As I was ingesting some artery-clogging fast food recently, a twenty-something professional type, suit and tie, came into the restaurant with his young son in tow. The kid was maybe three years old, and was totally immersed in a game on his father’s iPhone.
I was sitting near the ordering queue, so I could follow the scene as it played out. The father asked the kid what he wanted to eat. Silence. Fingers moving over the touch screen. Father might as well have been a concrete statue for all the attention the kid paid him.
Second attempt. What do you want to eat? No response. The father gave up and ordered a kiddie meal. The food came and they moved to a table cater-cornered from me. A few seconds later, there ensued an ear-splitting banshee wail of sufficient pitch and intensity to shatter glass.
Ye gods, I thought, an Al Qaeda torture specialist is plying his craft here in the restaurant. Should I dial 911? Or hope that someone with a concealed weapons permit has a loaded .38 in his pocket to bring down the terrorist?
Every head in the restaurant turned in unison to determine what was going on.
Yep, you guessed it. The father had apparently taken the phone away from the kid in an attempt to get him to eat his lunch, and the kid was throwing a temper tantrum extraordinaire: scream after scream, each louder, more piercing.
The father, every eye in the restaurant on him, with a look of utter defeat, gave in and handed the phone back to the kid, who mercifully stopped screaming and resumed his game. The kid’s food remained untouched while the father ate his meal, and the kid was still engrossed in the game as they left the restaurant and walked to their car.
There are many addictions in today’s world: tobacco, alcohol, drugs, junk food, chocolate, TV, and on and on. But I marvel at how many youngsters — sub-six years old — are in thrall to electronic devices. I see them everywhere, zombie-like, fingers moving over buttons or touch screens, totally oblivious to the world about them.
My darling almost five-years-old twin granddaughters will likely one day eagerly cast votes to pull the plug on Grandpa because, a while back when we were minding them for a day, I made them turn off their electronic game gadgets and put them away.
“You can color, we’ll read to you, you can play outside, you can drag your grandmother’s shoes and clothes from the closet and play dress-up, but,” I told them, “you cannot play with these games while you’re at our house.”
Much pouting and sulking ensued, but before long they were happily playing with each other. Now, they know when they come to visit us the electronic games must stay at home.
One small step …