Sunday, February 10, 2013

The On Demand Generation

I was preparing a little post on the snow we had Friday/Saturday, with some video clips of Jackie playing outside in the snow, really for the fist time at our house, but really there has been something bothering me in the back of my mind as I watch my daughter interact with the world around her.

We're spoiled today, we don't really have to wait for anything, at least entertainment wise. We've got computers, where we can pull up an infinite amount of knowledge on a whim, we've got cable tv with hundreds of channels of infinite entertainment possibilities at the push of a button. Offerings are available in standard and high definition, nothing is ever on, but there is plenty of choices. We've got as part of our cable subscription access to video on demand services, where we can select thousands of free programs to watch. We pay extra for HBO, which has it's own demand service that is available from a computer, a laptop, a tablet, X-Box, and any number of standalone media devices, I can catch up on episodes of the Soprano's from my cell phone if I wanted a stiff neck, and worse eye sight. We pay annually for an Amazon Prime membership, which is a great service, which now gives us 10's of thousands of free movies and tv shows to choose from, again, from a number of devices. We have a netflix subscription which gives us even more content to choose from, also with ease from any electronic device in the house. I suspect at some point I'll be able to watch old A-Team episodes from the toaster.

We have a DVR which let's us record multiple shows at a time, we can only do two, but I see they offer devices where I can record up to 5 programs at once. I was musing the other day that I can't imagine why this would be needed, but on further reflection I'm sure we'd find it handy at some point. It seems we have so many shows, that are "must see" each week. I'm happy to have a few of them going away this year (don't get me started on how crappy The Office has been in it's final season). We can watch all these shows that we can record from any TV in the house. We can rent or purchase any movie without having to put on pants to go to a brick and morter store. The netflix dvd subscription brings the primo movies right to the mailbox a few times a week, when we are making sure to take full advantage of what we pay for. If we are feeling really old fashioned we can go to the library, where at least in Bridgewater they have a DVD section that rivals any old video store. If they don't have it we can have it from anywhere in the Somerset County system in a day or so... even video games if we want.

We have a few of those kindle fire's now, where we can call up almost anything at any time. Jackie has become unfortunately quite fond of it. They even have a kid mode, where for the low low price of a couple of extra bucks a month on the Amazon Prime membership, there is an endless world of kids content. Which I think is part of the reason I'm writing this. We have to be careful, I'm sure there are many first time parents out there experiencing the same thing. It's so easy to calm them down by giving them what they want, Jackie is obsessive over certain things, like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Super-Why? and certain other Disney movies. Tonight it was Alice in Wonderland. We caught the end of it yesterday, and we switched it off to watch "The Great Muppet Caper" which I had "DVR'd", so I promised we'd watch it today. I've been under the weather and Alison has been uncomfortable, so it's so easy to just pop on a few episodes of something or another, and she'll sit good as gold soaking in all the stimulus from the idiot box.

Until she wants to watch something else, which is relatively easy to oblige, until she want's to watch something else... and God help us if what she wants to watch isn't available on demand. Some shows or movies aren't included in the subscription, so we have to wait.... well with the technology we have these days waiting is never welcome. "Follow That Bird" was available I guess for only a limited time on Netflix, she wanted to watch it the other day, and it wasn't there. My solution was to order a copy for 5 bucks so we own it, because she really likes it...(and I do too, I mean, how can you not smile at the grouch anthem). But really I shouldn't have done that.

I will admit to having played catch up on a few shows, we sat down to watch the first episode of "Game of Thrones" a little over a year ago, and ended up losing an entire Saturday to the show, since all 10 episodes where there to watch immediately. Recently we consumed almost 4 seasons of AMC's "Breaking Bad", and we just started working our way through "Parenthood" on NBC. So even the adult's fall into the trap of having everything served up on a silver platter as soon as we want it. But we're used to waiting for things. We grew up that way, waiting for Saturday morning with anticipation so I could get my weekly fix of "Muppet Babies" or knowing that they only showed one episode of GI Joe and Transformers after school each day, so we had to be good or we'd miss it. Or having to save up money from the paper route to buy a Nintendo game we had been wanting.

Jackie's generation will never really know that, unless we teach it to them. For us it's the way things were, and I'm sure with even less options or my parents and or even older generations with a few channels, or no channels, or having to wait for movie serials, or who knows what passed for entertainment in the hellish days before motion pictures! I think we've hit a point we're maybe we've got a real problem though. No one has to wait for anything anymore, and these kids are growing up without having to learn that they need to be patient to get what they want sometimes. We have to force ourselves into being technological luddites from time to time, in order to teach a valuable lesson. Tonight we had a few moments of melt down and TV time abruptly ended, and once we got over the initial crocodile tears of having lost the privilege of watching Alice in Wonderland, we read some books, spent some quality family time together and got ready for bed. Which is great, I mean this is not an abnormal thing for us to do, we try to limit the TV and movies and games, but it's such an easy trap to fall into. I am genuinely fearful though at the though of seeing a generation that has grown up without ever having to wait for anything. What horrors await the poor teachers that have to deal with that? What kind of employees will they become when they are all grown up? If we create them through our absent parenting, what kind of parents will they become?

Are the Amish taking converts?

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