Tech-savvy kids miss out on simpler time

Thursday, October 11, 2012



While watching our favorite family comedy last week, “The Middle,” I was pleasantly surprised when the story line centered on a trip to the local drive-in theater. In this episode, the children had no idea what a drive-in theater was, so the parents were trying in vain to explain it to them. The kids could not understand why they needed to leave their house and drive to see a movie, when they had cable on demand right inside their home. Out of frustration, the mother finally made the analogy, “Imagine a great big iPhone up in the sky that we all sit together in the car and watch!”

The show made me realize how fortunate we are to live in a town that still has an active drive-in movie theater. According to the website, there are only 463 fully operational drive-ins across the globe, 367 of which are located in the United States. Certainly a favorite summer activity in our home today. I also grew up going to the drive-in, so my memories of this unique treat span a lifetime, from innocent child to adventurous teen to responsible parent. I realized with a stab of sadness how ironic it is that more youth today can relate to an iPhone than an iconic drive-in movie theater.

Just days later, I was attempting to teach my 21⁄2-year-old daughter the phonetic alphabet. We were doing great until we got to the letter “X.” I said, “X is for xylophone.” She promptly and proudly repeated, “X is for iPhone!”

Don’t get me wrong. I am certainly grateful for the technology behind the iPhone, or any smartphone, for that matter. I love that I can instantly access email from virtually anywhere, that I have a fundamental contact book at my fingertips at all times, and that I can still take decent photographs when I neglect to lug along my enormous camera. Being able to face-to-face our distant relatives is a very cool feature, as is being able to order a Redbox movie from the parking lot. But the fact that I almost daily inadvertently switch off my ringer without realizing it, that my battery lasts about only three hours of active use, that my talk-to-text translator simply cannot understand me, makes me yearn for a simpler way of life.

Constantly finding my kids playing games on my phone is no treat either, especially when they are so much better at them than me. And there is something to be said about a tranquil moment of actual privacy. We are so tethered to technology nowadays that we are never really “off.”

Truth be told, though, my real issue is with Siri. Siri is best described as the Apple operating system’s version of an informed personal assistant; in other words, a pleasant voice that answers all of your questions. Oh, sure, she comes across as sweet and helpful, but I can see right through her. She definitely has issues with me. Perhaps it is the questions I ask her. Maybe they are simply too outlandish. Or it could be the tone of my voice. I do tend to lose my patience with her, especially after asking the same question three times in a row and then still having her respond with some remark like, “Sorry, Holleigh, but I cannot find “California in Pakistan elephants. Shall I search the Web?”

Then I spend another five minutes trying to explain to Siri that what I asked for was, “Please call Pizza Roma in Milford, N.H.” Inevitably, I jump on the Internet and search myself. I would use my contact list, but that is another issue I have with the iPhone. It now dumps in my entire friend list from Facebook. And no, I don’t really have 427 friends. My cellphone contact list used to have just my closest friends and family members – back in the good old days. Now, it takes so long to search, and I only call people and places whose numbers are committed to memory. My relationship with my iPhone is a humble and necessary reminder that, like our summer visits to the Milford Drive-In Theater, sometimes less technology is the best.

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