Eli’s parents are concerned. They think that their twelve-year-old child lacks social skills, as they rarely see kids coming to the house or calling on the telephone. Eli, himself, seems not to be concerned. He thinks he has lots of friends and plays with them all the time.
Eli’s version of playing with his friends all the time and his parents’ version are quite different. To his parents playing meant going outside with a group of kids and engaging in some type of physical activity. They expect Eli to play for hours on end, based on memories of their own childhood.
Not so for Eli. When he gets home from school he can’t wait to play with his friends. As soon as he gets in the door he grabs a snack and heads to a darkened basement. There’s no one else there. Eli logs onto his Xbox Live account and starts his afternoon play. Some of the kids he plays with are kids he knows at school, some are total strangers he will meet online that day and they will never play with again. Eli will play for hours on end.
For Eli, it is the greatest thing having a ready-made social life. You don’t have to go anywhere, you’re in the comfort of your home, and there are snacks everywhere. When it’s cold the heat is on, in the summer the air-conditioning is working just fine.
On the occasion that Eli does go outside to play when some kids in the neighborhood make a half-hearted attempt at playing a street game, Eli typically gets bored in about 15 minutes. A weak link in the outdoor chain, Eli retreats back to the house to the dismay of the few “old school” kids trying to muster up a stickball game or street hockey. “It’s just so hot outside and I sweat so much,” Eli thinks to himself. “Besides, I am much more popular with my Xbox friends. I mean I just missed the pass and everyone kind of laughed. Who needs that?”
I don’t know where it’s all going, but for those of us who played outside on sunny days and inside on wet ones, we can’t help but be disturbed by Eli’s social life.
When social life is a darkened room in the basement with no one there, we can’t help but wonder what this will mean for Eli when he actually does have to interact with people.
Most adults older than 40 are completely perplexed and don’t know what to say or do.
Don’t ask me…
I’d better find out what my Twitter friends think and I’ll get back to you.
I will check under #parenting!!!!
(adapted: “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012, Sentient Publication)