My fourth grader told me that much of the conversation around the lunch table has to do with video games. Really?? Is that ALL that 4th grade boys can talk about?  The conversation of a fourth grader really ought to be full of  fourth grade stuff, it ought to be lively, imaginative, funny, goofy, and it wouldn’t be complete with body humor jokes– you know– the typical 9-10 year old boy kind of stuff.

But video games? Honestly I was disappointed. I mean, a little of that I can understand, but surely not the substance of all conversations? First of all, I have to make some assumptions or theories as to why the conversation surrounds this topic, and so, I have to assume that these kids are spending a great deal of their free time on video games, or they are trying to show off by talking about them at lunch time all the time, which means that it must be a topic or past-time of high interest, or that they really don’t have anything else to talk about. In any case, I’m still disappointed.

And a bit concerned.

Now, I must tell you, we have a Wii and we have computer games. We have a TV. Since school began this fall I have “banned” computer games, video games, etc., on weekdays, and computer games or the Wii is only allowed on weekends, after homework is finished (in many cases, although sometimes I allow it when homework isn’t quite done yet). I guess, to be fair, I have to also mention that although we have a TV, it doesn’t get turned on that much. One reason is that it’s way down in the basement and we usually don’t make the effort to go downstairs, and especially as the weather it gets colder, it’s really cold down there. Now, I’ve never said we’re not going to watch TV– we just don’t get around to it too often. I admit there are evenings I’d like to watch TV curled up in a blanket– but since I don’t feel like going downstairs, I just find something else to do. With homework and afterschool activities, and with life busy in general, the truth is the TV hasn’t been missed, even though I’m sure there are some worthwhile shows we could find to watch. But I don’t think there is much– a few shows– but not too much.

Why I am concerned about a fourth grade boys’ lunch conversation is that it makes me wonder about us, and our future. Who will we be in 20 years? 30 years? 40 years? If our children are spending their time watching TV or playing video games, when are these kids reading, thinking, playing outside, being creative?

To me, this is a sad marker of our times. We are at risk of losing our imaginations, our ability to think creatively, to invent, to think out of the box…. The great thinkers and inventors and writers of the past didn’t get that way by watching TV or playing video games. Okay, it’s true– they may not have had TV’s or iPhones or such, but that gave them more time to interact with other people and discuss ideas and read more books. And don’t misunderstand, I have nothing against any of these things; in fact, I adore my laptop and my iPhone. The point is that the life-changers of the past were DOERS– not just passive watchers. They were thinkers and were not afraid to try crazy, new ideas. They READ BOOKS, and not just any fluffy, nonsense books, they read REALLY GOOD BOOKS. They knew how to think. And weren’t afraid to think some new thoughts. I’m afraid that too many video games will make Jack a very dull boy, indeed.

If we lose our ability to think creatively, to imagine, to invent, to challenge, to ask questions… then we are a nation that will eventually fail in many areas. On a personal level, with so many people interacting with TVs and computers and digitally, we’ll lose valuable interpersonal communication skills. No matter how technical we become, we still must know how to live and communicate with one another. Families, the basic unit of our society, need to interact with one another. If we’re all in our own little rooms doing our own little digital thing, we aren’t spending time with one another. If we only know how to interact with our machines, we aren’t interacting as a family, and if we aren’t interacting as a family, we probably aren’t interacting in our community… and so forth… and we’ll become a lovely society of social misfits.

On a  larger scale, as a nation, we’ll lose some of our creativity; we’ll not invent anything new– we’ll wait for someone else to do it and purchase all the new great inventions  from them. If we’re too busy playing video games instead of reading, thinking, discussing and interacting, we won’t be able to think for ourselves as we’ve not read the ideas of the great minds of the past and shared in the ongoing dialogue. We won’t know how to process ideas and be able to sift through the false from the true; we’ll be more vulnerable to propaganda from the media and various political interests. If we are raising a generation of youngsters that may pay their time in schools (and schools and education are an entirely different issue, and a great topic for another post), and are spending their free time watching TV and playing video games, then we are not training or educating the next generation on how to self-govern and become independent problem solvers. We are spoon-feeding and coddling, and raising a generation of leaders who will not truly know how to lead, interact, or how to think. If the mind is filled with fantasy, games, thrills, cartoons, and has not been filled with substance, ideas, truth, morality, etc., well then, the ramifications are far-reaching and serious. Garbage in, garbage out. You get the picture.

The video game lunch table conversation is simply a sign: we are a nation in trouble.

What do you think? How do you spend your spare time? How do your kids spend their spare time? What is the topic of conversation around your dinner table? I’d love to be a fly on your wall. I’d love to know!