Those of us in the Northeast are just beginning the return to normalcy after the effects of tropical storm Irene. Families are cleaning up the litter left by the storm. They’re returning to the supermarkets to re-stock their refrigerators, catching up on laundry, and taking hot showers for the first time in a week. For many the restoration of electricity signals a return to electronic communication. But wait! Perhaps this last week has also provided an opportunity.
I have often expressed my concern about the use of a variety of electronic devices among children, adolescents and teens. I find the practice not only negative, but mind-numbing. In fact, I usually assign students essays about their reaction to a voluntary “Television turn-off Week.” I’ve actually expanded this topic to include all forms of electronics. Most students are horrified by the mere thought of unplugging from text and/or instant messaging, calling, and all forms of social networking. Well, we just experienced an involuntary television turn off week. My office remained open despite the lack of electricity. Parents were grateful to have their children unhooked from their electronic games and cell phones, and they were eager to have them engage in some productive endeavor.
One of my high school students, who admits to being obsessed with a variety of video and computer games, confided that he was so bored that he actually read two books. Another asked, in all sincerity, “What can I do at night without television?” He professed an interest in stars, so I suggested that he buy an astronomy book and take advantage of the lack of light pollution to do some star-gazing. Several students explained that they had resorted to entertaining themselves and playing with their siblings. I witnessed families going for walks at dusk, gathering for neighborhood cookouts, and standing outside conversing with their neighbors. They were engaged in real social activities.
This brief return to the nineteenth century provided us with an opportunity to realize how disengaged some people have become. Don’t be so quick to turn on the television or computer to live vicariously through some fantasy game or unreal “reality show.” Put down that game controller and remote! Be active and self-reliant. Live life and learn.