Ok, so the NYT isn't wrong. I just disagree with this article in which the author describes his terrific "plugged-in summer."
Now, don't for a second start to think I'm going to rant about parents at the playground who are texting or reading blogs (ahem) instead of interacting or at least enjoying watching their kids. Because I'm not going to even though when I see this is makes me sad. (And yes, there IS a difference between the odd "Let's meet at 5″ text vs the obvious surfing and Angry Bird playing).
The article makes a decent point that we don't need to disconnect entirely. However, I was caught between chuckle and blech-face when I read that he was happy to have the new leaf-identifying app and the bird-sound app and all the other apps.
Here's a thought: take a field guide to birds. Or a guide to trees and have your kids -- gasp! -- open an actual printed book and flip through until they find the leaf. What happens if you ask your kids to identify a leaf and they can't...nothing. There is great joy to be had (and lessons learned) from an adult who says, "I don't know." And further joys from allowing children to make up names. Ask them, "What would you name this leaf?" Answer: "Pointy-tipped cloud." Collect the leaves if you like, bring them home and continue your summer by looking it up when you get back.
I imagine the campfire the author had and how perhaps they forgot the lyrics to "The Circle Game" or "This Land is Your Land" and before anyone could stumble or search the brain files, they swiped and clicked and found all of the lyrics and had the tune play, too.
I like the forgotten lyrics. I enjoy the made up words we stick in when we stumble. I like the mystery of leaves and the satisfaction of paging through bird books to see if we've spotted a warbler or a nuthatch.
Why do we feel that answers must come immediately? Why do we pass this onto our children? Let them develop skills. Do I suggest we disregard technology? I do not. But virtual nature? It's like tasting a picture of a s'more.