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kids and tv

December 31, 2006

Timothy and I went to our local shopping mall early this evening … not because we like malls (Timothy especially usually can’t spend more than 20 minutes in a mall without getting upset) but because Timothy had a gift card that was burning a hole in his pocket.

Craving satisfied, we began to exit the mall. Allow me to set the scene:

It’s about 6pm on a Saturday, so what is normally a pretty desolate mall is full of the usual characters: thugs, punks, babies’ mommas, families … basically a decent cross section of the general populous of McHenry County. The usual furnishings adorn the center of the mall isles, although I admit I’d never seen black leather massage chairs offering a body buzz for $1. They say you can’t get anything for $1 anymore. Among the usual furnishings is general billboard for various stores in the mall – not the directory, but the one that advertises different stores you can get lost trying to find because it’s not the directory you’re looking at.

Over the past few decades these little implements have definately taken advantage of developing technology, and where once were posters there now are low-end TV screens. This particular one was more like a low-end computer screen running a slow screen saver. The sweater from one store turns into a bra from another store turns into a pair of shoes from another store. It wasn’t even moving very fast.

As we walked by there was a small boy – maybe eight or nine years old – sitting on the dirty tile floor, legs crossed, two feet away from the screen, neck craned up so he could watch. No, I’m not joking. It wasn’t a television, but it was the closest he was going to get to one as long as his mom sat in the hallway waiting for whatever or whomever they were waiting for. You could have taken a photo of the scene, cut the kid out of it, and pasted him into a living room – everything about his body language, glazed expression, and sedate brain activity was exactly the same.

It didn’t even matter that he wasn’t watching anything interesting … or really anything at all. I’m sure the product screen saver in its entire circulation is not as stimulating as a moment of normal childrens programming. The point was he was told to stay in a concentrated area and, lucky stars, there was a moving picture screen in that area. Like young romance, it doesn’t matter if the other has anything interesting to say he just wanted to be close to it. Weird.

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