Trying to raise children nowadays who have a healthy balance between school, extracurricular activities, and downtime is not only difficult, it's virtually impossible because of the wide range of social media outlets to occupy their spare time. When I mentioned to my 17-year-old son the other day that I worried that his online video gaming was taking away from time better spent reading books or even just hanging around with friends, he replied, "Nobody does that anymore, Mom. And people don't read books."
That's horrifying. What's even more horrifying is that I let this happen. Slowly, the introduction of computer-oriented activities entered my home, and because I was not consistently diligent in enforcing time restraints, the restriction of certain games, and demanding that time be spent as a family as opposed to catching my own breath when they were occupied with Netflix or memorizing the words to the newest Justin Bieber video via YouTube -- I now have children who are unable to sit and reflect.
Gone are the days when you walked home from school with nothing but your thoughts. Nowadays, children have earphone wires dangling down either side of their faces, the rhythmic beat of songs I've never even heard played out loud because the extinction of record players and ghetto blasters has granted parents peace and quiet, but not peace of mind.
Speaking to children is a dance which requires sidestepping between the iPod, the cellphone, and the laptop. Children may look up when told to, but today, the oft-asked question, "How was school today?" is answered hesitatingly not because they have nothing to say, but because they are distracted by the vibrating in their pocket alerting them to an incoming text.
Of course the easy answer to this is to cut them off. Take away all electronic devices. Enforce family time. It should not be a choice, but an expectation. But I'll admit that a game of Scrabble in my home is not only difficult because it doesn't come with spellcheck, it's almost painful watching these kids writhe in the agony of their withdrawal.
The return of their various gadgets produces such relief and joy, that the smile of gratitude from each of them as I hand back their respective apparatuses is worth more than the gritting of teeth and the pulling of hair (theirs as well as mine), occurring while I lectured one of them on the fact that the word "shade" takes an "e" at the end, then argued with the other that, yes, it was important to know this.
This generation craves popularity. Opportunities for reality TV shows, YouTube viral videos, gamer status, and even Facebook posts and Twitter tweets prompting shares, likes, and retweets is creating a generation of children who not only live their lives in the public eye, but experience feelings of failure when that Instagram picture doesn't get as many hits as the one posted prior to it.
It's all about fame now. Are children consciously seeking it or is it a subliminal manifestation created by the various "15-minute" celebrities popping up so often and rapidly that one doesn't have time to fade away before the next one makes an appearance?
My kids don't expect to be the next great YouTuber or the next Honey Boo Boo, but even if it's unspoken and they deny it, surely the live video-gaming streams they upload or the funny freestyle dance my daughter and her friends post on Facebook and Youtube, have for their purpose self-glorification, and a certain degree of hope that somehow, someway they will become the next "It" kids.
I can't deny that I don't understand the draw. I'll admit that even writing for a blog has for its purpose not only the love of writing, of seeing my words in e-print, but there's always that secret desire that someone will notice me.
That having been said however, after having had my own 11 minutes and 42 seconds of fame on the Charles Adler radio show, the fact that my recollection of the event is but a blur except for the vivid memory of my lips trembling the entire time, I now have a great deal more respect for Honey Boo Boo.