Friday Slide: No, Kid, You Can’t Play With My iPhone

Once in a while I fall back and think deeply about how quickly technology has evolved. Sure, when I was a kid, we weren’t exactly riding around in foot-powered cars made out of stone and dinosaur parchment. But the technology we had access to wasn’t as inclusive, nor was it as fragile. My dad didn’t much care if I used the TV’s remote control as a pretend horse for my Barbie, and my mom wasn’t especially concerned about the health of the telephone receiver if I used it to club my brother.

Nowadays, though, we rely on our iPhones for pretty much everything. My iPhone is my camera, my telephone (duh), my video recorder, and my game machine when the bus gets stuck in traffic. And that’s why I get nervous when I try to play a game and kids start eying me with interest.

I like kids. I look forward to having my own, but when it comes to other people’s kids, I have no intuition, and my skin is as thin as tissue paper. Someone spits a string of curses in my face because I’m making them wait too long while I pay for my groceries? Fine, whatever. But if I have to tell a kid “no” and subsequently let him down? Oh God, I am a terrible person and I hate myself.

So when I try to play a game in a waiting room or whatever and some kid pipes up, “Can I play,” my day is ruined. Of course you can’t play with my iPhone, child. I’ve seen how you handle Apple’s products: You chew on them, you jab at the screens with jam-covered fingers, you yell and throw them when you lose a game. You run Matchbox cars over the touch screen.

If you break my iPhone, my social life–for what it’s worth–is essentially over. Not to mention I wouldn’t be able to write for Slide To Play anymore and I know you’d all miss me terribly, right?

Right…?

Well, I could always grab a replacement, but I guess even the happiness of children isn’t worth the hassle of a line-up at the phone kiosk.

Deflecting a kid from my iPhone is common sense, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling bad. Maybe some day I’ll change my tune and trust the youngsters around fragile instruments, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. Not until I see parents regularly instruct their kids on how to properly handle and respect smartphones and other sensitive technology.

iPhone handling seems like a minor and almost silly lesson to teach kids alongside “Please,” “Thank You,” “Don’t Take Candy from Strangers,” and “Say No to Drugs.” But again, consider how quickly technology is changing, and how our daily business and pleasure is being boxed more and more efficiently into one palm-sized piece of plastic and glass. Kids ought to learn that iPhones play games, but that doesn’t mean they’re toys. Even an innocent drop to the floor can mean a very bad day for mommy and daddy.

This column is brought to you by last Sunday, when I waited an hour in a hair dressing salon with Flick Bowling and three pleading kids draped over my shoulders like mink stoles.

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