Spaghetti Ear by child grower A. Woz

 field of pumpkinsJohn Hillmer, featured on the cover of Field & Stream magazine and named as the Field & Stream Conservation  Hero of the Year worries that teens are part of an entire generation involved in after-school sports, text messaging and electronic communication and they are losing their outdoor heritage.  Launched in 2007,  Hillmer started  K.A.M.O., Kids and Mentors Outdoors with the  idea of providing a chaperone to take kids on excursions into forests and rivers at no cost to the clientele.  www.kamokids.org

 The  book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv repeats the same message. It focuses on the disconnection children have from the land and the research implies that kids who are behaviorally challenged can benefit from time in nature, away from the buzzing, the crackling, the lighting up and the beeping of our modern busy world. 

I agree, there is nothing like the stillness of a mountain top or the silence of a farmer’s field to make me grateful for the important things in my life- like family.

I joined facebook this year to keep connected with my college age sisters who tell me that email is obsolete and they just facebook (a verb not a noun!)

Admittedly, I enjoy easy communication that doesn’t require me to say, Hello, How are you, then the idle banter as we answer in a non-answer form that really is  more formality than truthful response. 

Texting, facebooking, tweeting, cuts all that fake conversation out. Grandma would say that the conversation part is essential as it is called manners.

I’m just sick of being connected all the time. I want to be out of cell service reach sometimes so I can recharge my mental batteries and find some peace and quiet. 

Teens on the other hand, aren’t sick of connecting. They don’t want to use texting to be more productive or avoid work. For them, texting is work- it is the work of growing up. It is the work of navigating the social and technical world that makes up the teenage experience for this generation.

They they know how to use technology and they use it with the same morals and values that are instilled in them by their parents- whatever those may be. 

All of this is a necessary phase of growing up?  Can skills with Facebook, Myspace, (email is outdated) Youtube, Texting, be common languages for new careers. Sure!

Think about it this way. When I was a kid it was Atari, then boomboxes and Pacman, then the Commodore 64 computer and the microwave, the automatic garage door opener and the enormous satellite for 33 fuzzy channels.

A technological connections were made, our generation  improved those  gadgets and grew our brains and sometimes made our head spin around on our neck at the vast expanse that is the web.

And what happens  if (gasp!) they are turned off, out of battery power, out of wi-fi range?  Will teens panic if they have to actually talk to each other?

Not likely. They don’t mind talking to eachother at all. They just like to talk while they are texting and while they are listening with one ear bud to the latest music on their ipod.

When cellphones first became mainstream for high schoolers, my husband was astounded to see a kid call a friend in the front of the bus on his cell rather than walk the 10 feet and talk  with him.  It was a sign of more things to come.  Multitasking had begun.

When I was a teen it was the standard land line, yes, still connected to the wall.  Somehow I survived the leap from rotary dial to push button and so did my parents.

As teens, we were on the phone all the time and when we weren’t on the phone with our friends, we were trying to get our brother off the phone who was chatting with his girlfriend. “Even after you have seen each other all day?” my dad would ask, “What do you possibly have to talk about after you just saw each other all day long at school?” He used to warn me that my ear would some day grow itself right to the receiver and I’d have a spaghetti cord to drag around (oh!) that right, that  was back in the day when the phone was attached to the wall and the only privacy we could get was to hide in the closet, door shut, with the telltale phone cord stretched tight across the hallway and hope that you didn’t clothesline dad when he came home from work and we could moon privately over the cute boy in study hall.

For teens, technology like the cellphone, the flip phone, the texting, the facebook status update- all of this is the glue that holds them together. And though I agree with Hillmer that we need a little more connection time with nature I am pleased to see that my technology using nieces and nephews are incredible conversationalists, funny, social, athletic and also more up to speed than I ever am on on what everybody in the family is up to. 

Yes, they are playing crazy video games and yes they are texting with their friends even after they have spent the whole day at school with them, but they are also using technology to keep up with their favorite Uncle, find out the latest scores for little brothers football game while they are off at college and checking the weather so they can make a drive 150 miles south for a visit with Grandma Dorothy on her birthday.

OMGosh, I may not know all the texting abbreviations and I may not be as handy with my thumbs as teens are but it doesn’t take much of a leap to see that ILY is pretty much the same as XOXO no matter how my kid gets that  message. 

### for ep by Annita Woz, October 15, 2009.

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