D.L. Stewart: Visiting family ignores TV in favor of own devices

Our house is pretty much up-to-date, technology wise. We no longer have touchtone phones on our walls, a clock with hands hanging over the kitchen sink or a Mr. Coffee machine. OK, we do have a George Foreman grill, but it’s gathering dust on a garage shelf.

With all our updates, though, there still are devices in every room of our house that some people might consider relics.

Television sets.

The thought that the flat screens we own soon may wind up as yard sale fodder struck me recently when my son and his family came to town for a visit.

On previous visits, the routine was pretty much the same. In the mornings, my grandkids would come downstairs looking for something to keep them amused, so I would sit them in front of the television, turn it on and leave them to argue about which cartoon channel to watch while I made breakfast.

So this year I sat them down, turned it on and went to the kitchen to try to figure out how to operate our new Nespresso machine. Ten minutes later I looked in on them. The television was off, and they both were hunched over their electronic tablets, playing Clash of Clans and My Little Pony.

It wasn’t just the kids. When their father came downstairs, he was swiping his smartphone to check the news. Then my daughter-in-law arrived, tapping on her iPad. And my wife, tapping on her iPad. For the next four days, they stayed hunched over their small screens while the television stayed off.

My grandchildren are, of course, exceptional. But their indifference to television apparently is not. Because this is the dawning of the age of online digital platforms.

“TV is dying,” headlined an article by an analyst on businessinsider.com.

“We’re at the beginning of a major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the Internet or on mobile devices,” he declared.

It’s probably too early to be writing eulogies for flat screens. But a generation that grew up hearing their parents worrying about all the time they were spending in front of the television may be raising a generation of kids that never will sit in front of one. And perhaps they’ll reminisce about the days when families got together in one room and all watched the same screen.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Still, the prospect of living in a house where there’s no television set is hard for me to picture.

Which probably is the way my grandfather felt about living in a house where there was no gramophone.

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