As my husband and I made our way back to New York from his family reunion held in New Bern, North Carolina (coincidentally where my own paternal grandfather was born), we rode on a bus from New Bern to Wilson, where we would pick up the Amtrak that would take us back to the city.
We sat toward the front of the bus, but had skipped two empty seats because we wanted the two seats on the other side of the aisle for our son, David, and my husband’s cousin Marie. So the two empty seats just ahead of us beckoned when an older woman and a young girl of 6 or 7 entered the bus. They soon settled into their seats.
My husband chatted with Marie across the aisle, catching her up on everything in our lives and talking about the reunion, as I sat looking out the window at the North Carolina scenery, some of it quite beautiful (the lone Confederate flag I saw, not so much). But then I heard voices, like the voices you hear from a TV set. The voices came from a large smart phone the little girl was holding. Her older traveling companion, perhaps her grandmother or an older aunt, adjusted the phone and volume for the little girl to optimize her viewing. She had a pleased look on her face, as if she’d just given the child a copy of Anne of Green Gables, or Little House on the Prairie, or Sounder, all free and available at most public libraries. She had not.
So not only did this child miss out on learning how to entertain herself by looking out of the window of a moving bus, she took steps toward developing a need to be externally entertained. How I wish I could have given the older woman ahead of us a copy of the New York Times article, “Screen Addiction Is Taking a Toll on Children,” written by Personal Health columnist Jane Brody, an excerpt of which is below.
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