THAT'S LAUDERDALE

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dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJune 3, 2014 

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Can we talk?

Does it matter anymore?

Family vacation time is here, and I'm not sure we need to all gather at a beach house for a week.

We've lived through each other's every headache all year on Facebook. We text a lot.

Now we gather at one place. But we don't talk.

We sit around in a circle, everyone staring and pecking at an iPad or cellphone.

We text each other across the room. I can tell because people laugh at different times as the unseen subplots Wi-Fi around the circle.

The most stunning thing, however, is how much time infants spend on their iPads. It's the new pacifier. It takes them into their own trancelike world, where talking is optional.

Parents of any generation would love to have something this educational that can transfix a child for hours on end.

For this generation, it's the iPad. For mine, it was the television. I still think the dumbest thing we ever did was get our kids televisions for their bedrooms.

Before that, parents sent their kids outside, and probably locked the doors. In the Lowcountry, parents aided and abetted their children as they got into boats to go down the river. In case there wasn't enough danger on the snake-infested islands where they camped, parents might pack them a gun or two, and certainly matches and knives.

Parents of the generation before that had an even better way to entertain the kids: Make them plow behind a mule from dawn to dusk.

Thus we have evolved into today's family vacation, in which toddlers and grandparents cling to but one rule: No computers at the dinner table.

Some friends told me this week they tried something even more daring when their children and grandchildren visited for Thanksgiving.

They turned off the phones and passed around a plastic cube filled with cards, each posing a question that could start a conversation. It's called Table Topics. Each person drew a question and verbally responded. And everyone else paid attention. It was a moment fit for the Smithsonian.

One version of this game, which costs about $25, even focuses on sharing family lore.

When I was growing up, the family around the Thanksgiving table -- all producers of the baby boom generation -- didn't have $25 to spare. But they had a never-ending table topic question: "What good are kids?"

Here's an example of an official Table Topic question: "Would you rather meet your great-grandchildren or great-grandparents?"

I guess that depends on whether you want to have a conversation -- or can even talk.

If this game can unplug Thanksgiving, think what it can do for the family vacation.

Besides, there's an app for that.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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