While the real saying or cliche is “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” I have discovered that it should actually be “the more things change, the more expensive they are.”
Technology is a part of our everyday life. Whereas my grandparents were excited to have a television set and my parents a video cassette recorder, my generation (I’m a Gen Xer) has witnessed the rise of cable TV, satellite TV, and now the internet. I remember the first time we had cable TV and what a stir HBO caused in our household. Now the internet with You Tube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other outlets provide us with access to more television shows than we have time to watch.
As a parent, I see the differences in the wallet with all the new technological fads as well. I remember shopping with my parents for the new Atari 400. What my parents discovered was that it wasn’t necessarily the price of the unit that was overwhelming, it was the price of each cartridge that added up quickly. We had PacMan, Basic Programming, Asteroids, States and Capitals and Centipede. Those five cartridges cost a lot of money back then, but I think my parents got off rather cheaply as compared to now.
Our house has three cell phones, one iPad, one computer, one working laptop and one working not so well laptop that is on its last legs and so on. (I don’t want to make our house super attractive to any burglars who may be reading this; may I add that our super aggressive dog is known throughout our neighborhood as the barking dog and she is feisty.) My two year old daughter, Cupcake, can already navigate my iPad. She knows what to touch to make PBS Kids appear and how to make it turn on Sesame Street and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. She knows how to get the pictures to show a slideshow. She is especially fond of the song “Better Days” as the background song. Cupcake can also operate a VCR; yes, our household still has that somewhat outdated technological device. Her pronunciation of Netflix is getting better as it now sounds more like Net-flicks rather than Neck-lace. She also knows about websites. One of her favorites is koko.org which features the detailed life of Koko the Gorilla. She loves to get whoever is at the computer to stop what they are doing and type in koko.org so she can see the video footage of Koko’s birthday. All of this before her third birthday.
Cupcake’s twin, Chunk, is more into food so he wants to increase his understanding of how to cook food. He is starting to figure out the microwave. He keeps bringing me popcorn bags so I can pop them in the microwave. Even so, he still likes looking at my iPad. He likes the slideshow also, but he is not a fan of “Better Days” and constantly asks me to turn off the music when Cupcake has the iPad in her lap watching 1000 pictures of her and her family over the past three years.
MJ also has grasped the media technology that rules our household. He is especially fond of Wii and the internet. The good news is that he is enamored of several math educational sites right now and is trying to outscore other members of his class. The bad news is that the Wii cartridges he tends to want for his birthday or Christmas tend to cost around $50.00 a piece. We carefully budget and save for whatever technological item we bring into our house. As much as I would love certain new devices, I don’t want to owe money on them and my wonderful hubby would like to retire someday. As a result, we have plain everyday cell phones that are mainly used for emergencies rather than the SmartPhones that supposedly organize your life but do not vacuum or dust.
Kath did receive a laptop as a middle school graduation present, but that was solely because she needs one for high school and I use the word need there on purpose rather than want. Yes, she likes Facebook and “wants” her Facebook account, but many of her teachers require homework to be done on the computer. Her lit teacher has assignments that are handed in via one website rather than on paper. She has a school e-mail address. So as much as I would have loved to use the money for something else, she really did need this in order to write compositions, send photo files to her teacher (her lit teacher had people send her pictures of each student reading a book to her e-mail), and use online textbooks. Technology isn’t cheap, but sometimes it is necessary for today’s society.
From my Atari 400 to our family’s technological devices, I’ve seen quite an evolution in the cost of these items, but as a family, we are drawing some lines. We don’t need fancy phones when we have laptops and a computer. I also draw the line at paying for Sirius Radio (although I lament the loss of my favorite radio station which is changing format to an all sports radio station) and I draw the line at contractual fees for cell phone service. I also draw the line at new Wii games except if a child earns the money himself or herself or receives a game as a gift for Christmas or birthday and even then it is one new game. Same thing goes for the handheld game devices. Not in my house and the only exception is if you earn all the money yourself and it is not to be a gift. MJ knows he can’t get a Nintendo DS as a gift, but he knows he can earn the money by doing chores or asking grandparents for chores (and I would check to make sure they paid a fair rate and not extra and did not give him extra).
And so the technology bugs have hit our house and bite even the youngest of occupants. We try to manage to keep the expenses of the different gadgets to a minimum, but it is hard. That’s when I pull out Zooreka or Star Wars Monopoly or even a puzzle. Our Thanksgivings are always marked with a puzzle that we try to shield from the twins’ destructive forces. So hopefully I will learn to balance fun activities that do not require electricity just as my parents had to remind me there was more to life than scoring the high score on PacMan and just as my grandparents had to remind my mother there was more to life than listening to the same Beatle record over and over and just as my great grandparents had to remind my grandmother that there was more to life than going to see the new Roy Rogers movie over and over and over. I say maybe as I am sitting here trying to figure out how to blog. Now if I could just figure out how to upload pictures, maybe I just need to get Cupcake to do that for me.

Advertisements