There were some technological advances that made during my childhood days a little easier to bear.
I remember when our little black-and-white television was replaced by a giant color TV — and I mean huge, like 27-inches. I remember when cable came to town and instead of three channels, we had, literally, dozens to choose from. Wait, no, make that a dozen singular, but a dozen was still a lot back then. And I remember when VHS tapes arrived on the scene, along with cassette tapes and boom boxes so that we could record the local radio station playing the top 10 songs every night and replay them whenever we wanted. It was the 1982 version of Spotify.
Today’s kids, though, have seen all kinds of technological advances that I could have never imagined, both good and bad. It’s good that they don’t have to rewind a movie for five minutes or fix their favorite cassette tape with a tiny screwdriver and a pencil. But it’s bad that they now experience life — or think they do — on their phone’s tiny screens. It’s no wonder these young folks experience higher rates of depression than we did.
Granted, I had an Atari 2600 on which I wasted way too much time playing Pac-Man and Pitfall, but I grew up in a small town and could hop on my bicycle and find all kinds of fun — others might refer to it as “trouble” — to get into.
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One of today’s advances is the smartwatch for kids, equipped with GPS monitoring so that you can always know where they are. A friend has her middle-schooler wearing one so that she can be sure he’s safe and his whereabouts are always known. They can even talk to each other through it. The problem is that he has accidentally called her through the watch, meaning she has the capability of hearing conversations on the sly.
Trust me, parents, you don’t want to overhear anything middle-school boys have to say when you’re not around. There is no more vulgar and nasty place on the planet than a middle school boys locker room or bathroom. And they will not let the fact that they don’t know what all the words mean deter their use. It’s like most folks: The less they know, the more they have to say.
As for the tracking, that would not have been good for me as a kid. I spent a lot of time sneaking through the kudzu patch, down to Oakley’s Pond and back up moccasin and pollution-infested Town Creek — three places I was not supposed to go. I had to come up with all kinds of lies to explain where the mud on my clothes came from, which wasn’t easy back in the 1980s because alternative facts hadn’t been invented yet.
Of course, growing up in a small town, my folks were probably less worried about my safety and more worried about what kind of trouble I might get into and whether there might be some cost involved, such as replacing a neighbor’s broken window or replacing two neighbor’s broken windows.
Back then, my parents didn’t need to send a signal to my watch to let me know if was time to go home. All the kids where I grew up knew that when the streetlights came on or the smell of fried chicken began to fill the air, it was time to go home for the night. If that didn’t work, there was always my dad’s piercing whistle that could be heard for about a 2-mile radius.
And you can come up with a lot of alternative facts about where the mud came from during a 2-mile walk home.
To order Chris Johnson’s latest book, “Wastin’ Away on Margaritahill,” visit KudzuKid.com.