Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
CHARACTER-BUILDING EXPERIENCE: ARE WE THERE YET?
There is a disturbing new trend in family relations which must be stopped. Parents are buying minivans and SUVs fitted with little TV screens, usually mounted on the ceiling of the vehicle so the back seat passengers can watch videos.
In recent months I discovered that three different families, all friends or relatives of mine, own automobiles with these fancy devices. They absolutely rave about this new technology. “We just pop in a Disney movie,” one mother explained to me, “and the kids don’t say a peep for the entire two-hour trip.”
If you ask me, there is something very sinister about youngsters staring at “The Little Mermaid” and shoveling potato chips down their gullet during an inter-state journey to Grandma’s house.
It’s not that gazing at TV for long periods of time rots a child’s mind—of course it does. But what’s two hours of viewing in the car once in a while compared to the usual 800 hours of home viewing each and every week? (Yeah, I know there’s not even 800 total hours in a week, but I watched so much television as a child, my math skills are poor.)
And it’s not that sucking down junk food while watching Ariel battle Ursula the Sea Witch ruins a child’s physical health—of course it does. But again, the occasional bag of Doritos in the car is nothing compared to the typical American youngster’s daily intake of 6,000 calories from each of the four major food groups: fat, sugar, cheese, and chocolate.
No, it’s not that video systems in the car are bad for kids, or, I should say, not any worse than everything else children are exposed to these days. The problem with a TV and VCR in the car is that the entire family misses out on an important character-building experience: the road trip from hell.
Some of the most vivid memories of childhood—painful then, sure, but downright nostalgic now—are from those long journeys with the entire family stuffed into the Ford Fairlane or the Dodge Dart. Some of the greatest phrases in the Official American Lexicon were born on family road trips, including, “Stop touching me!” “Mom! He’s looking at me!” and the all-time classic, “Are we there yet?!” (Which was usually uttered the first of 7,000 times before the car had even backed out of the driveway.)
In the good old days, when there were no VCR players to numb little brains on long journeys, children had to use their creativity to pass the time. Some of my personal favorites were:
Today’s youngsters are missing out on all these vital family-bonding activities. No wonder the nuclear family is disintegrating at such an alarming rate these days.
Are we, the parents of America, going to sit passively while our kids are turned into pudgy zombies? Are we going to deny our children essential character-building experiences? And most importantly, are we there yet?
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