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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

How Many Devices Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb?

I'm in the midst of an interesting WhatsApp conversation with a group of close girlfriends about media and the family. I am not saying debate because we all seem to be mostly on the same page. Is it just us? Am I a part of a larger, quieter group in society in this view or am I by chance in a small group that is getting smaller? I know we all seem to surround ourselves with people who have similar worldviews, but if most groups feel this way, why does media have it the other way around?

I'm putting the cart before the horse here. Let me back it up. We are talking about how TV viewing used to be versus now, and we are feeling there is too much anything goes out there and not enough family friendly that is actually interesting to the adults too.

What happened to the family gathering around the TV to watch a show together on a weekly basis? When that was the norm, we didn't really think of watching TV as a family activity per se because we were all staring at the screen instead of interacting. If you are old enough, remember back in the day when child care experts would suggest we all shut off the TV and play a game at the dining room table? TV was taking over our kids' brains.

Now, it seems everybody has their face in their own screen all the time. Not that that's terrible. That happens in my house too. Kids want to watch what kids want to watch, and adults want to be entertained too. But, how often are we coming together regularly, not just the occasional movie? Better yet, anyone have actual board games in their homes anymore?

My grandkids come over and want to play a board game. The adults are interested for about five minutes. I'm not pointing fingers because hey, me too! Is that really okay though?

When my kids were little, we had two TVs. One in the upstairs family room and one in the downstairs living room. In the family room, the rule was whatever was on TV had to be geared towards the youngest person in the room, and the downstairs was more for sports and the occasional movie. As the kids trotted off to bed, the channels got changed. We didn't feel the need to watch everything that might be available. We were more selective on what we would spend our time watching. We shared the screens. We were together.

Now, when I do see my kids, all grown up, and my grandkids, they each have their own screen. It wasn't that long ago when my family of origin was all huddled up in front of the one 19 inch screen TV in our house with my dad barking orders at the remote control - me.

I am not saying all this technology is bad either. My son is also known as The Orange Jedi on YouTube. He puts up some of his videos of him and his high school friends playing online games together when they can't physically play in the same space. They wear headphones and interact the same as they would if they were in the same house. I think that's a great way to stay connected.

This wasn't even the main starting point of my conversation with my friends this morning. It actually started about how media is affecting our lives in ways that maybe aren't so good.

My kids are grown. Most of these ladies still have young children, and they are having a harder time monitoring what their kids are watching. We are all finding it a "whatever goes" attitude. They try to be watchful. When everyone has their own devices, even with parental controls, it's much more difficult. The ratings system doesn't necessarily reflect their own family values they want instilled in their children.

One example given was language. Yes, people have a right to use language they want to express themselves, but language can also be vulgar and can be used to attack. Parents seem to have differing levels of what they deem appropriate for their children to hear. Plus, as much as individuals have a right to free speech, parents also have a right to decide what is appropriate for their children to be exposed to. Where is the balance?

Before anyone says anything about taking kids to bars, I'm talking about taking kids to get groceries and such.

Is media overrun with too much sex and vulgarity on shows that are supposed to be family friendly? Or is it just that society is making another shift? There have been a whole lot of shifts that past couple of generations. Is media creating this society we have today or is media reflecting it? Art imitating life or life imitating art? Are people becoming more self-centered because of the lack of direct interaction?

Is there a lightbulb out in the bathroom because no one is free enough from their device to change it? Is everyone in the household watching a video on how to change it cause no one knows how? Has binge watching become too much like binge eating? I binge too. Yes, older TV shows are more boring. But, have we jumped too far in the opposite direction?

Old values aren't necessarily better either. I love old movies. The real old black and whites. Let's face it. Those films are also filled with male toxicity that was taught for multiple generations and is still an issue of deciding what was good and what was bad about it. Each generation seems to think they've got all the answers. We all grow up to find out no we don't. The hope is that as a society we learn and get better. Is that happening, or are we just a swinging pendulum. (Cue Vincent Price.)

I know. All I am really doing is listing off a bunch of existential questions that have no real answers. I completely agree. So what's the point? There isn't one. There is only one more question: What's this all going to look like in another 20 to 30 years when the young kids today are trying to figure out what to do with their kids and all that latest technology that seems to be hijacking their family time?

That was a good stretch of my brain muscles. I was supposed to be working on character development. Oh well. Maybe later. Right now, I want to go home and see if I can get to the beach for some family time.

Thanks for reading. Shoot me an email if you wish at



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