Sunday 20 January 2008

Boys just wanna have fun

Boys really do just wanna have fun. Girls too. And I am not talking about over-grown kids (like me). I am talking about real boys and girls. The kids of today have serious “to do” lists. Everyone wants their child to be the next Tiger Woods or Bill Gates. No wonder there is huge pressure on our youth. When I was young I used to ride my bike for hours, I would play with Lego (I actually just got set no. 8 and it is awesome) and I would play cops and robbers with my friends. Oh yes, I also used to love my army men. The kids of today are so wired. Literally and figuratively. With cellphones, beepers, pagers and e-mail - the kids of today get so little carefree time.

I have been listening to the parents who work in our organization. I have heard them worry out loud at how their kids watch too much television. I keep on seeing kids in shopping malls on cellphones instead of playing in the park. Is it not cool to play in the park any more? Don’t people spend time in the sun anymore? Are we all slaves to technology? Where are our future leaders going to come from if no one knows how to listen and interact?

There is so much pressure for kids to grow up fast. And what is the goal here? When your kid becomes financially independent at age 25 then you want him or her to become a kid again. This just does not make sense. Being childish and being a kid are two different things. And that is what is going to happen – we are going to have a new generation of very immature over-achievers coming into the world and real leadership is going to be sadly missed.

All this technology at such a young age is so disempowering. Cellphones are disempowering people. Just a decade ago people used to make decisions. And now we have to get on our phone and make that call that goes “What must I do?” Hey, what you must do is switch that damn thing off and make up your own mind. And if you are a kid you shouldn’t even own a cellphone. All this technology is promoting to many control freaks. And people inherently are not strong. These technologies play right into our weaknesses.

So, what's with this law that does not allow you to drive while talking on your cellphone? Actually, I saw the most peculiar thing the other day. There was another power outage and all the traffic lights were out and the traffic was a nightmare. And, as usual, you don't see one traffic cop at an intersection trying to get the flow right. But, what I did see was a bunch of cops parking off at a speed trap. Who was speeding? It took me 2 hours to drive 6 kilometers the other day. I wish I was speeding! Hang, where was I? Oh yes, the cellphone in the car thing. Hey, if you think that the only thing this leads to is car accidents then you are wrong. That is the least of it. I think someone should have to apply for a cellphone in the same way you apply for citizenship. Ok ok, I got a bit carried away. But all this technology can make you a little crazy. Just think about it. Not that long ago we never had cellphones or e-mail all over the place. When we went out for a jol at night we went to one place and for better or worse we stayed there. The time we spent there was all about quality. We spent real time and it gave us the opportunity to build better relationships. In these quantitative times we go out and then the cellphone goes off, and, “Oh, the party is bigger over there … we are on our way.” And this can go on all night. So the result is that we land up going to a dozen places in one night and we spend more time driving, parking, stressing, phoning, messaging and zero time building relationships. No one will ever win at this game because we actually land up going nowhere. Perhaps the winner is the person who goes to the most places in one night. Kids especially should not be going out to parties with cellphones. No wonder our youth are so stressed. Let them spend time getting to know the other people at the party. Let them use their imaginations. Let them be creative. And don’t tell me that parents worry about their kids and therefore they need to have cellphones with them. I was a kid once and I never had a phone with me 24 hours a day. I turned out ok (I think). And so it went for generations before me. I can’t believe how overly neurotic we have all become. It is as if all these technologies have conspired against us.

Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. This is the most insightful thing I have ever heard. The only way to exercise our imaginations is to spend quality time in situations where we are forced to be creative and where we our forced to make decisions. Perhaps “forced” is not the right word here. It should be a pleasure. Sharing ideas with people and building relationships should not be something we are forced to do. Especially kids. Kids should be innocent and carefree to dream of a better world for the next generation. It is the harnessing of innocent, passionate and creative abilities that have led us to the technologies that have trapped us. Ironic.

Kids can invent our future by using their imaginations. But it is adults that must instill values in their kids if we ever are to have a future. And those values are so simple. I hear so many people talk about it so I know the answers are obvious. Let’s all try to let our kids be kids. The first step is to help them to help themselves. Arming your child with a cellphone, laptop, fax, call waiting, etc. at age 10 is really an unimaginative thing to do. Come on. Just think at how wonderful your youth was. We had time to dream. Carefree time. Let the new kids on the block have the same.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker