On a warm sunny day I can sit on the swing seat on our patio and watch the birds squabbling over the bird feeder hanging from the plum tree, a book open in my lap, and be entertained for hours.

Ask my teenage son to sit with me and he’s fidgeting within minutes.

Is this the generation gap, or a sign of the times?

When I was a child, we entertained ourselves with books, games, and toys—methods of entertainment that involved active participation of mind and often body. We had to, there were only two hours of children’s television programs aired at teatime each day: no computers, no DVDs, CDs, MP3 players or any other nifty electronic acronyms.

I spent much of my youth grooming and mucking out my pony. (Yep, strange as it may seem to the non-equine inclined among you, that’s entertainment for a pony- obsessed eleven-year-old.)

Today kids need continual stimulation from an external source be it television, computer game or music blaring from some outlet. My son sits with his chair tilted back, ankles crossed on the TV stand, quietly content, with music, computer and TV all playing at once. I can take about two minutes of this assault on the senses before I have to leave the room. Maybe modern kids are wired differently, or maybe they’re so used to being bombarded with external stimulation they’ve learned to cope.

In an age where there is a TV channel dedicated to every subject I can imagine—many of which I’d rather not—do kids get the chance to think for themselves anymore? Are they the best educated most knowledgeable and worldly generation, or brainwashed by the continual bombardment of outside stimuli?

On the other hand…

My son has dyslexia. For many years we struggled to help him read and write. After a lot of hard work, his reading age caught up with his numerical age. Much of the credit for this must go to computer games. Although he loves stories, the effort to read books by himself used to outweigh the pleasure. The only occasions he was motivated to read, because nobody else would help him, was when he played computer games.

Not only did computer games improve his reading, handling the controllers also improved the fine motor control in his hands, helping him wield a pen and write properly.

Having groused about blaring music, I also have to admit I wouldn’t be without my iPod on a long journey, and I certainly wouldn’t swap CDs for the cassette tapes of my youth.

I’ll secretly admit to you, occasionally when I sit on my swing seat and watch the birds, the book slips from my lap forgotten if I have my iPod with me. I might even close my eyes and let the hours slip past as Vittorio Grigolo’s smooth as silk tenor voice lulls me into a pleasant fantasy.


  1. Mary Marvella // September 8, 2007 at 9:04 PM  

    I am so easily entertained. Give me a book or a computer that lets me connect with the Internet and I'm good to go. Of course the voices in my head might insist I write.

    Mary Marvella

  2. Anonymous // September 9, 2007 at 7:33 AM  

    Helen, I can sure relate. I love the quiet, but somehow background noise helps me concentrate better.


  3. Beth Trissel // September 9, 2007 at 11:56 AM  

    Enjoyed your post. I can relate to this too, and have children who function much better with some background noise. Like Mary, I also keep company with those voices. :)

  4. Joanne // September 15, 2007 at 8:21 PM  

    My 12 year old daughter would never dream of doing homework without her Ipod and headphones in her ears.