Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Put Down Your Phone (And Play With Your Kids)

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of watching my nephew's little league game. He's eight, going on nine, and this is the third year of organized baseball he's played.

It was a fun game (even though they don't really keep score) because he got a couple of hits (they're only allowed singles unless it goes to the outfield on a fly, which is apparently, near impossible) and even made a play in the field.

But it got me thinking -- when I was his age, we were way more advanced than they are (and this was validated by my father (his grandfather), who coached my two brothers and I at various levels).

Let's start by looking at the basic rule differences:
  • Coaches pitch the first three innings in hopes of being able to play a full 6 inning game in the two hour time limit.
  • No team can score more than 5 runs in any one inning.
  • You can't advance more than one base at a time, unless the ball is hit to the outfield (as I mentioned above).
  • No leadoffs/stealing/pickoffs.
  • If during the final three kid-pitch innings, a pitcher walks two batters in a row, the coach then has to come out and pitch.
  • No batter can see more than a total of 7 pitches.
  • Strikes are rarely called.
In my day, at the same age, and even though it was my first year of baseball, the corresponding rules were as follows:
  • Kids pitched all innings; if you walked a batter, they got to hit off a tee.
  • There was no limit to the number of runs you could score and in fact, there was a "slaughter" rule that allowed the game to end early if one team was really beating the other.
  • We kept score.
  • Coaches coached.
  • We could leadoff/steal/get picked off/thrown out.
  • Time limit was rarely an issue, unless we were tied and needed extra innings.
  • We played actual baseball
And as I made a smart ass comment to my brother about the team's relative lack of ability, he remarked "well, we didn't have the Wii and Xbox and iPhones, we actually went out and actually practiced baseball (as opposed to virtually)."

And I think that's part of it.

But I also think that in general, we as parents are more to blame than the kids. I don't know a single kid that would rather be told to go play video games by themselves instead of going to play ball (or dolls or whatever) with their mom/dad/grandparents/uncles/whomever, even though that's sometimes an easy way to kill time.

And as I pushed by almost two year old on the swing at the park last night, it hit me -- every parent at the park was glued to their smart phone or tablet. Rather than pushing a swing or kicking a soccer ball, they were consuming information and missing out on an opportunity to play with their child.

It all made sense -- the kids are less advanced at sports (and probably other things) not because they're terrible athletes (well, not all of them at least), but because instead of teaching them, they're having to learn from playing the Wii or watching TV or researching on the internet. We're failing them.

Now look, I'm far from the Father of the Year and am at times guilty of this myself, but after this chain of events from the weekend, I've made the conscious decision to keep my phone in my pocket whenever the kids are around. As great as it is to be up to date on everything, I owe it to my kids to give them everything I have.

And yes, this is me on my soapbox. But to all my friends out there, please know that I won't be checking email, playing Words, texting, or checking Facebook when I'm with the kids (unless I'm posting/sharing something about them) from now on.

I'm calling this my #PutDownYourPhone campaign and will be using the corresponding twitter hashtag as appropriate. Please feel free to do the same whenever you see someone using their phone to check Facebook instead of playing with their kids. Or, when you realize that you got to do something great with your kids instead of playing on your phone/tablet.

And yes, I realize that this is totally hypocritical from someone that sells web software that enables mobile delivery -- but I think in this case, it's totally worth it.

It really got me thinking and maybe it will you too. And if it doesn't, it just means that my daughters will kick your son's ass all over the baseball diamond from day one...

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