“I want one of those VR headsets for Christmas,” I heard him say to his mother when she asked him the customary question that has often baffled parents during the holiday season.When the boys were younger it was easy – just get the latest and greatest toy or gadget and you’re a guaranteed hero for a year. These days, buying gifts for them is similar to learning the dark arts.
This statement from Son #5 piqued my interest at the same time that it made the scruff on my neck stand on end. I wanted to ask my own questions for fatherly clarification but instead bit my tongue, fearing that any questions I asked at this moment would be too acerbic even for a lifelong sourpuss like me. If I could ask questions without putting a damper on the spirit, they would have followed the same cynical vein that I’ve learned from growing up Samoan in a very sarcastic home – only the strong survive.
What do you do with a VR headset?
What kind of reality do you need to be virtual?
Will it feed you virtual food when we stop feeding you?
Will this replace your real friends?
Do your black eyes in the virtual world stay with you in the real world?
Just when I thought that technology couldn’t get any more invasive in life, they come out with something else to squander what little time you have with your family. Virtual reality has been a part of our vernacular for decades now but it is now more of a reality in your home. A reality that may destroy whatever semblance of normalcy we had in our home if we ever allow it to enter our doors.
One of Super Mom’s most vexing issues in our home is that we are a family obsessed with our devices. We spend a great deal of our time playing games, watching movies, laughing at Vines, Snapping, Tweeting and IM’ing things that we have a hard time sharing with other people in person. I admit, I am not a very good example for my sons because I am constantly on a device even when I’m home with them.
I should be a better example, especially considering that I didn’t have these things when I was a kid. Do you know what my VR headset was? It was called ‘day dreaming’. We had virtual friends when I was a kid too, they were called ‘imaginary friends,’ and they carried on conversations with me for free! If you snapped a photo on your camera, you had the luxury of developing the photo negatives speedy quick fast at the 24-hour photo booth. And everyone knew when you were on the phone because you had to drag that stupid phone chord around with you and it kept you tethered to your home and ultimately your parents.
Nowadays, there are numerous ways that youths can circumvent mom and dad. And we as parents are struggling to stay ahead of technology while our kids are on the cutting edge of these things. Remember the days when you had to literally dive out of your bedroom window and meet your friends at a park to find trouble? I don’t either, but I’m saying if you had to find trouble…. I tease – but those days are long gone and now we are in such an advanced technological age that it’s even more important to be aware of what is going on outside, but more importantly, what is going on inside of your own home.
There are a number of ways and apps to help you secure your home and your devices from the ever increasing incursion of filth that is damaging young minds. But if you really have to go ‘ol-skool’ on it you could do one or all of the following:
- Randomly check your child(rens) devices to make sure that they’re not getting into something that you don’t approve of.
- Speak to them regularly about the dangers of social media, cyber bullying and their cyber footprint.
- Make sure that you discuss acceptable use of those devices – know who they are speaking to online and what they are sharing or receiving from others.
- Limit the time that they spend on their devices (e.g. offline by 9:00 p.m. every weekday, 11:00 p.m. on weekends).
My son won’t be getting that VR Headset for sure – there are better ways to spend our hard earned money and better, more practical gifts that I would be happy to spend my limited budget on. Besides that, there are some things out there that are a million times better than virtual reality. Things like, oh…REALITY.
Get outside and scrape your knees, climb a tree or put on some skates. Ride a bike and jump over a pile of leaves on the neighbors lawn. Grab a basketball, rugby or soccer ball and wear out the threads. There’s plenty to do in the real world. You don’t need a virtual one to keep your mind awake and alive. If none of the things in reality I’ve mentioned above interest you, than read a book or just use your imagination. That’s what our minds are meant to do – explore the real world, not just the one on a screen.