The Village: Switched on or tuned out?

Posted January 30, 2011

The Village: Switched on or tuned out?

I recently travelled back from Saffron Walden on a bus packed with schoolchildren. Each child was locked in their own private world either listening to their iPod, texting on their mobile phone or playing the latest computer game.

The passenger in the wheelchair didn’t register with them at all until the driver made his way down the bus and asked a couple of the children to give up their seats. They weren’t rude about having to move, nor did they argue. I could have put up with a resigned groan but what I found more disturbing was their complete lack of reaction. It was as if they were sleepwalking.

When an elderly couple got on a few stops later it was standing room only. The man was carrying a stick. He was clearly unsteady on his feet yet as the bus took off nobody offered him a seat. A fellow passenger tapped a young girl on the shoulder and motioned to her to get up. The girl pulled out her earplugs and duly did as she was told without uttering a syllable. The man’s wife who wasn’t carrying a stick, was left standing. As the bus hit a pothole she half fell into the lap of the boy in front of her but luckily he caught his games console just in time before any real damage was done.

A lot has been written about how gadget technology is desensitising our kids. The more they switch on to technology, the more they switch off to their surroundings. I don’t for a second think that any of the children I met that day on the bus are actually uncaring. But I’m sad that they had to be prompted to show they care.

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