On the Other Hand

I probably made a dozen of these from scrap lumber and discarded lawnmower wheels or disassembled roller skates if I was desperate

This morning, while preparing for an upcoming presentation on Internet ethics, I jotted off several comments that began with, “Remember When.” They were all designed to lament back to a time before the Internet, when we did things differently, because we couldn’t surf, text, or tweet. My plan is to illustrate how much we have come to depend on a dependable information network. I posted most of them on Twitter (#rememberwhen) and Facebook.

For the fun of it, I also listed in my notes some of the elements of my own pre-Internet childhood that I suspect most children today are not experiencing because of the Internet, video games, texting, etc. I decided to post some of them here for your enjoyment.

  • Remember when childhood happened almost exclusively outside?
  • Remember when a child’s most important resource was a saw, hammer, and bag of straightened nails?
  • Remember when we daydreamed about building a raft, putting a propeller & wings on our bicycle, or exploring a wilderness with a musket and bowie knife?
  • Remember when there was more you could do with a pair of skates than just strap them on your feet and skate?
  • Remember when we use to pretend — out loud?
  • Remember when every tree was scrutinized for its treehouse suitability?
  • Remember when playing house was done with chairs and blankets (not with simulation software)?

Does this ring true for you?

29 thoughts on “On the Other Hand”

  1. David,

    I read this post aloud to my class of 6th graders. They all looked at me like I had four heads and I was carrying another. Oh how times have changed!


  2. David, I’ve been involved with Streetplay.com for the past 12 years (you read that right, a dozen)… we’re all about the “remember when” of the childhood fun experience, specifically, urban/NYC childhood fun. Thanks for your post, it’s reassuring to read that a fellow technologist/educator is thinking about these things, too!

  3. My sister (a former teacher) were driving in the car a few days ago and we were talking about remember when.

    And we both agreed that children now a days are missing out on the use of their imaginations.

    If I got bored (which was a lot) and I asked my mom “What can I do?” the standard response was “Go outside”.

    Now a days you can drive through most neighborhoods and not see a single kid outside, and that’s because they are inside glued to a video game.

  4. How true, or sad it is, I guess. Of course all the technology and advances have their place, but it just seems like our kids are tilted more towards electronic playing, than imaginative, outdoors, physical play. I would love to give my kids the childhood that I had, but now the fear of letting them play alone outside, seems to control me. If we want our kids to have those “remember when” experiences, then as parents and educators we have to show them how to do it. They don’t know how. At home and in the classroom, there has a be a balance between what we allow technology to do and what we as parents and educators will do. I don’t think the “remember when” experiences need to be forgotten, I just think we need to take some time and put our own “to do list” to rest and show how those experiences are real living.

  5. Happy to report that for the most part, those statements all remain true for my six year old daughter…with substitutions for hammer, saw and bag of nails 😉 More like scissors, clothing, and Elmers.

  6. I too spend time thinking back to when I was a child and how we did without the technology that is available to kids today. I am reminded of the stories my parents and grandparents told of their childhoods.

    My question is should we try to recapture that imagination in our own children, or teach them to use the tools that are available to them properly? My parents bought many Barbie dolls for us, even though my mother only had one doll as a child. Shouldn’t we allow our children “their childhood?” I agree that video games and Internet time must be balanced with a healthy dose of playing outside. I don’t know that we should lament that we didn’t have those things. If the things that we had as children remain important to us as adults, perhaps it is time to share them with our children. Unfortunately, kids to day seldom seem to DO things, just read about them or experience them virtually. I believe, for anything, strength is found in the DOING.

  7. This is so very true. In the school system where I substiture teach, we have started to implement research papers in which the students must conduct research without the internet being one of the sources. We actually take them to the school library where they have a choice of anthologies, biographies, reference books and novels. Most of the children were completely lost and struggled though the beginning process because without a keypad and google, they were hysterically lost. As a child, my best friend and I would complete homework immediately after school so we could ride our bikes and enjoy the swings at the park. I did’nt have a video game in my house and my first cell was bought when I was a freshman in undergrad and it was PREPAID!!! I had no interest in youtube and social network sites were not apt for teenagers then. But my students are in constant trouble for texting in class or bullying on the internet, then in spirals out of control into school. Society today has become such an world wide web in general. I almost make my daughter at 5 go outside to ensure that she’s not glued to the computer screen with her kids sites lol

  8. I love playing the remember when game! I also remember loving to write/make up stories. Free writing time was always my favorite while in school, however when giving my students free writing time so many do not love it. They say its hard to create stories or their stories sound a lot like the newest movie out. There are probably many reasons why students don’t like to free write, but I blame technology. Kids spend more time infront of a screen (computer, tv or ipod) then outside creating their own games or forts.

    I often wonder what this will mean in the furture. I feel I can think outside the box when solving problems and think that is due largely to creating our own games and playing outside. I wonder if some students will lack this thinking outside the box when problem solving because they are more often playing games and not working on solving their own problems.

  9. David,
    After reading this I thought back to my childhood days. I remembered how I was always outside doing something. There were so many things to do ride my bike, play in the woods, build forts, going on imaginary adventures, playing Cowboys and Indians with my neighbors, etc. Most kids today are the complete opposite. Kids would rather be on the computer, facebooking, texting, tweetering, playing video games, listening to their I-pods, etc. I have coached high school football for the past 21 years and every year I see less and less kids playing. It has become much easier to be a superstar on the Wii or the X-Box than come out and work their tails off. Some would argue that kids just have more options now days. I never had those options so I had no choice but to be outside and find things to do. I know technology is important but how important is it and to what extent is it? Should good old fashioned imagination and physical activity be replaced by technology? I think if parents would just slow down and realize how dependent their children have become on technology and how inactive they have become things would be different!

    1. Brian,


      Your post made me wonder if the increase of childhood obesity corresponds with the increase of video games and the technology boom. I have not researched this, but it would be interesting as more and more kids stay inside and work their thumbs more than their bodies.

      1. Jessica,
        I have not done any extensive research either, but we hear about it all the time how today’s youth are much more overweight than ever before. I wouldn’t say the video game boom is the only contributing factor to kids being overweight but it certainly doesn’t help! I think the general inactivity of kids today and the amount of fast food eaten today are two major factors.

    2. Brian…you have hit it on the nose!!!! When we were kids the television was the last resort. We died to get outside and make anthills, or race on our 10 speed bikes (not quads). Yes technology aptness is almost a necessity with this generation, however, some of these same kids are suffering from obesity due to the lack of physical activity. They have horrible communication and social skills because everything is typed out or texted. These children cannot think of using their imagination because it’s all sucked into the Call of Duty or Just Dance Wii games. Children of today are to worried about their appearance on social networking sites rather than their voice being heard in the treehouse clubhouse. I wonder if any of them know that treehouses used to exist?? I do believe tha kids should have ample technology, but there should be a balance between the virtual world and te hands on, tangible world. I f the web was to shut down forever, so many kids would be clueless as to how to live

  10. I love this article. I often think about this issue all the time. Mine more or less starts with the sentence beginning of what if.

    What if children did not have cell phones? Would they be more interested in school work, homework, books, magazines, projects, family dinners, face to face conversation? Would they be better speakers? Would their be less bullying and more social interactions that were face to face? Would children be better spellers?

    What if there was no internet, no AOL or AIM, no facebook, myspace, twitter? Would children pick up a basketball, side walk chalk, jump ropes, things we loved to do outside or anywhere in the house where our parents would yell for playing inside?

    What if there was no Xbox, PSP, PS3, DS, etc. would children still have obesity issues? Would their be more communication between teens, adolescents, and parents? Would children like to play monopoly or cards with their grandparents like I did.

    These are all questions I often wonder about. I think sometimes I am at a loss when teaching my children, they want instant result, instant gratification, and immediate answers. They are not enthused about reading novels, textbooks, or anything with words on it that are spelled correctly. I find it so hard to entertain them while we are learning. I can spend hours on a lesson thinking it will engage and excite them and inevitable it will not.
    But I also think, can you blame them? They are being brought up in a generation where they are given things too easily with little or no restrictions. It is hard to say! What are others thoughts on my post?

  11. After reading this I thought back to my childhood. I remember always being outside. I wanted to be out there from sun up to sun down and even longer if I could get away with it. I would be out riding my bike, climbing trees, making forts, playing in the woods, going on imaginary adventures, playing cops and robbers or cowboys and indians! Today’s kids are the complete opposite. Most of them would rather be inside on the computer or their phone. They would rather be texting, facebooking, tweeting, playing video games, listening to their I-pods, etc. I have coached high school football for the past 21 years and every year I see less and less kids come out for football. It has become much easier to be an all-star on the Wii or X-box than it is to play the game and work your tail off. I know technology is important and I incorporate it as much as possible in my classroom but to what extent should it be or to what sacrifice. Kids are becoming more and more less active and using their imagination less and less. I think most of it starts at home. Parents are so busy and on the go it is easy to stick them in front of a game or computer. Maybe if parents slowed down and realized just how dependent their child has become on technology they would make some changes.

    1. It is very true. It starts with parents; I agree. Right now I am sitting with my friends having birthday cake for a friend’s birthday, 7 out of 8 are using their phones, facebooking, and texting, when we should be enjoying each others company. Now it is making me think what examples and role models are we? Reflection for adults and parents should be made before it is too late. I can not even imagine my grandchildren and what will happen then.

  12. When it was dark or raining outside I had to be inside. I watched a lot of television and played with my sister, who was three years younger than me… Now when it is dark or raining outside, my daughter can go online and play with her classmates/friends who are all her own age and share the same imaginative power.

    I created some crazy wooden conglomerations with my saw and hammer when I was a kid. The neighbourhood crew played with it until it broke and then it became firewood… Now, my daughter can use iMovie and her cell phone to create a movie of her own design, about whatever she wants, email it to her friends and her grandparents who will show it to every visitor they have in their house.

    I still daydream… Now, my daughter daydreams. I don’t know what she daydreams about, but our conversations often involve flying bicycles and spaghetti houses.

    I remember many bruised bits and pieces as a result of skates… Now, when my daughter has saved enough money to make a purchase, she can use the tools at her disposal to find out what would be the best skates to buy, choose the best place to buy them from and make the purchase (with my supervision and help). My skates were the same as Jimmy’s, ’cause Jimmy’s were cool!

    I pretend out loud with my daughter every day… She pretends out loud as Garageband has the little red light on, adds in her favourite song and tells me to listen to her story. I listen to it with her on my lap. I listen to it as I drive to work. I listen to it as I ride my bike. Her kids will listen to it when they are 5 and will laugh their heads off.

    I could go on…

    We often lament that the things we remember from our childhood have gone by the wayside and that technology is taking over and not doing as good a job as what has been replaced. What we often forget is that as parents/teachers (parents are the most powerful teachers), we have the ability to guide children to the same learning moments with the tools at their disposal today as we were led to them by our parents yesterday.

    My Dad gave me a hammer and some wood and showed me how to bang in a nail. I can give my daughter/student a video camera, some editing software and show them how to put the video on the computer. The light in my eyes when my Dad looked at my wooden airplane and said, “Are you the pilot or am I” is the same as the light in my daughter’s eyes when I say, “Will we have buttered or salted popcorn at the movie night with your friends?”

    Just as when we see tree we can think treehouse instead of raking leaves, so too when we see computer we can think popcorn instead of computer games.

  13. I read this blog as a part of an assignment for my ed314 class for UH hilo. I really liked this particular post, it got me thinking of my 6 yoa nephew who can type better than he can hand write things. Also about how he can whoop my but in halo reach. It got me thinking about what happened to kids these days. When i was there age we convinced my dad to build us a play house and a swing set. we used that thing every day that we werent at hula, or cheerleading or softball. We played all those sports because we loved it, not because we had too. It carried on with me to highschool were i paddled and was a cheerleader as well as taking ap classes etc. It got me thinking about obesity in kids when i read Brians post, and im no researcher but it probably does have a lot to do with more tv/video games/comps and less sports etc. I think its good for kids to be tech savvy but i also feel that they need to be more creative, and active for that matter. great post! i am probably the youngest one to be posting to this at 24, but i didn’t even have tv in my house till i was 14 and by then i was as boarding school.
    Henanihau Sayles

  14. David, I enjoyed reading your list of Remember whens. A few from my childhood:

    I remember when a phone was something we shared with our neighbors (party line) – I grew up in the country.
    I remember when, if I didn’t have a ride home after practice, I walked home 3 miles (up hill both ways in 3 feet of snow of course).
    I remember when chores were necessary and not a means to justify an allowance.
    I remember when we learned in class, then practiced with our homework – and still had time to play before bed.

    The world is certainly different than when I grew up in the ’60s. Better, but not completely.

    1. I’ve been following this blog for about three weeks now. And each week as I read the new blog entries, I’m finding nwe insights. And I like the I remember whens….so here it goes
      I remember when you only wanted to go outside and ride you bikes until the light post came on…
      I remember when the only video game you had was the game boy that you shared with your best friend until the batteries went dead…
      I remember when you enjoyed to complete homework because class was so enjoyable and you understood what you learned…
      I remember when you read Goosebumps and was racing to get the latest NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY & you spent hours outside talking about with your friends…
      I remember when school was a peaceful learning environment and not a place of mischief and embarrassment
      Its amazing how as time evolved the interests and hobbies of children have changed so drastically. It’s a time of internet and social networking. But what happens to the minds of the children during a sudden blackout?? They have no clue of how to use their imagination…

  15. Hi, my name is Kristie George. I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I really enjoyed your I remember when post. It is very true that today’s generation would not know what to do without technology. Children do not go outside and play like I used to as a child growing up. Yes, I also had a playhouse with just chairs and a blanket. I really enjoyed my childhood because it was nothing for me and my friends to go outside to play. We played games like hopscotch, mother may I, tag, kickball, baseball and hide and go seek. Those were the good days. Thanks!

  16. I have the perfect tree in my backyard to build a tree house in for my daughter. I’ve tried to convince my husband that we ought to build one with the kids for the youngest but it hasn’t happened yet.

    I remember building very elaborate Barbie Doll houses with leftover material, cardboard boxes and wallpaper books. I also remember making hamster tunnels (habitrails) out of TP and Papertowel tubes.

    Those were the days.

  17. Dear David Warlick

    In your “On the Other Hand” post, I completely agree. You embed the idea in which people of today have become extremely reliable on a “dependable information network”. How everything use to be happen outside, we now use technology to connect with friends and family of the changing age. I agree with these ideas because of today’s laziness and lack of work ethic. First, if we didn’t have cell phones, that would help defeat many problems that are currently occurring in the United States, such as laziness. As you point out, before the Internet, “we did things differently because we couldn’t surf, text, or tweet.” You demonstrate that because of the capability of technology today, people don’t have to work as hard to find their information, which leads them to become lazy. Laziness forms because rather than getting off the couch, we just text and call people rather than going outside and hanging out. Also, we have bad work ethic. You pose a question, “Remember when a child’s most important resource was a saw, hammer, and bag straightened nails.” When you spent most of your time outside making a tree house or constructing a lean-to, you were building traits that would benefit you later like a leader or good worker. Back in the day, they thought it was fun and lots of those things were characteristics of jobs. In conclusion, the growth of technology has stunned the growth of a whole generation; that’s why depending on an information network is like one step forward and two steps back. With technology, we connect more with the people around us but we disconnect from are own human knowhow furthering are own dependency. If the Internet broke down tomorrow and cell phone towers down where what would we turn to? People back in the day were self reliant and did everything without it.

  18. Dear David Warlick-

    In your article On the Other Hand I disagree with you that the invention of new technologies has changed our childhood dramatically but has affected my teenager’s years. When I was a kid even though I had internet and video games I remember playing outside a lot and building Legos. As a teenager technology is superior in my life. Everyday it’s hard not to think of TV or to logon to Facebook. Also, almost all homework requires some internet research. I do feel that too much of technology is bad thing for me when I let it control my life. But everyone needs to discipline themselves so technology is used as a source to be helpful but not your social life.

    1. Lucas I understand your viewpoint, however, what happens if the internet crashes?? Will you or others that live in the virtual world be able function?? I understand that many assignments require internet research. But all factual information found on the internet, originated in a book of some form. The technology generation lacks the ability to study a book or locate concrete information without google or yahoo. Students and teachers must return to mental math, brainstorming, pencil and paper because these are the fundamentals that will take further than any gadget that will fail once invaded by a virus.

  19. I have the perfect tree in my backyard to build a tree house in for my daughter. I’ve tried to convince my husband that we ought to build one with the kids for the youngest but it hasn’t happened yet.

  20. This reminds me of my childhood and my remember whens. I told my class of 10th and 11th graders that I didn’t receive my first cell phone until I was graduated from college and that the only computer with internet in my highschool was in the library my senior year and you had to have permission from the librarian to use it! They all looked at me like I was from outerspace. Technology has brought inforamtion to our fingertips and is a wonderful tool. However, I do believe at a cost. I encourage my children to play outside and to use their imagination I hope that I can find the happy medium.

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