Our nearby little community of Clearwater, Kansas, had its annual Fall Festival a couple weeks ago. The weather was lousy, but turnout seemed better than I expected. As usual, I've at least glanced at articles about the event in the local paper, not really expecting to find out anything useful, but curious to keep learning about our newly adopted hometown.
A photo of 4 teenagers standing under a picnic pavilion roof, intently focused on something in their hands while rain poured down in the background, caught my eye in last week's hometown paper. Reading the article, I don't know whether to laugh or cry....
It seems that attendance at the Fall Festival has been traditionally good for the elementary age and younger set, as well as for the adult crowd, but attendance by the middle school and high school age group has been declining for many years now. In a move of sheer brilliance, the game organizer changed the venue to include lots of different video games and...(wait for it!)...text messaging competitions. The local phone company donated 5 cell phones - one for the judge and 4 for the contestants, preset with judge's phone number. The first of each round of 4 contestants' to text the message, "Let Bygones Be Bygones.", to the judge's phone won. After those "qualifying rounds", there were texting duels in a bracket tournament.
I am in awe of this inspiration for increasing young adult attendance at the Fall Festival. I am also LMAO (to quote my son) at the picture of intense teenaged concentration captured by the paper photographer. At the same time, I'm deeply saddened - is this what our young folks are most entranced by? At the peak of their physical prowess, as they are developing neural pathways that have to stand them in good stead for the rest of their adult lives, it is video games and cell phone texting that draw them into competition and some semblance of communication and participation in community life.
The next few decades could be very interesting. I just wish I were observing from the outside, not roped in as an automatically involved participant in this large scale human development experiment.