Tech-savvy parents with a little bit too much money are forking out $29.99 to firms such as JibJab Media to allow their kids unlimited video chat time with an actor playing Santa.
Cyber Santa – such parents say – eliminates nuances such as having to stand in line with cranky kids, being rushed on and off Santa’s lap, and Santa not knowing little Jimmy’s name.
I get it. Raising kids is a big inconvenience.
Instead of the tech-savvy parents of yesteryear plopping the kids down in front of a TV console, bringing out the TV trays and plopping a TV dinner on it just put a tablet or a smartphone in a kid’s hand and give them an app to order delivery.
Live interaction with other humans is so passé.
And teaching kids patience is unnecessary since they can get instant gratification anytime they wish by turning on 21st century pacifiers that can download games and videos.
Why waste time cuddling up with your kid and reading them a book? Just activate a tablet and click an app.
There was a time when you only saw teens walking around with cricks in their necks in a catatonic state staring at a screen while typing with their thumbs as if they were a Tasmanian Devil on speed.
Now you see 7-year-olds doing the same thing.
And it’s not just in restaurants, on playgrounds, or walking down the street.
You see them walking through Yosemite Valley, on the beach, and even at parades.
Why soak up or explore what’s around you when you can surf the web to find out about it?
There’s no need to learn how to deal with people face-to-face when you can just text.
And why develop your imagination when some app can do it for you?
As for Santa, why bother hauling the kids to the mall when you can use textsanta.net? For less than $5, you can have Santa text your 7-year-old a message you customize or have them send one of their automated messages, “I would’ve txtd u sooner but silly Rudolph 8 my cell phn. I can’t wait 2 bring u ur gifts, luv Santa.”
If Virginia were to ask nysun.com today whether there is a Santa Claus as some of her friends claim, some blogger would probably answer, “Virginia, your little friends are right. They have been raised by the Internet Age. They do not believe it if the World Wide Web doesn’t say it to be. If you doubt me, Google the phrase – ‘Is Santa real?’.”
Some 370,000 searches of those three words were made in December of last year, according to the Google AdWords tracking service.
Any bets that most of those Googling the words “is Santa real” are kids and not adults?
It was bad enough when an older brother told you the bad news. Now you have the Internet telling you your parents are liars.
Back in the1960s and 1970s, the big concern was that the idiot box was taking on the role of surrogate parents in some households or at the very least robbing kids of their imagination and turning them into couch potatoes.
Now there’s an app for that.
Santa as a physical being doesn’t exist. So what could possibly be wrong about eliminating all the physical stuff, such as hearing Santa give a belly laugh then either sitting on the Big Guy’s lap while suffering a severe shyness attack or your eyes lighting up like the Milky Way as you jabber endlessly about what you’d like for Christmas?
Try memories on for size.
It is tough thinking how years from now a kid or their parent will have a warm memory of the day they texted Santa or downloaded the Santa app for $9.99 so they could have face-to-face time with him.
Small things in life such as visiting Santa or staring in awe at soaring redwoods and letting your mind soak up the moment instead of shooting nonstop selfies instantly to send to your friends not only creates memories but they spark the imagination.
There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, such as smartphones, tablets, and the Internet.
There is, however, when we forget they are simply tools and not the key to things such as strong personal relationships, creativity, or happiness.
Contrary to eHarmony et al, the Internet isn’t where you find true love. It may steer you in the right direction but it isn’t what seals the deal. Nor is having your nose stuck in a smartphone the way to understand friendship, charity, tolerance, and forgiveness.
It takes interacting with people.
Video chatting with Santa is one thing. Seeing him in person is another.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.