07/26/2007 10:21 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Help! I Have eKids

IT'S SUMMER and, as they say in the movies, it's quiet out there. Too quiet.

I should be yelling at my kids to keep it down. They should be clomping dirt through the house and throwing balls against the kitchen window. But I don't seem to have real kids anymore. I have eKids.

Please tell me that you have them too. They don't shout down the stairs looking for their shoes. Instead an IM will appear on my laptop: Hav U sn my shoes? I NEED them!!!! Or my phone will beep with a text message while I'm at the supermarket: dnt frgt popcrn. When I get back home, I assume no one's there (except the dogs--they are the last creatures in the household not to possess screen names). A tell-tale sound of a small explosion going off--or the eerie waft of Sims music--alerts me that there is, in fact, life within. I yell up the stairs: ARE YOU GUYS THERE? before catching myself: Look who's yelling. All electronic noises abruptly cease as my footsteps draw closer.

"Are you on the computer?" I ask in a moderately loud voice.
"No" comes back a small voice.
"Are you on PS2? Three? The Wi? The old Nintendo I thought you sold?" Parents of teenagers know they must phrase all questions like trial attorneys.
"Uh no."
"What was that noise I heard?"
"The X-box."
The X-box! Man, how did I overlook that one?! "Didn't I tell you no more electronics today?"
"Uh huh."
"So why did you do it?"
"Cuz I was bored."
The other child starts up. "Can I go online?"

After some sullen moments of silence, the kids descend to see what's in the refrigerator. My son, with prodding, morosely kicks a ball around outside like a prisoner in an exercise yard. My eldest daughter shuts herself up in her room with a cell phone. A book may or may not be cracked open. At this point Iwonder if I'd object to them reading pornography just so long as it's READING. I count the days to overnight camp, which functions as kind of detox center for the electronically dependent. It must astound them when they get there that there is no handset for the canoe. Excuse me, Counselor, I need to upgrade my weaponry against these mosquitos. How do I do that?

My kids sometimes ask me what I did for fun when I was young. I feel like some old pioneer being asked how we used to make butter. "Well back in the 70s, we only had 29 channels, unless you count UHF, which we didn't because it was always fuzzy. There was no such thing as a remote. We had DIALS. Everytime you wanted to change the station you had to GET UP. Gosh, I remember when Pong was invented. We were all so excited! Whole family gathered round the TV to play. Thems were the days."

Actually, I can't romance them days. Our parents had no idea yet that too much TV was bad for our brains--laughably, they were concerned about our eyes. We watched as much of the dull and limited programming as we could stand before we voluntarily went outside or read a book out of sheer boredom. Had the Internet existed--or cell phones, or instant messaging--I'm sure we'd have been just as hooked as our kids. It's a centuries-old tradition for parents to complain about the wasted pasttimes of youth.

Perhaps we should just be thankful our childrens' is quieter.


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