31DC1D7E2B08403C8DAA750CB94C1062It might be said that Edison’s creation of the electric light bulb provided the digital technology leading to Smartphones, computers, artificial intelligence, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest. I was about eight-years-old living in a tin-roofed shack in the woods heated by wood and lighted by a kerosene lamp when electricity reached us.

The light bulb came on. My little brothers and I clapped and shouted with excitement and ran from room to room: “Look! You can see in the corners and everything!”

Shift forward to today. Two teenage boys belonging to a family living in a rural area, next to a lake, a pond, a stream, woodlands, and open meadows, are as pale as if they had never been out in sunlight. I’ve actually only seen them outside doing “boy things” like running and playing perhaps a half-dozen times since they were small. Otherwise, they remain secluded with their digital games and other electronic gadgets.

Now observe general society’s obsession with machines and screens the next time you stop for a Big Mac or to trough out at Golden Corral: Lovers perched silently across from each other trolling for “Likes,” scanning Facebook, checking e-mails, responding to Twitter… Entire families—Mama, Papa (If Papa’s still in the home) and kiddies cocooned into themselves and immersed in their machines. Conversation rarely extends beyond a few simian grunts and gestures. They barely lift their heads to see what they’re eating.

A Kaiser study noted that kids between ages 8-18 each spends an average of eight hours a day glued to a screen. Many of them text over 3,000 times a month.

Other statistics reveal that the regular use of social media machines replaces understanding and comprehension by as much as 40 percent, bolstering the conclusion that networking sites “actively impair performance rather than merely failing to augment learning.”

A Boston developmental specialist working with preschoolers was shocked to find so many homes with few, if any, traditional toys like Legos, coloring books, or action figures. “We had a 30-month-old child,” she reported, “who had no language skills at all until the parents agreed to eliminate TV and IPad.”

One of the great ironies of modern society is that while communications have gone way beyond smoke signals and yodeling across a valley, millions of Americans suffer from epidemic loneliness and are dying “deaths of despair” from suicide, alcohol-related illnesses, and drug ODS at the highest rate in the nation’s history. Since 1999, half the 50 states in the U.S. has recorded a 30-percent increase in suicide rates, with suicide now the leading cause of death for teens. In 2017, 7,000 more Americans committed suicide than died in car accidents…

(To be continued).

Charles W. Sasser is author of more than 60 books and 3,000 magazine articles. His most recent book, which discusses topics such as this one, is Crushing the Collective: America’s Last Chance to Remain Free and Self-Governing.