Friends Inside of the Computer

Last weekend, I did something I never thought I’d do. I begged my fourteen year old son to have some friends over.

After a handful of years where his peers nearly demolished our house with a supercharged combination of most awesome boy adrenaline and devil-may-care joie de vivré, which took out more than a few lamps, wall hangings and even a screen as they climbed out a window, I thought never having another of his friends cross my threshold again would be all too soon.

But when Max’s social life seemed to dry up, and his father and I noticed he was spending entire weekends holed up in his underwear with the shade down, shouting at his TV monitor, I knew it was time to intervene.

Me: Hey Max, you want to have some friends over for your birthday? We can order a few pizzas and you can all hang out; maybe watch a movie.

Max: Nah.

Me: Why not?

Max: Cuz….

Yeah. Because that, my friends, is what is known as conversation with a teenage boy.

We brought the subject up numerous times, explaining that “face time” means actually seeing the three dimensional faces of other people, not their avatars. That running through actual woods having real adventures is valuable use of the imagination. And the graphics are better.

Nope. He wasn’t buying it. Not for a minute. But think about it. If you were a kid today, how awesome would it be to have 24 hour access to your friends from the comfort of your own bedroom without actually having to share the same space? Hell, I had to make do with whatever phone time I was allowed as a teenager, and that was on the phone in my mom’s bedroom with the luxuriously extra long phone cord pulled as far out of the room and down the hall as I could manage.

I admit to a bit of hypocrisy. On a recent Friday night, as I sat in my own bedroom armed with a cocktail and my laptop loudly prattling on to a group of fellow bloggers via video chat, my two boys stuck their heads in and stared at me in utter disbelief.

Max: Mom, what are you doing?

Me: I’m video chatting! Come see!

Max: Old people. Get a life, Mom.

Me: What?! Wait a minute. I have a life! What social engagements have you got on the calendar, Mr. Smartypants?

So far that evening, from the comfort of my own bedroom, in my pajamas for chrissakes, I strolled through downtown Singapore, hung out at a Ruby Tuesdays in Minnesota, got a house tour in Texas and chatted with a friend in England, one in Rhode island, another in Massachusetts and still another in Hawaii, and there were cocktails. Oh snap!

For no apparent reason, Max kept coming in, craning his neck to check out my lap top before going back into hiding. Within ten minutes, both boys were sitting next to me introducing themselves to my internet posse. Uh huh.

Okay, I get it. And I’ve gotta admit that actually getting dressed to go out and talk to people in person is a major feat for me. But I do it. (Sometimes.)

This weekend? Max announced he was going to a friend’s house to work on a school project. With other kids! Five of them.

Max: I might not be home for dinner.

Me: Good! Go! Have fun!

Besides, I had a video chat to go to.

Related: 20 Ways to Get Boys Away From Video Games

About the writer

Linda Roy is a humorist/writer/musician living in New Jersey with her husband and two boys. Her blog, elleroy was here, is a mix of humor and music. She's a Managing Partner and Editor-In-Chief at Lefty Pop, writes and records a musical humor column at Funny Not Slutty, and has also contributed to Aiming Low, Sprocket Ink, In the Powder Room, Mamapedia, Bonbon Break, The Weeklings, and Earth Hertz Records.  When she's not writing, she fronts the Indie/Americana band Jehova Waitresses.  Connect with her on TwitterFacebookPinterestGoogle+ and Bloglovin'.

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Gary Sidley 2 years ago

My offspring are 20 and 23, but I still recall the “glued to the computer” phase. Even now, you can’t have a conversation with either of them without them multitasking, responding to someone on their mobiles.

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    It’s so engrained; even in us, to where I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t feel that twinge of needing to check something when I had a spare moment. That’s not a good thing in my opinion. I feel like I need an intervention. But…maybe next month. 😉

Meg Hammil 2 years ago

Until about a year ago we didn’t have wireless in the house, only broadband so they were tethered to the living room if they wished to be online, plus the living room TV was the only one video games worked on– so we were in the living room together, even if everyone was staring at a different device. Now we have wireless…but the living room I still the only room with more than basic cable. Then we would unplug for two weeks camping every summer, which, yes mde me crazy too. I miss my internet when I can’t get on.

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    It is a cold turkey feeling, isn’t it? Cold Turkey…has got me…on the run. 😉

Sammy Starr 2 years ago

I have friends online and it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I take pride in knowing friends I’ve had online for a long time (10 years long for example). Kids having friends online you need to be extra careful with, especially with all the predators out there.

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    Me too. I have friends I’ve met on the internet that I’ve been in contact with for over 15 years now. We’ve taken annual trips and I’ve even traveled to England to meet a couple of them. But the predators, that is just another of a growing number of worries for today’s parents.

Carly Bonderud 2 years ago

My husband complains about this all the time. Our son is only a year old, but I’m the video chat addict of the house. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing if your friends don’t live close enough that you could hang out in person. That said, my best friend who once lived three timezones away is finally coming up this summer for a visit. This will probably be the only face time I get with her for a whole year or more. The internet is great for connecting people and keeping that connection no matter how far they live. However I still think that kids misuse it when their main interaction with friends is through a video game. That’s a lot different from having a real conversation on anything and everything you can think of, or updating each other on your lives. And if they live a few blocks away, I still think it’s better to go see them in person. But then I grew up in the 90s and all this technology is still a novel concept for me, whereas kids grew up with it and take it for granted. Not sure how I’ll handle it when my son is that age. Hopefully he won’t get the wrong idea from watching me and MY screentime, because when I’m on the internet I’m usually reading articles, playing a few games, or connecting with a friend I couldn’t talk with any other way. Because that long distance phone call is expensive, whereas Skype is free. 😉

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    Maybe by the time your son is older they’ll have figured this thing out! It’s still all in it’s infancy and we’re the guinea pigs. It is definitely an amazing thing to be able to communicate with friends from all over the globe. I think technology is the most amazing thing. I’m way more fascinated by technological advances than my husband, and yet, I worry more about the effect it all has on our children. It’s a constant conundrum.

Claudia Schmidt 2 years ago

I’ve got a 16 year old and he was obsessed with video games from about 12-14 but now that he’s in High School he’s not that interested…..now he’s binge-watching, of all things, “Friends” on Netflix. Go figure. His favorite character – Chandler Bing. LOL. I asked who he thought I reminded him of (assuming, of course, he would say wacky Phoebe) and he said Monica. Really? I’m not feelin’ it, but whatever. :)

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    Haha – Claudia – that’s hilarious! Monica? I’d be all “whatchu talkin’ ’bout Willis?”. I love that Chandler’s his favorite. Thank gawd it’s not Joey. “How YOU doin’?”

Marcia @ Menopausal Mother 2 years ago

Right there with ya, sista! My kids are always on my case because they don’t understand why my best friends live in my computer and not my neighborhood!

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    You gotta get on the internet to find the the other crazies! Er…I mean interesting people! lol
    So glad we found each other!

Melissa Senecal 2 years ago

Oh my goodness you are preaching to the choir here!! Problem is, there are not that many kids in our neighborhood where he can go, and with added health issues, it’s scary to think about anyway. Plus his birthday is in June well after school gets out I don’t have addresses and such to invite anyone over! Living in the country has it’s advantages and disadvantages and since he became a “gamer” he has more interaction than he would otherwise. Plus he has made a couple of peers on other countries so it’s cool to know he can extend himself beyond a limited sphere!!

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    That’s very true Melissa; good point. Just like it can be a Godsend for isolated stay at home mothers, it’s also a good thing for kids. And I think video games are a good thing! My boys have learned strategic lessons, they’ve built entire civilizations, learned geography, history and interacted with kids all over the globe. I just wish they’d mix it up with some real life too. And I know other kids aren’t always easily accessible; we live in a rural area too. :)

Sarah Fritz-Maldonado 2 years ago

Welcome to my life with a 13 yo gamer smh… In retrospect I’m starting hate his “real life ” friends”” so it isn’t all bad

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    See, and that’s another thing. That’s another post really. lol Because there comes a point – especially with boys – where you kind of enjoy the fact that their friends aren’t showing up in packs to wreak havoc and completely destroy your house and all the possessions in it.

Melisa Missy Fillman 2 years ago

holy moly.. this is SPOT ON

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    Thank you Sarah. Lots of experience with the topic. I suspected it was a universal fate. 😉

Terrye 2 years ago

*I* am your teenaged boy. 😀 When my husband tried to tear me away from my beloved laptop and all my little friends (minions).

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    Haha! Yeah, it’s not easy for us either. 😉

Wendy Martin 2 years ago

Yes! After getting laid off in March, I have the immense pleasure of being able to stay home with my kids this summer. We aren’t scheduling every hour, but we are scheduling activities outside our house-pool, hiking, library, etc. On other days, the kids can either have friends over or go to someone’s house. We’ll set up game and card days where the house will be full of noise and motion. And nary a computer will be going…except my audio book. :)

    Linda Roy 2 years ago

    That sounds like an excellent plan. Enjoy!

Karen D. Austin 2 years ago

I have a 16 yo son who did Skype with his best friend all of last summer but never set up to see him in person. They live 2 miles from each other. I kept offering to drive them someplace. My son told me that part of the appeal is that when he meets face to face, he has to ask me or another parent to do the driving. And we are embarrassing to have a parent there. With Skype, they can shut the door and cut the parent out of the equation. Thanks for describing this issue. I probably need to push him a bit more to socialize in person.

    Linda Roy – elleroy was here 2 years ago

    Yes! That. That exact thing. They want to cut the parent out of the equation. We live in a rural area, not on a cul de sac, on a busy street with no sidewalks. Can you see how we’ve helped our children so much in the area of being able to go out and socialize? 😉 But even if he could hop on a bike and ride to a friend’s house, the interest to do so isn’t there. He tells me he sees his friends at school and doesn’t need to see them on weekends or after school. They’re all right there in the Xbox. I hope after a couple weeks of solitary confinement at the homestead, that will change.

    Linda Roy – elleroy was here 2 years ago

    I’m heading over to read it because I need a good pow-wow on this subject. Yep, definitely soul sisters!

Lance 2 years ago

Good parenting

We’re going through this with our two younger girls, especially the 9-year-old. All they want to do is stay inside and watch tv and hang with each other. They used to love the other kids in our neighborbhood and to go outside. Weird, they don’t really play on their phones or computers but they binge watch Netflix. How can I tell them to do as I say not as I do, when the second season of orange is the new black is on and now I have to go back and watch weeds because you told me too?

    Linda Roy – elleroy was here 2 years ago

    The only thing you CAN do is teach them a very important lesson – as a family – that selling marijuana in a state where it’s illegal is wrong, drug trafficking is not okay, and be careful of the brownies at the PTA bake sale. Enjoy. Ticky tacky… 😉

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