Sunday, February 28, 2010

What's Wrong With Looking Out the Window?

I saw some horrible minivan/SUV ad today that features dual DVD players "for the kids." Oh, great. I think one is a lousy idea. But two? Who needs two?

What's wrong with looking out the window? I used to love it when I was a kid. Hell, I still do. I love it when Husband drives and I have free reign to look for deer and birds, read odd bumper stickers, look into people's yards. It's great fun. And don't give me that crap about "keeping kids entertained." That does keep kids entertained.

When I was a kid we used to all pile into a huge station wagon (no SUV. No pop-up table. No cup holders. No DVD player.) We had an 8-track player and AM radio. Eight people in one station wagon for a six-hour trip up to the mountains. Sure we fought and got bored and got on each other's nerves. But we also sang cheesy songs, played the license plate game, and played the "three things" game. Everyone had three things that had to find on their trip. Like a red pick-up truck or a motorcycle with two people on it. If you were the first to find your three things, you won.

But mostly we just looked out the windows. I think that's where I got my interest in photography, and my appreciation for seeing things that most people overlook. I would love thinking I was the only person to spot that herd of cows grazing on the hillside. Or the river playing hide-and-seek with the highway.

I think it's sad that we're raising a generation of kids who will never look out the window. Whose idea of a road trip with the family is to strap on headphones and watch their own movie. No talking. No interaction. Just you and Finding Nemo. But I recall our trips as a time when everyone in the family learned all the words to the Glenn Miller music my parents loved so much. As the time when we told bad knock-knock jokes, made up word games, and got inordinately excited when we saw a sign that began with the letter "X".

Remember that the journey is half the fun. It's not something to be gotten through quickly, ignoring each other, and not interacting. It's the perfect time to get your kids to keep an eye out for wildlife or to play the alphabet game with billboards. It's the time when all those camp songs you thought you'd forgotten should come back to you and be passed down.

I am so grateful my parents didn't have DVD players in the station wagon. Hell, if I remember correctly, they didn't even have enough seatbelts for all of us.


Duke said...

From what I've read, research shows children's brains are programmed in much the same way computers are. It seems early in life the pathways are burned that form our attention span, concentration, ect. Exposing kids to extremely fast action like you find in video games, TV, and movies programs the brain to need that speed of stimulation. Once set, it never seems to change.

I remember reading the AMA doesn't recommend exposing a child to video games, TV, or movies until past the age or 3 or 4.

How many parents pay attention to that? They seem to plop kids down in front of anything that will keep them quiet. It results in the kids growing up needing constant stimulation or they get bored.

So maybe kids don't look out the window or play the games you did because they simply can't. Asking them to count red trucks on a trip would be like asking you to count the grains of sand on the beach. You have to accelerate everything they do by a factor of 100 to keep them interested because they've been programmed that way.

Kittie Howard said...

Decca, your post stirred warm memories. I, too, think kids should look out of windows and not stare at a screen. Having kids involves effective parenting, not found behind a video screen during a family trip. The other day, it was on the news that a middle school in Indiana had registered kids on FB, for dating, saying they were already dating and so on. Parents encourage sixth graders to date! So the school helped out. All of this just makes me want to throw up my hands...!

黑色星期五 said...

道歉是人類一定必要的禮節 ..................................................

FinnyKnits said...

Looking Out The Window *was* the DVD player of my childhood road trips.

What with my dad yelling from the front seat, "Just sit quietly and look out the window! Damn it all."

And I'm damn good at it. Just look at the pretty green Altamont pass from last weekend's drive and this rainbow from I-5 and these snowy mountains.

That's years of Just Looking Out the Window experience, right there.

And I couldn't identify "Nemo" in a sea of cartoon characters.