The curse of the techno takeover
'What is the matter with my family?' a friend emailed at the weekend.'It's glorious outside and we're all indoors. I'm on Facebook, my older daughter is on MSN, my younger daughter is on the Wii and my husband is watching television.
'What is the matter with my family?' a friend emailed at the weekend.
'It's glorious outside and we're all indoors. I'm on Facebook, my older daughter is on MSN, my younger daughter is on the Wii and my husband is watching television.'
Her family tableau was hardly unusual.
Technology Takeover has made its insidious creep into our house. One day all was normal and, the next, everyone was hooked to an electronic gadget with glazed eyes, holed up in different rooms behind closed doors.
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On Sunday, the sun blazed and my younger boy had closed the curtains to stop the glare while he played virtual cricket in the dark. The other was glued to the Grand Prix and I was dipping into Facebook.
At least older son was playing real cricket in the afternoon, with a real bat and ball on real grass in the fresh as opposed to the virtual kind.
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Our disparate family was mirrored in homes on every street. Eyes fixed on screens, mobile phones and blackberries in a permanent grip, games consoles wurring, DVD players burning.
Technology Takeover is a virus infecting every family.
Technology might be wonderful - life saving, innovative and world changing. But it is killing family life. It's even more dangerous than we think. We're past the point of no return. Once families stop talking, they never start again. Some are never starting, tiny tots getting hooked on games consoles before they can talk.
And no, I don't buy the argument of some mothers: 'It's so good for their hand-eye coordination.' It might be but so in a game of catch in the garden and so much better for human interaction and conversation.
No wonder children start school unable to string a sentence together or look anyone in the eye. Technology is addictive. I feel sick to see children in pushchairs with hand-held games consoles.
But, like most families, the irresistible force of a screen pulls us to check emails, log and switch on as soon as we walk in the door.
On Sunday, I longed for a power cut to force a family activity without the usual row. I dream of relocating to a Scottish croft with no power. A desert island. No electric sockets. No batteries.
At least at meal times are gadget-free. I've banned anything electronic from the table, minded of the sad scenes in restaurants of families together, dad checking his blackberry, mum texting her friends on her mobile and children texting or playing games consoles. They sit in silence ignoring each other but communicating mundanely, no doubt, to friends and missing out on the one chance that week to sit down together.
It's just so rude. That's what I hate most - how technology legitimizes rudeness. It's somehow ok to interrupt a conversation to answer a phone or reply to a text or watch the top of someone's head playing a game.
We're spending so much time, energy, stress maintaining connections outside totally neglecting our relationships and responsibilities within the home. No one even apologises for it anymore.
At parents' evenings, fathers shift agitatedly checking their blackberries, emailing and yelling into their mobile phones.
These 'machines' are causing us stress. We feel we've got to be in contact with people on the periphery of our lives all the time or we are somehow inadequate. We have to share everything. There is no privacy. Now relationships are imploding because of it.
But it's a brave parent who bans these devices. It's like forcing your child to be the only child in the school with no TV. It isolates them and makes them different.
But limiting their use - and banning closed doors - is responsible parenting. Even David Cameron is banning blackberries and mobiles in cabinet meetings.
How about in public places in general?
Technology Takeover is more of a crisis than we think - but who can fight the power of progress?
Just a weekend as a trial - it could change your family life forever.
All that head bobbing and nodding in unison give our new leaders Dave 'n' Nick more than a passing resemblance to the old Watch with Mother Bill and Ben.
I wonder how long before the Dave 'n' Nick dolls - a la Barbie and Ken - will be on the shelves, or the Dave n Nick bookends and 'novelties'.
Not that there will be much of a market as the ConDems have sent the real Lib Dems running Green.
Clegg admitted he caused offence by joining the Tories but said it was worth it. Was it really? If he looks over his shoulder he will see a fast-deserting army of loyal former Lib Dems.
So was it worth it, Mr Clegg? To whom? Your party, the country or yourself? Time will tell now no one's any time for words anymore. We're waiting for the action.
The scandal at the FA goes to show that however shrewd, brilliant-minded and sound of judgment a man might be in business, he is just like any old fool in the face of flattery by a much younger beautiful woman.
FA chairman Lord Triesman, lauded for his judgment, discretion and sharpness, will be known for evermore as the old sop who wrote BKsAO - Big Kisses All Over - in a text to his foxy former aide.
Whether the 66-year-old's match-fixing clams were made to impress 36-year-old Melissa Jacobs, we don't know but we do know that even the most astute and erudite men are governed by their trousers given half the chance.
Anyone with nous would have seen straight through Miss Jacobs and her game and realised no one of her age and looks would touch Lord Triesman - who carries an uncanny resemblance to the meerkcat in the TV ad - with a barge pole unless there was something big, in the financial sense, in it for her.
Even more astounding is that the man who should know better - and so many more like him - walked straight into a sting writing incriminating evidence in texts. There really is no fool like an old fool.
As the axe hovers above the public sector, doctors, nurses and teachers are looking to pack up and emigrate to countries desperate for their skills before it falls on them.
George Osborne talks about efficiency savings slicing off �6 billion and - health service managers are you listening? - no-one would dispute wastage in the back rooms and offices of the NHS but not at the sharp end.
What would be tragic would be swinging cuts in post -16 education, on the 'rescue' programmes for school leavers failed by the school system who emerge into the world with nothing to show for their years at school except rock bottom confidence and an attitude problem.
These courses are lifesavers. They rebuild a 16- and 17-year-old's character and show them they're not doomed to life on benefits.
To lose help for these teenagers would be short sighted and cruel.
The principle of 'why cook when you can buy a ready meal?' is to be applied to making a baby within the next decade.
Soon thirtysomethings could routinely conceive their babies by IVF because it is far more effective than the traditional method.
Soon we won't have to do anything for ourselves - we can pay someone else to do it all and men will be obsolete.
I'm not sure what's more surprising - that 103 female soldiers got pregnant by fellow soldiers in Iraq and another 31 in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2009 or that the Army stuck its head in the sand and failed to do anything about it.
Now -134 babies later - an advertising campaign aimed at female soldiers tells them to carry a condom because the reality of serving in the theatre is 50 blokes to each woman. Talk about bolting the stable door after the horse. And is that supposed to put them off?
But I'm more bemused about how, in basic tent conditions where privacy is at a premium, any of it even happened at all.
What did we do when we tripped on an uneven pavement or slipped on a wet floor a few years ago?
We got up, nursed our bruises and sprains, called it hard luck and got on with life.
Today we limp to a personal injuries lawyer to try to screw the owner of the pavement or floor for every penny we can. An injury isn't something that hurts and incapacitates any more - it's a cash cow.
But where do people trying to make a quick buck think the money for their 'compo' claims come from? That big pot of free compensation cash hovering in the ether to be emptied at their convenience?
Sue the NHS, a school or a college and the money comes from our purses and that, usually under-funded, institution. In short, the only people hit by claims against public organisations are the public.
I tried to tell this to someone who wanted to sue a village school where she used to work for a historic injury. The fact that she weighed 20 stone when she had her fall wasn't an issue to her - someone was to blame.
Why do we always have to blame someone for everything that goes wrong?
Accidents do happen and not everything is someone's fault to be pinned on a culprit in the name of a big payout.