Skip to main content

Times Trumpets Terror Of Technology

As Daddytypes notes, a writer at the NYTimes Magazine is apparently freaking over the impact television is having on his child. Ok, so its not television the author fears but a Kindle loaded with Angry Birds (as well as a seperate television) but still, is this 1985 all over again?

Hey look, his kids are obsessed with technology.  To which I say: Good.  They better be.  Because their jobs, livelihoods, leisure time and life will likely be technology focused.

I will say there is probably a big difference between his daughter playing Angry Birds and his son watching cartoons.  This is often part of the problem with “riffs” like this: they conflate technology into one big puddle when in reality each raindrop in that puddle is different and unique.  Angry Birds, for the two people out there who don’t know, is a nifty game involving thinking and physics and problem solving.  Television is more passive.  I’d take my kids playing Angry Birds over watching TV any day, but I’m not sure it’s the difference between becoming Einstein and becoming Lloyd Christmas.  Yes, Angry Birds/Kindle and TV are both technology.  But aspirin and crack cocaine are both drugs, too.

People have been lamenting the destruction technology will supposedly wreak on our society and world since before the printing press.  It hasn’t come to pass.  Speaking of printing presses, I’m guessing few people now have a problem with books, though people once hurled at them the same insults they now hurl at television.  Those who don't learn from history yada yada yada.  The NYTimes Magazine writer brags, while disclaiming bragging rights, that he doesn't own a television.  He doesn’t want the distraction; he doesn't want the time suck.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if his kids sat and watched a play or listened to opera for 2 hours he would be writing a completely different type of article.   With Luddites its always this way.  Kid spent two hours parked on his butt watching a a third-rate play, response: Yippeee; kid spends 1 hour  watching a better quality TV show like Mad Men, response: booo technology.  Yet the difference is… what exactly?  Is reading Stephen King really better than watching How's It Made?

But more importantly: what is not having a television doing to his kids.  Part of our work and social world is shared experiences.  We can all click "like" on those "Do You Remember ____ show" on Facebook.  Except that his kids probably can't.  And they can't even watch PBS to make up for it.  And why stop at television, since his big concern if "screen time."  Think its hard to get by in the world without having the shared experience of Sesame Street or Mickey Mouse's Clubhouse, try navigating the world without working knowledge of Twitter or Facebook.  Even the author admits he has had to take up Twitter to survive.

The NYTimes Magazine author himself notes that he is simply watching himself as a child, when he settled for electronic distraction to soothe his nerves or avoid tedium.  He paints a picture of heavy TV usage as a child; addiction even.  We know nothing about how much "screen time" his kids get..  Since the author says he limits the little ones' screen time, I'm guessing its not substantial. We also have no information on the more important question of what his kids do with their "free" time.  Given his portrait of childhood addiction to television I'm willing to assume he fears/thinks his kids would suffer the same fate as him.  But wait!  I’m guess he thinks he turned out OK.  

As Daddytypes notes, “we become our parents and our children become us.”  That is largely genetic.  We pass our intelligence and abilities on to our children, and those possibilities and limits are those forever.  Sure, we can foster a good, nurturing learning environment (more Angry Birds!) and that can help, but no amount of fostering raises a 90 IQ to a 120 IQ.  But when we become parents we  also tend to emulate the only real experience we have with the adventure: that of our parents.

On last point: The NYTimes Magazine writer laments the soon-to-be appearance of iPads in his child's elementary school.  “I find it more disturbing that a brand-name product is being elevated to the status of mandatory school supply.”  The reality has always been that schooling required some products, and most products are branded: To wit, who doesn't fondly remember #2 pencils (Ticonderoga!) or notebooks (Mead!) from their own childhood.  I remember getting copies of local and national newspapers (brand alert!) at school.  And what is a text book if not a brand?  

But while knock-off pencils or Trapper Keepers might be fine, there are good reasons for mandating a single type of tablet, from IT issues and support to app availability and cost.


Popular posts from this blog

Parenting As A Two-Edged Sword

A) The other day I took time out of my schedule to play dolls with my daughter.

B) The other day, I took time away from playing dolls with my daughter to cook dinner.

Which really happened? A, or B?

From a certain perspective, both are true. As Obi wan Kenobi warned:

What I told you was true… from a certain point of view
In the moment, I considered myself a heroic Dad. Here I was, valiantly cooking dinner for the kids and their Mom while also managing to get in some one-on-one time with one of the kids. And playing one of her favorite things, too boot. That is perspective A. 
But it occurred to me that from her perspective (B), what I was saying might not be true. 
Instead of a Dad demonstrating superpowers of multi-tasking, she might simply be seeing me as too busy to really give her my full attention. 
When I look back in 10 years I might well remember the hectic but great times when I played dolls with her while cooking.
And as a teen, she may well look back as at a Dad too consumed with…

I Really Should...

... write an ode to Yunnan jig tea. It's great, honestly.  Smooth and delightful with just the right amount of punchy flavor.  Not coffee, but nicely caffeinated.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, find some loose leaf Yunnan jig and brew away.  May I suggest something from

... creatively write more.  I have a few story ideas.  At least 3, including the one I've already written and desperately need to edit and round out.  But its such a ... chore.  I really like reading, and I don't mind writing.  I actually enjoy writing one-off stuff like I do here.  But putting together 75k-100k in a complete order that makes sense and completes a story arc?  Ugh. Its all ... so much.  Blame my years in journalism, where I write tons of one-off stuff where the narrative is kind of half written for

(Speaking of this blog and writing)

... post more here.  As with all things, I guess, time is hard to find, whilst being a poor excuse.

... think before I agree…

The Dark Months

The holidays are over.  It only seems like life is over.

There is a solid three month period where holidays of various degrees are hitting you one-two-three style.  You have Halloween, which takes some of the sting out of the cooling temperatures and the disappearance of summer.  You have Thanksgiving, with rare foods and the promise of Christmas. 

Then you have a month of prepping and joy for Christmas.  You are so busy, you hardly notice how cold it has gotten.  And this year it got pretty darn cold.  And then Christmas itself.  My wife and I take a week off between Christmas and New Years, so we have that. 

Its a period so full of life.  And then the aforementioned NYE - when the cold decided to take it up a notch.

With triplets, its a little like being shot out of a cannon and taking three months to land.

But when you land, you land firmly in what I call the Dark Months.

There are no more holidays.  Yes, I realize MLK and Presidents Day are in January and February, and yes, I know…