Holidaying with family can always throw up certain challenges, but keeping my parents off screens was not one I was prepared for. It had been a while since I’d spent a lot of time with my folks so it took me by complete surprise. Walking along the beach with my sis, she points out Mum & Dad busy on their screens under the shade of a tree. At first I think, well – that’s not so bad. If they weren’t on screens they would probably be reading a book. In fact they could be reading a book on screen as far as I knew. “No..” my sis says… “you have no idea how bad it’s got".
Wow. I stop still in my tracks and think of the implications of my parents on screen. Does it mean that they are connecting more with people in cyber space than in real life? Is it taking away from the experiences they might have with their grandchildren and us? I shrug it off thinking that it’s hot, they’re tired and want to stay out of the sun and it’s all ok.
It wasn’t too hard to convince them to get off their screens and play a game of Finska with us all and in the end we all enjoyed ourselves. The only thing that played on my mind was that I had to drag them into the present moment and take them away from wherever they had travelled too online.
We then all head home after a successful trip to the beach. We all settle in and before you know it – boom… they are back on their screens. I offer them a drink and they both don’t look up but say it’s a little early for them. I stand bewildered that their choice is to be on screen. I try and make conversation but quickly realize that they are engrossed in their online life. I shrug it off and join my siblings on the verandah for an afternoon beverage. Pretty quickly I notice that my parents and all the kids have gone on line. Scattered through the lounge room they all have their phones & tablets. It then strikes me. Am I part of the generation caught in the middle? Quite often my sons will make me feel like a royal pain in the butt for nagging them to get off a screen and go out and play and experience the world, but I never thought I would be thinking the same thing about my parents?
So – what is the attraction? I think Dad is attracted to connecting with people his own age with similar interests. Mum says it’s about keeping up with her family in Singapore. All fair and valid reasons. What I fear for my generation and the next is that perhaps humanity is going to forget how to exist in real time. We will lose our ability to truly connect with each other face to face. Our hearts and minds will be busy thinking and caring about people who don’t really matter in that space and time and by doing this we rob ourselves of experiences and opportunities with those around us. It sometimes hurts seeing my parents distracted from reality when they could just as easily be tinkering in the garage or cooking in the kitchen and attracting a different kind of attention or even teaching new skills to those around them. But now that the older generation and the younger generation are being sucked in by technology what will be left? Do I have no choice but to join them? It certainly feels like an uphill battle.