What Is Real Anymore?

hotel ceiling in Las Vegas, Nevada

“MOM! I want an iPad! Can I have an iPad?” He breathlessly scrambled into his booster seat, still sweaty from his karate class.

“No. I let you use mine now and then, don’t I?” I put down my phone and put the car into gear, reorienting myself to my surroundings as I merged with the traffic.

“I don’t want yours. I want my own!”

“No.”

“What about a phone? Can I have a phone?”

“No.”

“Nintendo DS?”

“No.”

“What about for my birthday? Can I have one for my birthday?” 

“No.”

“Christmas! I can ask Santa.”

“You can ask but mommy will tell Santa no way, no how.” A stop light. My hand reaches for the phone and I stop myself.

“But, Mom! EVERYONE at school has one.”

“No they don’t.”

“Yes they do! You don’t know…”

I caught myself about to argue with him. He’s right. I don’t know. Maybe his classmates all own some sort of electronic. He is six, though. He is in kindergarten. He does NOT need any of this.

“The answer is no.”

The conversation repeats itself several times every day like a broken record. Except that he has no idea what a record is…

To be honest this all became an issue when his teacher started allowing those who scored 100’s on their spelling tests to bring an electronic to school the next day. Now my son feels left out. He realizes these things score him cool points. He is allowed to play games once a week for 25 minutes on my iPAD, five minutes for each day of good behavior at school, but he needs to be SEEN with the device at school or it doesn’t matter socialy. 

When he does play, he is like an addict… hands shaking as I pull the screen away when his time is up. It takes him a while to resurface from the alternate reality he has immersed himself in, to return to the normal little boy I know. I hate that the iPad is such a powerful motivator for him. I hate that is brain craves it so much.

This is not reality, even if it feels like it.

Ultimately, I want my kids to be able to use technology, to interact without feeling intimidated, but I don’t want them to lose their identity to it, either. How do you balance this? I have no frame of reference from my own childhood. I was in my late teens when we got our first computer, when I first started to play King’s Quest. The graphics were awful by current standards and it certainly didn’t feel real. That was the scope of my technology exposure. 

Today, technology is ubiquitous and sophisticated and as an adult I am not sure I even have a healthy relationship with it. Do any of us, really? 

Mommy, would you PLEASE get off your phone? 

I watch as zombified adults and teens and kids in my office punctuate their conversations with me by checking out their “smart” phones, lost somewhere in SnapChat or Instagram or Facebook or some other social media that I am too old to “get”. They are not here in my office, not really. They exist on some other plane. 

So do I.

Most of the time, I am a virtual entity, the doctor living inside my clinic’s electronic health record. 

Or inside my blog.

I am not Victo….

I know what it feels like to be attacked online. I know what it is like to not get enough “likes”. I know what it feels like to lose yourself and your identity and it frightens me for my kids and their future. 

My future. 

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