Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson: A simple re-education camp for children

One of the things that really bugged me as a child was when some old person -- you know, like over 30 -- would reminisce about the good ol' days and then gripe about how spoiled we kids were in the 1970s and 1980s.

Compared to their walking to school uphill both ways in the snow days, I guess we did have it pretty sweet. We had color televisions, and then the cable boom came along and we had 10 or 11 channels. We could rent VHS tapes and watch movies practically on demand. We could even nuke a bowl of SpaghettiOs in a newfangled microwave that our parents purchased for a mere $400 or so.

Well, I'm over 30 now and have become one of those old people. I still think of myself as fairly young, but to kids under the age of 20 I might as well be the Cryptkeeper. And, as an old person, I do gripe about how easy kids have it now.

They can Google "Vietnam War" instead of grabbing an encyclopedia. They don't have to wait for Saturday morning to watch cartoons because they're on a dozen channels 24 hours a day. They can watch movies anywhere they go. They can still nuke a bowl of SpaghettiOs, although you can now get a decent microwave for $40.

In a way, I'm glad to have access to all this technology around us. I like having someone to tell me to turn left in 100 feet. I like being able to check a radar to see how long I'll need to wait before starting the grill. I like that my computer pretty much handles filing my taxes.

But there's one great regret I and many people my age and older have about today's high-tech world -- all these kids glued to their phones, experiencing the world through tiny screens. I'm afraid that by the time they're all 30 years old, their necks will be permanently crooked, and they'll only be able to look downward. They're missing so much.

Now, I can do like the old folks of my young days and just whine about it. Or I can do something about it. That's why, as soon as I have the cash, I'm founding Camp Simple Life for Tech-Addicted Kids.

I'll be the camp supervisor, but I actually won't do much supervising. The parents in my hometown didn't either. However, I will put them out into a 100-acre park where they will have all the tools they need to enjoy the simple things in life:

Trees to climb and wood to build treehouses, the unsafe kind instead of those "Treehouse Masters" mansions. Old tires to make swings. A pond for fishing, skinny-dipping and skipping rocks. Bicycles (kids, that's like a motorized vehicle except it's powered by -- gasp -- your legs. Dogs to play fetch with. Sticks to use for swordfighting. Grassy fields for football, baseball, kickball and soccer -- as well as rocks you can use for bases and goals. Train tracks and a huge collection of pennies.

And at the end of the day, we'll gather round the campfire, where I'll badly strum my guitar and tell ghost stories while the kids roast marshmallows and wieners.

If that doesn't fix your kids -- and mine -- after a week or so, well, there's no hope or them. In fact, now that I think about it, perhaps you kids should keep your heads constantly hanging over your phone screens. I've changed my mind about opening the camp. I'm just going to retire there and relive my childhood.

Someday I'll post a video on YouTube so you can see what you're missing.

Visit Chris Johnson's website at kudzukid.com.

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