Here we are on a flight from Miami to Boston and the only thing that keeps my children quiet is the iPhone. My five-year old has my husband’s phone and is playing ASTRONUT, an obscure game his dad downloaded for him. My three and a half-year old has my phone and is watching a movie. And I am wondering, where did we go wrong? Why do our children love this device so much?
My husband and I are pretty strict when it comes to TV or computer game usage. We have only one TV at home and have a rule about not turning it on on weekdays. We don’t give our children our iPhones at home and I’m pretty sure we won’t get them a computer until it’s necessary for school. We play with our children all the time and try to stimulate them as much as possible. Yet, that little phone is by far their favorite source of entertainment. They would rather sit with an iPhone for two hours than play a game with us.
My little one, in particular, is obsessed with the iPhone. He literally stops random people and asks them if they have an iPhone. Yesterday, we were having lunch at a café. A woman at a near table was talking on the phone. After she finished her conversation he asked her “Is that your iPhone?” When she said yes, he asked if he could play with it. He gave such a cute smile that she couldn’t say “No, you can’t.” Two minutes later, he was sitting on her lap and they were going through her photos and her movies until he discovered that she had Angry Birds. When my older one heard Angry Birds, he joined them and all three started playing together. They were talking and laughing and the older one was having a great time explaining what the birds were doing to his new friend. She said she was having a great time and that she was fascinated that a 33-year old and a three-year old liked playing the same game.
I confess that my husband and I enjoyed the fifteen minutes of quiet time to finish our food. I also like the fact that my children can interact with others so easily. But I wish that the interaction was not around an iPhone.
When we were kids our grandparents lived away from us and our dad coached basketball. So we would regularly take long bus trips. During those trips, my brother and I would talk to strangers for hours. We would tell them about our family, what we liked, and why we were taking that particular trip. We would talk about sports (especially basketball) and other random things. My brother was great at telling jokes, so he would often tell them his favorite jokes. I liked singing so I would sing even though I did not have a great voice (at the time I thought I did). People in the bus would clap and I would be happy.
Our parents never worried about what they would do to entertain us during those long trips. As long as there were other people around, they knew we would be fine. But now, before a long trip, I pack books, coloring books, games and of course still end up with the iPhone!
Is this the symptom of a bigger problem? Are today’s kids (and adults) less able to connect with others?