Geri-Antics: Modern technology, part V

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, January 10, 2024

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It was a simpler time in the 1950s. Our imagination was limitless and something as commonplace as a few yards of braided hemp rope for skipping could entertain little girls for hours.

Even the rhymes we made up to recite as we skipped were simple. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around. Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground.

Some rhymes were even educational. ‘A’ my name is Alice. My husband’s name is Al. We live in Alabama and we sell apples.

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Pinball machines were around in the ‘50s, but you generally saw them only in gas stations, pool halls, bars, and places where adult men congregated. Children were neither tall enough, skilled enough, or in the vicinity to play these games, and unless an adult financed a game, they were unlikely to have a nickel (or, in some cases, a quarter) to play. Imagination was all that was needed to provide our entertainment and occasionally a simple household item, such as an empty Mason jar for catching bugs or to attempt to drop clothespins into while blindfolded.

Girls generally had one or two dolls and boys had fishing poles and a few trucks. Everyone rode bikes or scooters—kids who were more coordinated than I roller-skated. We generally walked or rode bikes everywhere so getting enough exercise was seldom a concern.

When our children came along in the 70s, they had somehow lost the requisite skills to entertain themselves. Perhaps they were spoiled. Admittedly, fathers were so busy climbing corporate ladders, and mothers’ time was consumed shuffling children to sporting events and ensuring they were ensconced in the right clubs that we relied on electronic babysitters to entertain them.

Whatever the reason, imagination gave way to bells and whistles, and suddenly, we found ourselves plunking down upwards of $100 bucks for Ataris and Nintendos and something called joysticks and other accessories.

Late into the night, we could hear two strange Italian-American plumbers, Mario and Luigi, jumping across obstacles in the sewers of New York, accompanied by annoying calliope music. What I found most disturbing was that on school nights, it wasn’t the kids who were playing the game into the wee hours of the morning but their father.

‘Getting out of the house’ no longer meant riding bikes and fishing in the creek. Kids required a parent chauffeur to take them to the mall where they could spend hours in an arcade full of, you guessed it, more sophisticated electronic games and these games didn’t come cheap. A mere sixty minutes of play could cost as much as $10.

It must have seemed almost a cost-saving when, at the turn of the 21st century, our grandchildren returned gaming to the home via Xbox and Wii.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Xbox and Wii is severely lacking, but I do know that some games I’ve witnessed others playing seem violent. Were I the parent in charge today, I assure you these games would not be played in my home and most certainly not financed by me. I can’t see the entertainment factor in playing graphic and violent war games. There’s far too much real-life violence on the news and, sadly, right in our own backyards.

From what my research tells me, studies do not substantiate a correlation between video game violence and carrying out mass shootings and assaults; however, the same studies do indicate that those who consistently play violent games are far more prone to anxiety disorders, feelings of anger, depression, and anti-social behavior.

Advocates for video games will argue that playing them improves hand-eye coordination and that by age seven, a child knows the difference between fantasy and reality and understands that they are playing a game. I am neither here to argue the pros nor the cons.

The fact of the matter, which cannot be denied and which I will gladly assert, is that children and adults alike would be healthier of mind and body if they turned off the electronics, got off the grid for an hour or two a day, and experienced some fresh air and sunshine. You can’t argue with that logic.