We’ve crossed the digital Rubicon. It’s a phrase we use at Sandbox Summit to describe the influence of technology on kids’ play. We, the grownups, observe the effects from on high, but it’s time we recognized how technology has influenced the ways we play—and not just when we try new games. We may not be digital natives, but in our dotage, we’ve certainly become very competent second-language speakers.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent three blissfully lazy days with a group of my closest friends at the beach. It gave me the opportunity to observe how, how often, why, and how well we Boomers play with technology. Of the nine of us weekending together, five had brought our laptops. But to my knowledge, only one of us used it for work. There were eight iPads, of which two were minis; both of those were the user’s “second” iPad. Everyone had a smart phone. Two people had two. No question, we were connected.
Let’s start with GPS. Or as I affectionately call it, my BFF. Like an Amex, I never leave home without it. Having discovered Waze, I drove out double checking my route by hearing what other people said about the roads. It almost made avoiding traffic jams fun.
Once we arrived, we all played with our cameras, whether on the phone or iPad. Pictures and videos of kids and missed celebrations were most shared. I’ve concluded that when you take videos on an iPad, they tend to be short and sweet. It makes viewing them that much more pleasurable for all. Unlike our kids, we didn’t take selfies and pictures throughout the weekend. No one posted an update. No one cared, either.
We sat around and read. Only one of us brought a hardcover book. We laughed when we compared type sizes on our Kindles.
We also played with our food. With nine picky eaters, we had to navigate through dozens of recipes to find gluten-free or dairy-free, fish or chicken, veggie-heavy, chocolate-obsessed ideas. Epicurious was our go-to. (BTW: this lentil salad was amazing!) Cooking with an interactive recipe is like having a coach in the kitchen.
And while we’re on Google, what did we do before it became a verb? After watching Frozen on Netflix, we Googled Idina Menzel to find out her marital status. Not quite what a kid would do after singing along with Elsa the Snow Queen, but for us, just as fun. (Getting divorced from Taye Diggs, if you’re still wondering.)
What each of us didn’t do, is play many games online. Two admitted to a solitaire addiction. One even played while we watched TV. Bridge was also cited. 2048, which one of our visiting kids showed us, caught everyone’s interest… for a short while. Generally, our fun and games, weren’t games.
Throughout the weekend, we all texted our kids. We called our mothers. But mostly, we talked. Face to face. It’s what makes us old friends (emphasis on “friends,” please). But most importantly, we played by balancing the real and virtual, just like we say kids need to do.
What’s your favorite tech “toy?” Let’s hear about them at firstname.lastname@example.org