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Jane L. Rosen

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Yes, Virginia, We Did Have to Get Up to Change the Channel

Posted: 09/24/2012 4:43 pm

People are always making observations about how easy it is for kids today. Each declaration of technological advancement claims to simplify our lives; I think the reverse may be true.

For today's youth, our grandfather's shocking tale of having to walk ten miles in the snow to school seems on par with our depiction of having to get up to change the channel on the television. When I was a kid there were seven channels, maybe eight, yet I don't remember anyone complaining that there was nothing on. We picked something and committed to it; Thursday night, 8 o'clock, "Welcome Back Kotter." There was no VCR, and certainly no DVR. If you missed it, well, "Up your nose with a rubber hose!" You were out of luck.

The yearly airing of Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music were cherished happenings. You only left the couch to get a snack or go to the bathroom during the commercials, hi-tailing it back to the "TV Room" when the resident keeper of the break yelled "IT'S ON!" No one yells, "IT'S ON" anymore. It's an antiquated saying right along with "I tried calling you back but your line was busy." Try and find a good excuse nowadays for not getting back to someone: "Sorry I didn't Text, Tweet, E-mail, Facebook, IM, BBM. iChat, or call; I tripped during a blackout breaking all ten fingers and suffered trauma to my vocal chords."

The simple joy of the telephone, from the hours spent laying on your bed twisting the curly wire around your finger as you spoke, to the thrill of calling the boy you liked and hanging up, never to be identified by caller ID or *69 are forever gone. I remember the day I got my powder blue push button Princess Phone with the extra long cord. It was a big deal. It was not replaced six months later by the newest model. It remained the newest model for like ten years! Even now I can close my eyes and picture myself calling my best friend's number over and over again until the busy signal subsided. Her mom would answer and I would say the exact same thing every time: "Hello Mrs. Silfen, This is Jane. May I please speak to Dana?" Aaaaah, another casualty of the cell phone, how to speak to the adult on the line with respect. I remember teaching the same refrain to my eldest daughter, yet my youngest never had a need for it. Somewhere between 1995 and 2005 this became an unnecessary skill, dare I say, a lost art. Now I have to dress to enter my daughter's room because the image of her camp friend who lives hundreds of miles away is plastered across her laptop. I am more likely to hear "My mother has that same bra!" than "Hello Mrs. Rosen may I please speak with Talia." The whole thing is exhausting.

While others may argue to the contrary, I feel that along with the cell phone and it's subsequent array of features came a tremendous loss of freedom.

Secretly, I wish that when my three teenage daughters leave the house I could have the same benign conversation with them that I had with my mom, "Where are you going? Who are you going with? Ok, Have fun, Bye!" never to think of them again until their curfew approaches. Instead, I am armed with an arsenal of too much information. Even a "chill" mother like myself has heard the following leave my lips or my finger tips, as is often the case: "Call me when you get there. Text me when you're coming home. Text me the ID number of the cab. I thought you said you were going to an Italian restaurant; your debit card just posted Sushi Samba. Who is that you are with in that Facebook picture? Isn't that the girl whose profile picture makes her look like a prostitute? Because someone just posted it on your wall, that's why! Why aren't you texting me back? Why did I buy you the latest phone if you were not going to answer it? Why did you change your status to in a relationship with Susie Sassler? Honey, are you gay? You know that you can tell me anything." Now imagine being on the receiving end of all of that insanity. It can't be easy.

And even if you were to argue for the educational facet of the Internet, labeling the Dewey Decimal System a drag and the Encyclopedia Britannica, habitually antiquated, I can counter. I met many a cute boy at the library, and none of them were 50-year-old predators pretending to be 16.

Do kids have it easy today? I guess it depends on your definition of easy. Maybe we should all spend a day unplugged before answering the question. We may find, as with many things in life, one step forward equals two steps back.

 
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