Smart Phones, iPhones — aye-yi-yi - Los Angeles Post-ExaminerLos Angeles Post-Examiner

Smart Phones, iPhones — aye-yi-yi

So maybe your child has asked for a Smart Phone — maybe a new color-schemed iPhone for Christmas — if they don’t already have one (though most kids seem to). Or maybe they want an upgrade, or some other iAccessory. Here’s my prediction: it won’t be too long before you’re iCursing, and pulling the iHair out of your iHead.

As a very wise woman said to me, “Smart Phones make people Dumb.”

And I’ll add, it’s especially true with kids. Why especially kids? Because Smart Phones make people forget things they already know — like spelling, grammar, manners, logic, decency, decorum, how to create your own fun, and oh yes, just plain common sense.

When that happens to an adult … and then someone points it out to them, or knocks the phone out of their hands, or (heavens no!) their battery dies, they can probably still remember how to do most of the things they were letting their phone do for them.

But kids are still learning all that stuff -—or at least, they would be, if the phone wasn’t telling them they don’t have to. And my fear is … they never will.

"That’s a phone?” A cell phone from the early 1990’s. (Photo via Wikipedia)

“That’s a phone?”
A cell phone from the early 1990’s.
(Photo via Wikipedia)

Forget spelling. As Alec Baldwin, playing a schoolteacher in a commercial said, “Spelling? That’s not a subject, it’s an app, right?”

The other night, my son texted me a note that said, “I’m having a cup of milf and going to bed.” I rushed home to make sure that was in fact a typo.

We all have examples of dumb things we’ve done with our smart phones. Ever been texting two people at once — What I call multi-texting — and sent the wrong message to the wrong person? Ever had that happen when you were talking to one about the other? That really raises the bar on “Oops,” doesn’t it?

Ever been late for something because you hit PM instead of AM when you were setting the alarm on your phone … before you set it down on your clock radio?

Look at how phones have evolved. When they first came out, they were enormous (it was like holding a radioactive bucket next to your head), then they got more compact and smaller, with memory and the ability to take notes by hand. Now the most popular ones are bigger again — and some have a stylus and the ability to … take notes by hand.

It’s an ongoing evolution, and just adds to the things our kids will never experience — or have to endure, depending on your perspective.

Remember homework on typewriters — and changing the ribbon? Remember what a pain it was when you made a mistake, and had to take the paper out, use the White-out, let it dry, then put it back in and make sure you rolled it to the exact spot you were at before?

Remember going to the library first, and going through the card catalog and finding at least three books? My son recently wrote an essay on his phone, after doing his “research” online, hit spell-check, then e-mailed it to his teacher, literally without ever getting off his butt.

When is the last time you saw one of these? An Underwood 5 typewriter. (Photo via Wikipedia)

When is the last time you saw one of these? An Underwood 5 typewriter.
(Photo via Wikipedia)

He got an A — I looked it up on my phone.

I admit it, it’s not just them — we’re all addicted now. Remember just a few years ago when you’d learn that someone you know didn’t have a cell phone? You thought it was cute, or a noble resistance to technology. Now you look at them like they’re an alien.

The phones of today are the security blankets of yesterday. We all do it. Ever been in line at a bank or the grocery store, and the person three feet ahead of you is blabbing away about their love life or their finances or their miserable job, as if no one else can hear?

I like to take out my phone as if I’m answering it, and say “Hey baby! Oh hang on, I want to hear all about it, but this big mouth in front of me is talking all about the way he’s screwing over his company and his jerk boss doesn’t even know about it, and it’s SOO interesting.” Then when he turns around, and looks at me, I’ll add “Ha! Now he just looked at me. Wow, you don’t think he could hear me, do you?”

If adults have lost their minds about phone use, we have no one but ourselves to blame for our kids’ dependence on them. The phones are their radio, their address book, their flashlight, their magazines … and their best friends.

Have you had to tell your kids to put down the phone when they come to the table … or take a bath … or go to church? They are the constant attention suckers. My kids would rather watch a movie on their phone than on the TV.

It’s the generation they are growing up in. My son, a fairly talented athlete, will call to me from another room to come watch a replay of a shot or a goal he just made on a video game, but is fairly nonplussed about his own actual athletic accomplishments. My other son was crestfallen when his phone broke, and he realized it would be out of commission for two days. “How am I going to talk to my friends?”

The Samsung Galaxy S Smart Phone. (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Samsung Galaxy S Smart Phone.
(Photo via Wikipedia)

I handed him the home phone, which he gingerly grasped and looked at it as if it was from an archeological dig — he wasn’t sure what to do with it. “Call them,” I said.

“First, I don’t know anyone’s number,” he explained to me, as if the parental role had been reversed. “Second … no one calls, Dad. They text.”

When I was a kid, I probably had at least 50 phone numbers memorized. Virtually every kid in my class (about 30), my Little League teammates and coaches, half a dozen neighbors, my grandparents, a couple of cousins, the local movie theatre, and my Dad’s office number, to be used in case of a real emergency — not to report that my brother had two cookies and I only had one, so could I please have another?

Today, kids know their parents’ cell phone — hopefully (though one-touch speed dial probably limits that as well), and your TV server’s number to order pay-per-view movies.

I’m just as bad. Everything is stored in my phone. The only time I ever need the keyboard on my cell phone is when I’m talking to Customer Service somewhere, and have to hit a number to choose which department I’m now going to hold 17 minutes for.

But believe it or not … they make an app for that. The FASTCustomer app will wait on hold for you, and let you know when someone answers.

The apps that are available now not only make things incredibly simple for us, they take away our knowledge of how to do things, to the point that it may be inconceivable to our kids that we ever did them.

As a kid, after I washed the family car (a chore, not a job I’d expect to get paid for), I’d sometimes make a few bucks by going around the neighborhood and washing other people’s cars — families where the kids were too young to wash them. Now, there’s an app called “CHERRY” that will have someone come to wherever you are and wash your car. You could then use the time you saved on the car to clean out the garage, or take some old stuff to Goodwill — or you could use TASKRabbit or Zaarly to find someone to come do that or other household chores for you.

To say the phones make us lazy would be an understatement. I typed in the word ‘Lazy’ in the apps list and hit Search – there were 357 apps I could download. Granted, about half of them seemed to be games. I guess if I wanted to know the exact number, I could have installed the app COUNTER For The LAZY, advertised as “for anyone who needs to count.” OR never realized they’d need to learn how to count.

Guys, are you trying to hang onto your verbal skills in your relationship, but sometimes find yourself in a conversation too exhausting to continue? “LAZY HUSBAND” is perfect for you.

As if your wife wouldn’t know the difference, this app lets you pre-record several of the frequently-used phrases they deem to be vital, saving you of the chore of repeating them. Truly loving phrases like: “No, you don’t look fat,” “It’s Beautiful!” and the ever-important. “Uh-huh.”

I’m not making that up. There’s also Lazy Wife (“It’s a great idea if you barbecue,”) and Lazy Kid (“Yes I did my homework,” and “I’ll do it later.”), phrases that somehow, I managed to say all on my own as a kid.

By the way, all of those apps were created by a 12-year-old kid, clearly an anomaly (look it up, kids … at, or if that’s too much for you to type).

A steaming hot pizza, delivered without ever having to speak to someone. (Photo provided by author)

A steaming hot pizza, delivered without ever having to speak to someone.
(Photo provided by author)

For those who want to eliminate conversation altogether, even on your phone, Pizza Hut has an app that allows you to order a pizza, pay for it and have it delivered without ever talking to anyone.

And if the pizza is too hot when it gets there, use the BLOWER app – which blows air out of the speakers on your phone. I swear.

Lazy? Nah …

But if you’re thinking that maybe all that pizza eating might suggest you get some exercise, install the “MOVES” app on your phone, which will tell you at the end of the day how much you walked, ran, cycled or rode. And it can distinguish the difference between them by the way the phone jiggles. I’m …. just going to leave that one alone.

Getting back to the kids, I suppose there is still hope. The other day, my teenage son stood with one hand on the door, his phone (which of course has a weather app) in the other hand, and asked, “Dad, is it cold outside?”

I looked it up on my phone. Guess the Apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

About the author

Mike Brennan

Mike Brennan has been a Pulitzer Prize-nominated newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, an investigative journalist, a nationally touring stand-up comedian, a joke writer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a morning radio host, a professional auctioneer for numerous charities, an editor, and a film and TV script consultant. He is currently working on a romantic comedy screenplay, and a humorous book on being a father, called The Tooth Fairy Doesn't Pay for Yellow Teeth. He has lived in the Valley for 19 years, and has two teenage sons. Contact the author. Contact the author.
  • Mark Simmons

    Funny, but true. I wonder how different my life would be if these apps had worked on my rotary phone.