Monday, June 06, 2005

The Dumbing Down of America

No, I'm not referring to the three Rs although that certainly applies. I'm talking about kids and electronic devices (EDs) otherwise known as televisions, Game Boys, Nintendo, movie theaters, cell phones, iPods, PDAs, and computers.

I don't have anything against these directly. Obviously since I'm using the last one on this list as I write this. But I do object to kids who don't spend most of their time outside playing and getting into mud, dirt, trees, sweat, and anything else you hear Beaver getting reprimanded for.

So what's the big deal? EDs shut you down and zone you out. There's no creative stimulation. "Sure there is," you say. Look at the games they play. That takes interaction and problem solving. Well…not really. On the surface most EDs are great. But if you really look at them and how they affect people, you begin to realize what they really do. For instance, have you ever come home from work and sat down in front of the TV? When did you finally turn it off? Probably when it was late and past time to go to bed. Excuse for doing it? "My job burns me out and I just need to wind down." Think about it. If you spend your day in front of a computer, you're using the same part of your brain that you use at work. You're using the stressed out part to de-stress. It doesn't work. That's why, when you get up in the morning, you're still tired and your stress level is back up by the time you're in the car on your way to work. I know this from experience. I'm not pulling this out of thin air. (One comment on the side here. If you don't spend all day in front of a computer, it's still not a good excuse to "de-stress" in front of the TV. At least read a book or talk to your family.)

Solution? Use a different part of your brain to de-stress.
1. Just figuring out what to do requires some creativity on your part.
2. If you're in front of a computer all day, get out and get active. It will allow the stressed part of your mind to relax because you're using another part. You don't have to go climb a mountain or go for a run (unless you want to). You could pull weeds in the garden, read a book on the porch, find a good spot to watch the bird feeder, rearrange the furniture, go to the park and fly a kite or throw a frisbee, …you figure it out.
3. The side effects…this is the cool part…is that it improves your creativity.

Now you're saying, "Okay, I'll give you the first two, but improving my creativity? Yeah, right!" I'm serious. I'm not a scientist or a medical doctor, but what truly creative people have known for centuries is that the more diverse your interests are and the more things you do that are apparently unrelated, the more creative you become.

Think about it. Creativity is creating something new by combining things that no one else thought to put together. How can you do that if you limit yourself to EDs? Most of what is created, even in the realm of EDs, is a result of things outside of that realm. A non-ED example would be the guy who invented velcro was inspired by the burrs that stuck to his clothing when he went outside for a walk. Electricity was discovered by flying a kite. There are a lot of stories like that.

Okay, back to the kids. I digressed to adults because kids grow up to be adults and kids who spend their time focused on EDs become adults who are focused on EDs. It's scary and I can only explain the enlarging of homes and the shrinking of yards by the fact that no one is using their yards because they're all inside with their eyes glued to the TV or the computer. Am I wrong?

So, what is the solution? Limit or eliminate EDs. I know it is very hard to eliminate, but you can limit. The only catch is that all persons affected have to agree. If Dad has to have his TV and Mom wants to get rid of it, you have a problem. But, if you can agree than it can work. For myself, I will confess right now that we have 3 TVs, 3 DVD/VCRs, 2 computers, 2 PDAs, and 2 cell phones. But I lost count of the books I have a long time ago and I've read 90% of them. My front yard is slowly being transformed from lawn to garden. I've been looking at my bike everytime I go by it in the garage and it's finally getting warm enough that I need to get it out and ride it.

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