Apparently, the pimp-my-ride craze is now hitting grocery carts. A New
Zealand firm is test-marketing brightly colored plastic shopping carts
designed for children. Each cart seats two, has a top-load overhead
storage bin and comes with small a DVD player in the dashboard.
The TV Kart, which resembles a cage (one would hope that is purely
coincidental), offers Barney, The Wiggles and Bob the Builder.
Children are now able to watch television from the comfort of home, in the
car on the way to the grocery store, while at the grocery store, in the car
on the way home from the grocery store, and once again when finally back at
home. If you could rig a pulley from the refrigerator to the living room,
the little darlings might never have reason to leave a sitting position.
Technological wonders aside, we must ask, is this a good thing?
Avid football fans might shout "Yes!" but these are children we are talking
about, not armchair quarterbacks.
A grandfather in Atlanta, where the carts are on trial, told National
Public Radio that he loved the TV Kart because it keeps his grandson quiet.
Yes, silence is golden, but increasingly, it appears to be a rather
constraining world in which to be a child. Sit still for your Baby
Einstein, mommy needs to talk on the phone. Sit still for your Sesame
Street hour, mommy needs to work. Sit still for Barney, mommy needs to
It was on trips to and from the grocery store that our youngest learned to
read. She followed the song lyrics that came with a Randy Travis tape.
Sure, her early vocabulary included words like heartache, railroad, whiskey
and lonesome, but the point is that kids can learn a lot without their
faces glued to screens.
There are many things for children to learn at the grocery, and not just
about fruits and vegetables, colors, counting, unit pricing and how to find
the expiration date on yogurt.
Average children with normal energy levels can learn things like
self-control: "Do not touch another thing. I'm not going to tell you twice."
Or concentration: "Do not move - do you hear me - do not move a muscle."
Physical coordination: "Stand right there and keep both hands on the cart."
Delayed gratification: "We do not open food in the store and eat it."
Consequences: "If you jab your sister again, you're going to be very sorry."
We now have televisions at the gas pump, televisions in restaurants and
airports and televisions dangling from the ceilings of the mega-marts. We
are raising a generation of children that think life happens in front of a
15-inch screen or on a wall-size plasma. Before long they will be demanding
to TiVo life and play each day back without commercial interruptions.
The $1,500 carts, which shoppers can rent for $1, are being tested by
chains in eight states. Capco, the manufacturer, claims the carts can net
stores thousands of additional dollars from customers who spend more time
shopping. That's hard to believe in an industry with such a narrow profit
But, of course, they also claim the carts will keep kids quiet. And they
might. But there is more to being a kid than sitting quietly in a
trance-like state, glued to a moving picture on a tiny screen.