I read a blog recently on LinkedIn entitled "Electronic 'Baby Sitters' turning brains to mush". Interesting, I thought...did someone actually find definitive evidence that playing video games (I am assuming that's what the electronic babysitters are and not some version of Rosie the Robot) affects your brain and if so, how did they get that evidence? As it turned out, the blog had nothing to do with mushy brains, but was a description of a family the author had eaten breakfast next to in a restaurant. Apparently the parents had given their two young children (aged about 2 & 4) iPads when they sat down, then engaged in adult conversation while they waited for their food. The rest of the blog was a rant (polite, but a rant nonetheless) lamenting the death of dinner table conversation and the necessity of parents using a trip to a nice restaurant as the optimum time to encourage its rebirth, even pleading with parents to please, please teach your child the art of conversation. I laughed out loud. I can vividly recall taking my own children out to eat at that age, pulling crayons or puzzles or small toys out of what my daughter called my purse-o'plenty, and hoping they would be occupied long enough for me to 1) actually eat my own dinner and 2) talk to another adult about things other than Barbies, GI Joes and Transformers. Sometimes that actually happened. The author readily admitted that the children were polite, quiet and seemed to be enjoying dinner. Where, then, in this pleasant family tableaux was the evidence of brain mush? As a survivor of parent/children restaurant wars I have to admit that when I see children being seated near me at P.F.Chang's, I cringe, imagining screams, shrieks, whines...and noise from the children, too. If it had been me at the table near the iPad wielding parents, I may have stood up and applauded.
We see this sort of overblown and exaggerated headlines in news stories all the time. Who among us hasn't gotten reeled in by a headline proclaiming something awful or stupendous had happened, only to read the article and find it either completely fact challenged or sometimes an outright lie. I confess to having opened many a photo collection, drawn in by You Won't Believe How These Celebrities Look Without Their Makeup, thinking (hoping) to find Jennifer Anniston looking like a hag, only to see that ok, she is still drop dead gorgeous. But I was surprised to find someone on a social media networking site, someone whom I followed, using this tactic. Did the author think that no one would read her blog if she called it something closer to its actual content....like "Step away from the iPad, Billy"? Or did she really believe that the event she was describing was actual evidence that children's brains are being adversely affected by the use of an iPad in a restaurant? I scrolled down thru the comments submitted by readers and found that all of them agreed with her. No one pointed out the lack of brain mushery, let alone that there is not much difference between what these parents did and what I, with my purse-o'plenty, did years ago or what my mom did by encouraging me to bring along a Nancy Drew book. Of course it could also be that those of us who did not agree, refrained from saying so, not wanting to be contentious.
The author closed the blog by saying that these children are "future employees and leaders in our community and we need them to be articulate and healthy" and not "mesmerized by electronic pictures". I don't know why this blog bothered me so much. It is her blog and she is free to make any number of sweeping generalizations based on nothing more than her observation of a family eating breakfast. I have read worse blogs and even worse blogs by this same person! I recall one entitled "Nine Life Lessons" accompanied by, for some bizarre reason, a photo of Marilyn Monroe. The life lessons turned out to be bullet pointed gems such as "the more I teach, the more I learn" and "process sets you fee". As I read the recycled Lessons, I marveled at how this author ever amassed 257,520 followers. And maybe that is what bothers me. The fact that 257,520 people read this blog...and that I was one of them.