on social media? Would you approve of all the language and content of the music they listen to? Are the kids responsible enough to have a phone when they are 10? Even at an early age, cellular technology can drive a stake through face-to-face interactions. And there’s the use of portable video games, which means the possibility of a sedentary lifestyle and adding to our nation’s obesity count.
Finally, in my opinion, what has become a major problem with cell phones is its use while driving. Cell phone distraction rates are alarmingly high. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to nearly 2 million crashes each year. One out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving. Even though adults are just as guilty when it comes to cell phone use while driving as are teen drivers, the young drivers are four times more likely to get into crashes when using cell phones. Over 10 percent of drivers ages 16 to 19 involved in fatal accidents were reported to be using their phones at the time of the crash.
So as parents, what can we do? Yes, you can talk to your kids about the dangers of distracted driving. But as much as we want to trust and believe in our kids, that might not be enough. It’s very easy to check the times of their text messages. When they leave the house on their way to school, heading to work or practice, or just leaving to hang out with friends, you can check and see if they have been texting. More than likely, if they do it once, they will do it again. There’s nothing worse to a teen than taking their phone or their right to drive. Yes, they will probably be upset, but you are showing them it will not be tolerated. In the long run, you could be teaching a valuable lesson that could prevent an accident. It might even be a good idea if we all spent a little less time on our phones. We might even learn how wonderful things are when we look up instead of down.