Gadget use in public:
What the BLEEP is going on???

Gadget use in public is getting out of hand, or getting into hand would be more accurate!

I don't live in the UK but live somewhere where British people holiday. Every year I see more and more people and children using smartphones, ipads, etc. while they are supposed to be socialising. I've seen it go from no-one doing it to almost everyone doing it in ten years. We don't experience it in social situations out of season so each summer we really notice it and also notice how much worse it has become. I think you need to be out of it to see what is happening.

Last year we had such a shock. I took my daughter out for a meal to a lovely outdoor restaurant with an illuminated pool and lots of candles....a lovely setting. We sat opposite each other and chatted away excitedly as we always do at dinner. There was a dj nearby playing some cool house music but no-one was dancing. As we ate our dinner we realised that not one single person in the entire place other than the two of us was interacting with anyone. The place wasn't full but there were maybe forty people altogether and every single person was taking a selfie, taking a group selfie, fiddling with a smartphone, on an ipad or on a laptop. We really felt like we were in the land of the living dead and it freaked us both out. We are used to chatty people and exciting environments where no-one is on a gadget....this is what it's like in a restaurant or bar out of season.

After dinner, my daughter got up to dance. She was only seven at the time but she's a free spirit and isn't bothered about what people think. She danced away in her unusual hippy outfit doing a cool little original dance (all her own moves as she's media-free more or less) and I thought it was magical. I was the only one though as not one other person saw her put on this show of innocent joy....the zombies were all bent over fiddling with their gadgets. Then my daughter stumbled backwards and bumped the back of a bench of three young women, all thumbing their smartphones. Instead of turning around and interacting with my daughter, one of them turned around (the other two couldn't be roused) and scowled at her before spinning around again to get back to her smartphone.

I couldn't believe that people could spend so much money coming on holiday and spend all year looking forward to getting here and then not stopping doing what they do back home enough to actually get anything from being here. I found it totally bizarre and felt like I was on another planet. The irony is that had they actually put the damn stupid things down for a minute they would have seen something worth telling their friends about and had something to photograph or video.....a little girl not dancing like BeyoncĂ©....imagine that?!

I was so disturbed by the scene around me that I went and spoke to the dj, a man in his late forties. He told me he was sick to death of it as it was ruining all his gigs and said, 'What can we do?' with a shrug. He then showed me his flip-top phone...a freebie....exactly the same as mine....and said he hates smartphones and will never get one.

One of the problems with these portable communication devices, or lives in little boxes, is they reduce the amount of noisy communication in restaurants and parties. That makes the whole environment that much more stiff and silent, and that makes parents more eager to keep the kids happy...and more reliant on pacifying gadgets.

One problem with giving kids gadgets in restaurants or in any other situation in which you want to keep them quiet or entertained for a bit while it's not appropriate for them to whine or cause commotion is that they won't have the exposure needed to get any better at behaving themselves in public. If they are handed a gadget every time patience is needed then how will they learn how to be patient...to sit silently or to talk calmly? How do they become adults who sit patiently at a dinner table if they were never forced to sit 'without stimulation' as a developing kid? If they are always stimulated or pacified they will never learn self restraint.

Please bare in mind my child has attention problems and used to be a complete nightmare at the table or in restaurants but I believe the actual ritual of sitting at a table and being reminded to be calm, to not fidget, to speak nicely, to sit up, to not whine, etc., has maybe had the greatest positive effect on her. She has been very well behaved in these situations for a few years now but before I used to sometimes nearly end up in tears or very embarrassed.

I can remember going to restaurants and parties with my parents and these outings being loud and exciting. Now kids are experiencing something far more sombre and less human. The human race is losing the human touch and I think that is very sad for children and for us too, the adults using the gadgets and the ones left wondering what the BLEEP is going on.




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