Not just the title of Blur’s second album, but also how I feel at the moment.
I dare say we’re not alone as parents in constantly fighting for our children’s attentions with the all powerful Xbox. We’ve done what we can in that each of them has two ‘no computer’ days a week, they’ve got an evening curfew and it is taken away if there’s seriously bad behaviour. There still seems to be this idea though that it’s a right, not a privilege, that they should be allowed on the damn things as much as they want.
As a gamer myself I understand the appeal – but I also do other things. Even if I wanted to roll out of bed, pick up a controller and not put it down until crawling back under the duvet the chances I would actually get to do that are minimal.
I don’t think we’re bad parents. We try to encourage the kids to do more, to interact, to go out, to read, to create – but having said that we could probably do more… I got to thinking about how I remember my own childhood and how it differs from the childhoods of my own child and step-children.
I was born in 1977 and I’m the oldest of two boys. My little brother was born 3 years later in 1980. We spent the majority of our formative years living about 4 miles from Maidstone on a pretty standard semi-detached housing estate. BBC and Nimbus computers were introduced into my 3rd and 4th year at Junior School (year 5 & 6 in modern parlance) and I was taught basic programming. We were lucky enough to get a home computer in the late 1980’s, an Amstrad CPC6128.
Believe it or not, the fact that this thing didn’t have a cassette deck attached to the right hand side of the keyboard was a BIG DEAL (although we regularly plugged my dad’s bright yellow Sony Walkman into it in order to load games from cassette tapes. Which, while I think about it, if you’re too young to even remember cassettes, this is probably making no sense whatsoever…).
Then, later on my brother got a Sega Master System II, I got a Sega Megadrive, He got an Atari Jaguar and a 3DO, I got a Playstation, he got a second Playstation and so on and so forth through Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Playstation 4. And that’s not including PCs, Laptops, Tablets and all the other accompanying gadgets and contraptions. My brother was the first to get a TV in his bedroom (with the introduction of the Master System II) and it was a big horrible wooden cased lump. I think my first bedroom TV was given to me in about 1991 or 2. A tiny screened, fuzzy imaged thing that if you watched anything on now you’d wonder how any of us made it through adolescence with our eyesight intact.
Despite computers being a near constant presence since (I would guess) the age of 9 or 10 there was always more to the school summer holidays than sitting in a room with the curtains drawn playing Alex Kidd in Miracle World. I can’t remember (conveniently perhaps) whether or not we had to be encouraged outside, but I do remember being outside a lot. Making club houses in back gardens, exploring the neighbourhood, riding bikes gradually further and further afield until first the local shops about ¾ of a mile away were within reach, then Maidstone town centre, then the surrounding areas. Through teenage years I guess hormones took over a bit and the hair got longer (so did the face), the curtains stayed closed a bit more and computer games began to take up more time. But there was still a social life outside of the bedroom. Online gaming wasn’t really as available or as efficient as it is now so you had to go outside to converse with your friends. Or meet girls. Or drink.
By the time I was at University, the Playstation had arrived on the scene, definitely not aimed at children yet for some reason I still felt the need to pretend to the shop assistant that I was buying it for someone else… Weird looking back on it. I certainly didn’t feel at all embarrassed while I queued up before midnight on the 28th November 2013 to pick up a shiny new Playstation 4 on launch day.
I reckon I got my first mobile phone in 1999, my first PC / laptop in about 2001, my first camera phone in 2003 or 4, and my first tablet in 2010 (and yes, I’m still rocking that iPad 1!).
I don’t think any of that technology defined the period of time in which they were introduced as much as they do now though. I didn’t feel tied to any of it. My parents would probably chip in here and say that they positively needed to crowbar me off that old Amstrad to get me to go outside in the summer, but like I said, I don’t remember it like that.
So will our kids? I don’t think they are as independent as we were at their ages. Maybe because they haven’t grown up in the same sort of surroundings, or because they’re interested in different things, or because we’re very different parents to our own, or because of some sort of fear of what could go wrong… It could be practically anything.
They still come out when we ask them fairly happily, but they don’t seem to be as willing to do things themselves. To explore or discover things for themselves. Is this how people of my generation feel in general? There are a lot of posts by people my age on Facebook (the irony isn’t lost on me) about them as kids coming home when the streetlights came on, not having a mobile phone, covered in mud and losing the skin on your knees, but are we misremembering it? I can sort of remember at the time there were the concerns about what we were watching on TV, video nasties, poor diet, lack of exercise and of course the ever present risk of getting your wellies chewed up on an escalator (I know people who are still traumatised by that particular little video even today). Maybe it’s all just a generational thing and I’m suffering from a serious case of nostalgia.
The whole reality of it has just been brought home by my oldest step son who’s 18 and in his first term at University. He settled into his student accommodation for the first time in the third week of September, here we are now in the second week of October and he’s asked us if we can bring him his Xbox One when we visit later in the month…