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Consumer Electronics Causing 'Death of Childhood'? 758

Posted by Zonk
from the ack-mein-childhood dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Top children's authors, including best-seller Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), have written an open letter to the British Government claiming that consumer electronics have brought about the death of childhood. They say that children desperately need 'real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in'. The letter writers also state that children have lost their imaginations because they are, 'pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini-adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past.' The article asks, 'is modern life too fast for the supple human mind? Do children have a rev counter we're red-lining by exposing them to so much input?'" So what does Slashdot think? Are kids growing up too fast nowadays because of them new-fangled technologies?
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Consumer Electronics Causing 'Death of Childhood'?

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  • by Zardus (464755) <yans@yancomm.net> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:14PM (#16089022) Homepage Journal
    Short answer: No
    Long answer: Yes
    • by Travoltus (110240) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:22PM (#16089091) Journal
      Kids live longer today than they did before, so let's not all start talking about going back to the "simple life" where all the farm girls look like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:37PM (#16089279)
        If a farm girl actually looked like Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie they'd feed her until she was strong enough to actually do some work.
      • If "modern" life is too harsh for children, I sugest sending up
        chimneys, down coal mines and out onto the streets to beg for
        food.

        Why, in my day, we lived in a cardboard box and had to eat lumps
        of coal!
      • by wsanders (114993) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:26PM (#16089814) Homepage
        I'm sure Paris and Nicole will look just fine at 50 thanks to the wonders of modern technology, but what about the rest of the US's children, who are driven one block to school, even in the best of neighborhoods, and will be fat and diabetic by the time they are 30? I'm not putting my money on increasing life expectancies especially when the fattest and most diabetic are the ones least likely to have access to top shelf medical care.

        If I had kids they could play all the video games they wanted, but the hardware would be powered off deep-cycle batteries charged by a stationary bicycle. You play, you ride.
      • The Simple Life... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:35PM (#16089892)
        was harsh and brutal for many people.

        My great-uncle became "man of the house" at age ten, when his father died in a farm accident. Today, he'ld be given counselling; then, he was given a household full of siblings and a farm to take care of. And he did it, because that was his duty as a man. Today, nineteen year old men are still considered "kids". They've had the luxury of growing old without growing up.

        Two of my dad's eight siblings died during or shortly after childbirth. Most of my parent's family ended up with farm related injuries and scars. My uncle is missing a leg from where it got caught in a baling machine. My cousin died down a well, trying to fix it so that his family could have clean drinking water.

        We don't want the simple life back. It would kill half of us, and lead the other half back to an early grave. Kids today aren't being "forced to grow up too fast". Try taking on adult experience at age 14. Try getting through life with a grade 3 education, because your Dad made you go to work to earn money for the family before you even finished grade school, like happened to my Dad's father.

        Then try whining to me about how kids are growing up "too fast" compared to their forefathers. I don't see it. To me, they're barely growing up at all.
    • by iocat (572367) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:28PM (#16089168) Homepage Journal
      Letting your kid outside to play with his friends is un-workable in dangerous, urban environments. I'd much rather my kid get the same kind of exploratory feelings I got from playing in the woods from playing Zelda, versus having him venture, unsupervised, into the dirty, polluted, woody ravines by our home in east Oakland, which are overrun with crack users, and prostitutes.

      Henry Jerkins at MIT makes the excellent point that kids playing videogames are basically doing the same thing as kids playing cowboys and indians, and that videogames have become the virtual playspace for a new generation of kids who don't have the opportunity to roam in real environments. (He also makes the point that mom's are only freaked by games because they never saw what kinds of real and imagined violence went on when kids played outside.)

      Finally, anyone who thinks kids today have been robbed of their imaginations should drop a box of legos in front of them.

      • by duffbeer703 (177751) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:45PM (#16089358)
        Your situation is exactly the problem.

        Our society ignores social ills by denying that they exist and using tools to pretend that reality is something else.
      • by JoeWalsh (32530) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:46PM (#16089370)
        Letting your kid outside to play with his friends is un-workable in dangerous, urban environments. I'd much rather my kid get the same kind of exploratory feelings I got from playing in the woods from playing Zelda, versus having him venture, unsupervised, into the dirty, polluted, woody ravines by our home in east Oakland, which are overrun with crack users, and prostitutes.

        I mean no criticism of you and yours with the following; it's just something I thought should be said:

        In a rational society, either the people's law enforcement system would take care of the problem of crack users, prostitutes, and polluteres ruining woody ravines near their homes, or the people would be empowered to take care of the problem themselves using whatever force is necessary.

        It's irrational to create a society wherein good people hide behind walls while the criminals roam free.

        Please, folks, wherever you live, work toward getting people who understand this into positions of power.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Trifthen (40989)
          The US already has the highest prison population in the world. Somehow I doubt locking more people up is the answer.
        • by stevelinton (4044) <sal@dcs.st-and.ac.uk> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:18PM (#16089735) Homepage
          In a rational society, either the people's law enforcement system would take care of the problem of crack users, prostitutes, and polluteres ruining woody ravines near their homes, or the people would be empowered to take care of the problem themselves using whatever force is necessary.

          In a rational society the medical system would take care of the problems of crack users and prostitutes.
        • by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:20PM (#16089750) Journal
          "It's irrational to create a society wherein good people hide behind walls while the criminals roam free."

          it has been like that since the first cities were created. good and honest people who could afford it, would live inside the walls of the city, leaving the open fields to the mobs.

          this idea of open cities is recent in human history, and apparently a failed idea. what we see today is a return to the old method off small walled comunities where kids can play outside their homes, for as long as they stay inside the walls of their community.

          oh, and about the rational/irrational stuff, who's the crackpot who told you our species is rational ? me and my baseball bat would like to have a little chat with him...
        • by Schemat1c (464768) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:20PM (#16089757) Homepage
          In a rational society, either the people's law enforcement system would take care of the problem of crack users, prostitutes, and polluteres ruining woody ravines near their homes, or the people would be empowered to take care of the problem themselves using whatever force is necessary.

          Actually in a rational society the people would just legalize drugs and prostitution and the problem goes away tomorrow. Decades of whatever force is necessary has turned this society into a police state full of frightened and abused citizens.

          See how simple that was?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by greg03 (694065)
          I completely agree with this post.

          I'm convinced that the next couple of decades are going to be very difficult ones for parents throughout the Western world, simply because our priorities have become skewed due to pressures beyond our presumed reach.

          When I was public school, I was in a Gifted program. It was a hard experience, mostly because you're labeled "different" and "strange" due to the fact you loved reading up on history, science and other "nerdy" topics. The sense of isolation was so bad some
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jalefkowit (101585)

        Letting your kid outside to play with his friends is un-workable in dangerous, urban environments.

        Well, "dangerous, urban environments" are not exactly new. There have been dense, urban, industrialized slums in existence since the early 1800s, and kids have found ways to play in them -- they've even spawned their own games suitable for play in tight spaces, such as stickball [wikipedia.org] in New York City. And plenty of ghetto kids in Europe and South America are avid players of football/soccer. So if there really i

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Analogy Man (601298)
        Letting your kid outside to play with his friends is un-workable in dangerous, urban environments.

        How remarkably sad. If I did not have a place to "free range" my kids I would reconsider my priorities regarding where I live. There is much that is learned from open ended play with peers that I do not believe can be learned in a game context. Sure a great deal of social dynamics is appearing in games, but the implications of considering them a viable replacement for REAL human interaction is frightening a

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rahrens (939941)
        First, while the experience of the games may be similar to traditional play, sitting on the couch in front of the 32" monitor and the Xbox won't trim the fat!

        Second, what makes you think Mom's don't know about the "kinds of ...violence" - doncha think they were maybe kids once? Maybe they get freaked BECAUSE they know about the violence?

        My wife is in child care, and has been for over 28 years. You'd be amazed by the number of kids today that come through our center that really have NO imagination, and hav
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SydShamino (547793)
      I dunno. I got a lot of great reading in as a child, while I swapped floppies waiting for my game to load on my Commodore 64 - for some games as often as every few minutes.

      With the load screens on some modern console games, I expects today's kids could get the same broad literary experience.
  • LEGOs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:14PM (#16089025) Homepage Journal
    Well, LEGOs would solve your problem right there. How many geeks grew up with Legos and got into DIY projects?
  • Wrong Choice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by neonprimetime (528653) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:15PM (#16089035)
    It's easy to see why parents, assaulted by the constant barrage of news items on paedophile attacks, terrorism and murder, encourage their children's seclusion in the hermetically sealed confines of a softly carpeted room with a plasma TV and Xbox 360.

    I personally think that parents who make this decision are failing their children. The child needs to be aware of what's going on in the world. That's why I love school classes that have current events, I encourage my child to read and / or watch the news. If they're secluded from everything, they're going have no clue what's going on when they hit the real world.
    • No, right choice (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352)
      Children play at what they will be doing when they grow up, in order to learn. When people were doing mostly manual labor, physical play was important. Now that more and more work is mind-work done one computer and electronic equipment, it makes sense for children to play with electronic toys and games, using their minds more than their bodies.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:27PM (#16089153) Journal
        Now that more and more work is mind-work done one computer and electronic equipment, it makes sense for children to play with electronic toys and games, using their minds more than their bodies.
        Possibly -- except that the social interaction is very different when a child plays almost exclusively with electronics. Physical activity is also important to one's health, and establishing a habit of exercise in a child bodes well for their future physical condition and health.

        IMO, the key is balance. Exercising only the mind or only the body is unhealthy in a child, and in an adult.
  • Dang kids today, with their sprialgraph and rock em sockem robots.

    In my day all we had was a hoop and a stick! And sometimes we didn't even have the hoop!
  • Maybe after TV's have been in people's homes for 50 years, then we'll have the answer.

    I guess we'll just have to wait until that happens.
  • Back in my day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Recovering Hater (833107) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:17PM (#16089051)
    We played with dirt and we LIKED it! Dang playstations are gonna kill imaginations worldwide! Get off my lawn! :)

    But sincerely,

    Every generation has some aspect that is supposedly going to bring utter ruination to the future. And every generation manages to cope. I think we will be allright as long as parents bring some healthy balance to thier kids activities. When has that concept ever been new and fresh? It has always been that way.

    • Caligulazation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:32PM (#16089213)
      Every generation has some aspect that is supposedly going to bring utter ruination to the future. And every generation manages to cope. I think we will be allright as long as parents bring some healthy balance to thier kids activities. When has that concept ever been new and fresh? It has always been that way.

      But how many generations had their kids sitting in front of, essentially, puppet-shows (or some other analog equivalent) all day, every day? In fact, one could argue that the loonier offspring of the "idle" artistocracy and their highly entertained (but not so very challeneged, physically, etc) kids were the precursor to what we're seeing now, but across much larger swaths of the society: flacid minds, a sense of entitlement, no sense of causality or critical thinking... sort of the Caligulazation of a much wider population.

      Basically, the standard of living for most of modern western society is now so high that most of us are living like (or better than) the aristrocracy of the not very distant past.

      Yes, we all assume that our current generation's kids are the ones that will wreck civilization, but there's actually something TO this one, I think, at least a bit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Trifthen (40989)
        But isn't that the point of technology? If we had machines to do everything for us, replicators to give us anything we wanted, and so on, how is that ruining any generation? We could spend our lives being artists, researching history, or anything else we *want* to do without fear of starving or putting up with a mean old boss. We're so tantalizingly close to this, I can't imagine why anyone would want to go back. Just a few short generations, and humanity will have the means to do essentially whatever i
        • Re:Caligulazation (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:34PM (#16089888)
          But isn't that the point of technology? If we had machines to do everything for us, replicators to give us anything we wanted, and so on, how is that ruining any generation? We could spend our lives being artists, researching history, or anything else we *want* to do without fear of starving or putting up with a mean old boss. We're so tantalizingly close to this, I can't imagine why anyone would want to go back. Just a few short generations, and humanity will have the means to do essentially whatever it wants.

          Unless we also have a way to suppress millions of years of mammalian (in general) and advanced primate (specifically) evolution, some kid born three or four generations from now that still has his pointy eye-teeth, predator's senses and sensibilities, and pack-protecting urges - but who has no outlet for any of that - is going to do exactly what I think a lot of them are doing today: go slightly crazy. You can't take every (or even most) adolescent's nearly superhuman gusto for life and channel it entirely into art, research, or even mountain climbing. I suppose that challenging, competitive sports area good outlet (or would be, if we weren't squashing them into one big "everyone is special, everyone's the best" festival right at the ages when actually striving against some fairly low-risk adversity is hugely helpful, developmentally).

          Essentially: unless you change human nature (biologically, I'm talking - behavior and perception as heavily influenced by our DNA), making the world like one big nursery/playground for adults is going to produce ever more sociopathic human BSODs. I wouldn't rant about it, but I think, with a little perspective, now, I actually see it happening. The challenge, in the scenario you describe, is to generate sufficient adventure and adversity to scratch all of those primal itches without needing to fend off religious fanatics or killer luddites in hijacked planes in order to flex that bit of deep-seated programming.
      • Well, see, that's just the thing.

        So you found one thing to support the idea that _this_ generation of kids is in trouble. But that's actually the whole funny thing: so did the previous generations. Every single generation had their own bogeyman they waved around as the downfall of the next generations. Every single generation found some X that they didn't have and the new generation has, and latched onto it as _the_ thing that will doom us all. Pretty much no matter how far you could go in time, you'd find
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by d34thm0nk3y (653414)
        But how many generations had their kids sitting in front of, essentially, puppet-shows (or some other analog equivalent) all day, every day? In fact, one could argue that the loonier offspring of the "idle" artistocracy and their highly entertained (but not so very challeneged, physically, etc) kids were the precursor to what we're seeing now, but across much larger swaths of the society: flacid minds, a sense of entitlement, no sense of causality or critical thinking... sort of the Caligulazation of a much
  • by adisakp (705706) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:18PM (#16089059) Journal
    Yes I know this is a troll...

    But how many people out there were claiming we wouldn't be having any new low-level programmers because kids these days grow up with Windows and Macs rather than Apple IIe and C64's?
    • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:24PM (#16089782) Homepage Journal
      But how many people out there were claiming we wouldn't be having any new low-level programmers because kids these days grow up with Windows and Macs rather than Apple IIe and C64's?

      Who says we do?

      I think the generation that missed out on programming in severely constrained environments (I came in the tail end of it myself) are never forced to code with any discipline. If there's a problem, just throw more giga[bytes/hertz/whatever] at it.

      Why do you think each successive version of Windows requires twice as much memory as the version before?

      Unless you have worked in a very constrained environment and/or developed a set of tools from the ground up (say, the basics of a run-time library or class library), then it is not very likely you will have the discipline you need to write good code. To me, this is why throwing CS Freshman at Java is a Bad Idea. Throw 'em at an 8080 assembler with 16k or RAM. Things like Java can come along, but later.

  • by Traegorn (856071) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:19PM (#16089062) Homepage Journal
    The reason that kids are growing up too quickly has to do with the parents encouraging kids to just watch TV by placing them in front of it instead of actually paying attention. This behavior becomes habit -

    -also, as we over protect our children, we seperate ourselves more and more from the rest of the community. This splits our kids away from the available social networks and playmates - encouraging further isolation.

    So, it's not the technology - but the fact that we don't teach or give our children any other options.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:31PM (#16089196) Homepage Journal
      "The reason that kids are growing up too quickly has to do with the parents encouraging kids to just watch TV by placing them in front of it instead of actually paying attention. This behavior becomes habit -"
      Often the reasons that happens is both parents work or it is a single parent home. Plus there is so much mind numbing entertainment that our culture now expects to entertained all the time. I can not tell you how many times I have seen kids watching DVDs in the car when they are just driving around town! Adults are no better, we have games and TV on our cell phones, and movies on our IPods. One wonders what we could do with that time if we where not being entertained.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:36PM (#16089261)
      -also, as we over protect our children, we seperate ourselves more and more from the rest of the community. This splits our kids away from the available social networks and playmates - encouraging further isolation.

      When you have the mass media constantly scaring people about sexual predators that prey on children, is it small wonder why parents nowadays are absolutely scared about letting their children go out and play in the neighborhood? Small wonder why the only time you see children at a playground nowadays is with very strict parental supervision....
    • by CDarklock (869868) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:09PM (#16089632) Homepage Journal
      I struggle with this. Raising kids is hard. The hardest part is figuring out how exactly you fit this whole other person into your life.

      I think most people have trouble fitting themselves into their lives. They just don't have enough time to work, socialise, and relax to their own satisfaction. When you add a child on top of that, all kinds of mess comes out of it - and ultimately, your own self-interest carries more weight, so the children often end up on the losing end.

      At some point, things need to be reduced and removed to make room. What screws that up is the general inability of most people to make real sacrifices... it's one thing to say you put your child first, but it's quite another to actually do it when you're down to your last few dollars. Even though this level of desperation is rarely an issue for most parents, there are innumerable little ways that parents deprive their children in ways mom and dad might not even notice: you can't afford the $4 bag of cookies your child wants, but you buy an $18 bottle of wine later in the same trip. Could you have perhaps gotten a $12 bottle of wine instead, and used the savings to buy cookies? Of course. The child sees and understands this, even if you don't, and by adolescence there's a massive buildup of frustration from it.

      The message we give our children is that as adults, we get to do what we want, and children have to shut up and make do with what we deign to provide them. This doesn't just make our family lives difficult when the kids hit their teenage years, it also raises essentially infantile adults - they've been trained to be selfishly indulgent their whole lives.

      I don't think there's an easy answer to this. I think you have to actually understand what you do and how it looks to your children, which unfortunately requires you to think about how other people view your behavior... and a lot of people just seem incapable of that.
      • by nametaken (610866) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:57PM (#16090586)
        I don't think there's an easy answer to this. I think you have to actually understand what you do and how it looks to your children, which unfortunately requires you to think about how other people view your behavior... and a lot of people just seem incapable of that.

        I think what you're mentioning here (perhaps accidentally) describes a little theory I've developed. For a long time now teachers and parents have been pounding the "you're special" and "just be yourself" messages into kids until they've developed this "I don't care what anyone else thinks, I'm me and I'm pursuing happiness" attitude. We celebrate attitudes like that in adults, too. I think this is a perversion of an idea that was supposed to make you always comfortable enough to do the right thing, regardless of outcome, into an idea that you don't owe anyone anything and anyone who expects anything of you (most of all sacrifice) is trying to prevent you from "being you".

        I think we owe everyone arounds us something. I owe it to my neighbors to take my garbage out, keep my music down to a sane level and return their dog if I see him running down the street. I owe it to my parents to come help move furniture when they call. When I have kids, I'll owe it to them to make sure they get what they need, when they need it. In turn, each one of these people has certain responsibilities.

        In an effort to bolster childrens sense of self-worth by ridding them of shame or guilt, we've thrown out responsibility with the bath water. I think we SHOULD care about what people think of us, and might have to start teaching kids that.

        Just a thought I had.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by torokun (148213)
      Until having a kid myself, I thought the same thing. I thought that parents should spend more time supervising their kids rather than plopping them in front of the TV/PC without supervision...

      Now I realize that this was too unrealistic for most people, including myself and my wife.

      In order to maintain a reasonable standard of living, many couples both have to work now. It wasn't like this before the 70's. Care to guess what happened? Women's lib. Women working put pressure on wages such that now, basic
    • You know, this has got to be said, but for most of the human history, "kids" just stopped being kids at various ages between 12 and 16.

      E.g., in ancient Egypt, the age of marriage was 12 for girls and 15 for boys. That's it. That was the age when you'd be supposed to be mature enough to care for your own family, not just for an iPod. Forget having your mom pack you lunch and watch you playing with dolls. At age 12 as a girl you'd be supposed to cook lunch for your husband, and raise your own real kids, not d
  • by blcamp (211756) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:19PM (#16089070) Homepage

    It's also electronic content. A kid should not be raised by proxy in front of a video screen, whether he/she has a controller (or a mouse and/or keyboard) or not. There's more to growing up than that.

    One should also be actively and physically engaged as well. Playing outdoors, running around, playing with physical objects (whether they be Legos or whatever).

    Being raised is a matter of mind and body.

    • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:45PM (#16089354) Homepage Journal


      The increase in ADD, ADHD, Asperger's, and Autism would seem to indicate that children are being "revved" beyond their abilities.


      I don't think it's the "fault" of electronic entertainment, but rather the incessant push to not merely succeed, but to excel. Those children with a variety of educational/entertainment/sport activities end up more balanced, but are still stressed.


      Another part of the problem is that parents and authorities would rather push pills for ADD/ADHD than punish a child. When we twitched around in our seats in school, we got punished and learned to pay attention (sort of.) Now they flag a "problem" and stuff the kid full of pills.


      The truly scary thing is that statistics are now showing that the ADD/ADHD "patients" grow up to suffer an increase in cocaine and meth addiction problems. Not surprising when you realize that ADD/ADHD medications are speed, so they're just trying to maintain the addiction developed by the educational and medical systems that would rather drug children than deal with the problems.

      • by Sounder40 (243087) *
        I call bullshit.

        Your reply shows you know nothing about ADHD, ODD, and other attention disorders. Including Asberger's and Autism into the mix shows a complete lack of understanding.

        Attention-related disorders are just that: attention-related disorders. Yes, they are exacerbated by video and computer games and other electronic toys, but they are present in children and adults without the toys.

        Yes, Ritalin is a stimulant. Yes, stimulants can be abused, like a lot of drugs. That's why it's a controlled

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rbochan (827946)
      I don't disagree.
      [anecdotal evidence]
      My 9 year old nephew was visiting recently. He rearranged my DVDs "for me", so he could readily find whichever ones he wanted to watch that day. He can recite the cheat codes for LEGO Star Wars from memory. He knows Nick's TV schedule better than he knows his own back yard ("There's a maple tree out there?"). He had a fit when he realized that the TV I have, circa 1980, doesn't have a remote and he actually had to get up to change the channel (oh the humantity!).
      He's nev
    • my child was raised to educate himself through playing video games alone in his room from a young age. my wife and i feel that many modern parents spend far too much time trying to entertain their children, who themselves would rather be defining their own identities by using technology. this is often because the parents themselves do not have much in their lives and are bored.

      our son is growing into a well-adjusted and emotionally literate young man. the skeptical may wish to view this home video [youtube.com] of him re
  • Not my children (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:20PM (#16089071)
    My daughter has a computer (a Macintosh running Mac OS 9). The only games she has are educational with no killing. She has a simple word processor, a complex drawing program, and other programs that create, not simulate destruction. We use Tivo Kidzone to record only programs with positive messages. So far, she doesn't watch much at the neighbor's kid's houses. We have a garden that she helps in, two dogs, and she spends most of her none school time running around outside, so I'd say, no, her childhood isn't being destroyed by consumer electronics. Your Milage May Vary.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      My daughter has a computer (a Macintosh running Mac OS 9). The only games she has are educational with no killing. She has a simple word processor, a complex drawing program, and other programs that create, not simulate destruction. We use Tivo Kidzone to record only programs with positive messages. So far, she doesn't watch much at the neighbor's kid's houses.

      Does they know where chicken comes from? I'm not being sarcastic, here, but you're sort of setting them up for a bit of a shock the first time the
    • Sadly, (Score:3, Informative)

      by imsabbel (611519)
      With a post like this, here you will just attract hordes of unwashed sociopaths who will tell you that your daughter is so fucked because she doesnt chainsaw people in half. And how this will inhibit her personal growth.

      Which of course means you are exactly right.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shaper_pmp (825142)
      Good god. It's... almost like... her parents... have the biggest impact... on her upbringing!

      Jesus Christ! Think of the implications! Someone get Jack Thompson and Hillary Clinton on the phone and tell them they've been wasting their time right now!

      I think I've got a whole new solution to this "wayward kids" problem they're so concerned about!
  • Balance. In all things, balance.

    'Nuff said.

  • Sad Sight (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StefanJ (88986) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:21PM (#16089081) Homepage Journal
    A few months back, I went to a local model rocket launch. It was on a farm in a beautiful chunk of Oregon (See the background of this: http://home.comcast.net/~stefan_jones/hustler_pose .jpg [comcast.net]). Dozens of geeks and their families were there, launching model rockets big and small into the sky.

    More than a few of the kids present were squatting on the ground, or in car seats, blank expressions on their faces, banging away at portable game machines.

    How pathetic.

    Someday these kids will need to take special classes to learn how to walk on dirt.
    • Re:Sad Sight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:05PM (#16089571) Homepage Journal
      More than a few of the kids present were squatting on the ground, or in car seats, blank expressions on their faces, banging away at portable game machines.
      When I was young, my parents always wanted me to go to sports matches I had no interest in. My father in paticular despaired at my complete and utter boredom throughout the games. I would regularly wander about staring at the fences, railings, seats, gravel, etc, etc, rarely taking interest in the game itself. If I'd had a gameboy, I would have played it.

      We went to France once. Here my mother stood aghast at my total disinterest in the majesty of the cultural capital of the world. My regard for Paris paticularly offended her. I was bored out of my tree, and if I'd had a gameboy, I would have finished Metroid during that trip.

      But in Paris, there was succor. The Musée des Arts et Métiers. Oh such joy! When my parents refused to take me, as they had more "cultured" places to visit, I went alone to what was one of the most memorable expieriences of my life. A menagere of scientific legend awaits all who enter. I went twice. If I'd had a gameboy, I would gladly have smashed it to pieces to get another tour.

      I did finally manage to drag them to the Panthéon. They went for the "cultural" expierience, as some great men or other were entombed within. But I went for Foucault's Pendulum, one of the most elegant experimental proofs ever made. And within also, is a copy of Foucault's paper on the pendulum, containing his own mathematical equations, explaining the revolution of the pendulum as being caused by the rotation of the earth! Bliss!!

      They left France thinking themselves "educated", and I a philistine, just as you might think that children dragged off to rocket launchings they have no interest in are similarly philistines. The simple reality is that people have different interests, and if you want to encourage your children to put down their gameboys you have to find activities that they find interesting, not activities you find interesting and simply want to force them into enjoying. So lay off sespairing at their lack of interests when you don't even know what their interests are.
      • by nido (102070) <nido56NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:30PM (#16090366) Homepage
        Great story. Thanks for sharing it.

        The simple reality is that people have different interests, and if you want to encourage your children to put down their gameboys you have to find activities that they find interesting, not activities you find interesting and simply want to force them into enjoying. So lay off [d]espairing at their lack of interests when you don't even know what their interests are.

        I think it's important to also note that the government's compulsory schooling system treats all children the same, no matter their interests. John Holt [holtgws.com] realized while team teaching in the 1950's that most of his students were bored and frightened - bored because they didn't care about the current lesson, and frightened because the authority figure was making demands of them. According to Holt, the children were intent only on trying to figure out what the teacher wanted, and whether they should try to give it to them.

        Holt wrote a couple books [holtgws.com] - How Children Fail (1964!), How Children Learn, What Do I Do Monday?, etc. At first he tried to fix the schools. Then he gave up, and became an advocate of "unschooling", where the child chooses what and how they want to learn. Doesn't work for all children, but it does work spectacularly well for many.

        I myself was tied down for years in "school" - 11 years of government schools, 2 years of private high school, 3.5 years at the university. On the one hand, I'm kinda bitter about all the time I was locked up, but on the other, I realize that it's hard to appreciate spring without a long, cold winter.

        Also see Gatto's Seven Lesson Schoolteacher [newciv.org]: "The third lesson I teach kids is indifference. I teach children
        not to care about anything too much, even though they want to make it
        appear that they do. How I do this is very subtle..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by milimetric (840694)
      I agree with you, good point. On the other hand, I heard a parent at my office say the following, almost verbatum:

      "I have to drive 40 minutes each way on Wednesdays. My kid won't SHUT UP! So I bought her a gameboy. Now she doesn't talk to me at all and it's GREAT!"

      I think that is more common than anybody is willing to admit and I think THAT is what's sick, and not videogames and technology themselves. A good parent shows a kid that real life is cooler than any video game possible. You can do ANYTHING
  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:21PM (#16089082) Homepage Journal
    I've seen this problem first-hand in my stepson. He grew up absolutely addicted to video games and he constantly throws himself into the video game world. He has difficulty in coping with the real world. Until we started getting him some help, he was even uncomfortable paying for something at a store counter. His sister, who never shared his video game addiction, grew up to be very okay and completely independent. But now that he's almost 23, coping with real life is a skill he's having to work at. He still lives at home, has had difficulty holding a job. He's starting to turn around -- he's in school and getting A+ certification training (hey, it's a start!) But he's got a long way to go.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by no_pets (881013)
      I wish that I had mod points. I hear what you're saying and can attest to this same problem with my nephew. He's 14 and is afraid to go into stores by himself, etc. Heck most kids when I was growing up had to ride their bikes over to the grocery store for mom all the time even when we were about 8 years old or so.
  • by ndansmith (582590)
    Society is changing. Childhood is not dying. It just looks different now than it used to.
  • by hamburger lady (218108) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:22PM (#16089090)
    Top children's authors, including best-seller Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), have written an open letter to the British Government claiming that consumer electronics have brought about the death of childhood.

    what exactly does he expect the government to do?
  • Opinion Vs. Fact (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr@h[ ]ail.com ['otm' in gap]> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:23PM (#16089100) Homepage
    It's all well and good to have an opinion on something. However, like the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink. I can't tell where this guy's opinion ends and real unbiased scientific scrutiny and experimentation begins. TBH, I would have to disagree wholeheartedly with the statement "death of childhood". Childhood may be changing, perhaps in many different ways, but that does not mean it's dying.

    Part of me wants to dismiss his entire argument as nonsensical luddite ramblings. Another part of me wonders if he might have at least a small point. But it's where those two parts of me meet and ask "where's the proof?" that I finall come to the conclusion there is nothing to see here, move along.

    At least, from the children I know and observe, I don't see them suffering developmentally from the fact that they can play their PSP all day. What I mean is, don't blame the PSP. The fact is, I think through simple, good, old fashioned parenting, a child can have a better upbringing today than ever before, as long as the parent is able to understand and integrate today's technology, within moderation, with the raising of their child(ren).

    Maybe too many parents are becoming lazy, thinking technology can replace them in areas of parenting where it should not. But like I said above, about opinions.....

    TLF
  • The whole purpose of childhood is to prepare the person for ADULTHOOD. Now, in that most adults now a days don't really act like adults, I can see an argument for something in the past couple decades truly ruining childhood. However, I have seen a trend over the past couple years of kids and young adults that seem to be taking responsibility for their actions, so whatever it was I would assume has been corrected.

    If you ask me, the fault of poor child raising would be place solely on the parents shoulders,
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Let me see if I have this straight.
      1. Children's books authors are complaining about children not reading enough books.
      2. Rather than take responsibility for their falling sales, said authors complain to the government about their competition.
      3. Perennial computer addicts on /. debate about children and video games.
      4. A lucid poster suggests parents take responsibility.
      Dost mine eyes detect a recurring theme?
  • Poor kids (Score:5, Funny)

    by siriuskase (679431) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:23PM (#16089102) Homepage Journal
    Fortunately my kid's too poor for all that crap. 200 pound per hour therapists? His only indulgence is slashdot.
  • Advertisment (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:24PM (#16089110)
    What cause kids to grow up, society pressures. If the child feels he is outcast because he doesn't have a mySpace account then he will want one, and because he want one when he gets on he will try to assimilate to the mySpace culture as well as he can. If the child enjoys playing with old toys and he gets pressure that people his age shouldn't be playing with such toys he will strive to play with what peers and society thinks he should be playing with. T.V. and Internet Adds tend to create false society pressures on these children to get them to want products that they will not necessarily want. Because society wants them to do this so much they will do it as far if not farther then society demands. I remember the Cell phone add with the Girl who was said to be a teenager (probably just 13 or 12) who kept on talking and talking, using the cell phone minutes. This add wasn't for the parents who buy the phone and plan, it was for kids who are 10-14 who should normally be to young to have a cell phone, but the add makes it seem like it is normal for kids to have them. So Kids get them... With global advertising that are advertising children they are trying to make kids become more grown up. As a kid my father had a "Cell Phone" (a large box with a phone in it) I though it was cool and such but I had no desire to have one for myself, why because not of the kids had them. I wanted the Nintendo or Sega like the other kids. As well as He-Man action figures, Transformers and GI-Joe. Because that was the social norms. While my parents generation were happy with toy cars, and balls (more generic things) . The reason was because that is what other kids in their area had and played with. It is not technology but the marketing of the technology and the stupid parents who buy the kids this crap because they actually believe them when they say they need it.
  • It is the opposite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ignipotentis (461249) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:25PM (#16089131)
    I would say it is the opposite. People are waiting longer to form family units and have children. The education cycle is stretching out. According to my insurance company, no one is an adult until they are 25. Just some thoughts.
  • by shoolz (752000) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:26PM (#16089135) Homepage
    Children must have at least some exposure to the crass and cynical consumer world, with a loving parent at their side to explain what all those fancy commercials are really about.

    I had a friend in high school who did not have a TV growing up, and as nice a fellow as he was, he was a hopeless rube that at the age of 18, still believed that wrestling was real and would purchase the bridge you had for sale at the drop of a hat.

    I think he could have benifited from a few hours of TV per day, with an audio tape loop in the background repeating "None of this is real... None of this is real..."
  • Faster (Score:3, Interesting)

    by COMON$ (806135) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:27PM (#16089149) Journal
    Personal Opinion here, no fact involved

    I think many people would say we need to move faster. The young mind should be free to learn and absorb at the rate it needs. I for one welcome the explosion of information, I think in the past it hasnt been accessable enough to the young mind. And of course it is up to the parent to moderate what kinds of information the child gets, as each family has separate belief systems. But all in all the young mind will soak up things quickly, give it to them. When I was younger I was fortunate enough to have an encyclopedia. Now everyone has one at their fingertips. You can get answers quickly now rather than waiting for the bi-weekly trip to the library.

    Second, just because a child doesnt experience "Your" childhood, doesnt mean that they are not a child. Play may be different now, it is always changing. Just because a child now at age 7 has the knowledge of a 15 year old isnt a bad thing. We are starting to see people in their 20s, and even in their teens with more knowledge than people in their 50-90s. This, I think, is a good trend. The accellerated intellect will allow us to advance our civilization quicker and better than ever in history. Just check out the last 50 years, even the last 15. It is quite impressive. However it is causing a lot of stife in workplaces and life in general as we have intellect vs wisdom everywhere. Give it another 30 years and we will see an amazing culture as long as we dont stifle it.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:27PM (#16089151)

    Are kid growing up too fast nowadays because of them new-fangled technologies?

    No, they're growing up too fast (and often in unhealthy ways) because of poor parenting and poor education systems.

    It is not rocket science that a child left unsupervised with an unrestricted TV, Internet-enabled computer and PlayStation n in their bedroom is likely to spend an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen, and come into contact with less than suitable material for someone their age. The also-not-rocket-science solution to this problem is... not to give kids all the toys and the chance to use them unsupervised all the time.

    Likewise, it's easy to let the kids buy junk food on the way to and from school, and to eat school meals with poor nutritional value and drink soda, and then to throw a quick microwave meal or frozen pizza in for dinner. And then we wonder why more of our kids are seriously overweight and developing health problems than any time in recent history. The revolutionary solution to this is... giving kids real food and drink at meal times.

    Of course, it's much easier for parents to leave little Jonny and Suzy to play with their hi-tech toys and then cook them frozen pizza for dinner than it is to take an active part in their upbringing by, I dunno, talking to them, reading to them, having dinner with them, and taking them to see and do interetsing things. The work-life balance in many western countries is now so far left of stupid that many parents see the easy option as the only option, however.

    Similarly, one has to wonder at "education" systems that spend more time worrying about whether 7-year-olds can pass formal examinations than worrying about 7-year-olds learning to interact with other 7-year-olds, make friends, and play together. And yet, this is exactly where we're headed.

    Society needs a wake-up call, particularly if it thinks it's worked this one out. Hi-tech toys are just the symptom, not the cause of the problem.

    • When I visited Europe a few years ago I was struck by how many Europeans treated raising and parenting the younger generation as a group activity. I saw grown-up strangers correct the behavior of children in public places and the children respected this correction.

      This form of communal parenting is not even close to acceptable in the United States. For over two years I've been walking my dog, twice a day, in some fields next to my house. A neighbor of mine has sent her young grandchildren to play in t
  • Childhood's End (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brianerst (549609) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:39PM (#16089292) Homepage
    While Pullman certainly has a point (my own kids do most of their playing outside, and are only allowed to play XBox on the weekends), he's also fearing the loss of a relatively recent concept - extended childhood.

    Up until widespread schooling began in the 17th and 18th centuries, the modern concept of childhoood, as a time of play and learning lasting well into your teens, didn't really exist. "Real" childhood, that period where you are more of a burden than a help to your agrarian family, only lasted until you were old enough to start doing chores around the farm. By the time you were in your teens, you were probably starting to think about starting a family of your own.

    While there is some controversy about whether modern childhood was "invented" in the 18th century, it certainly changed quite a lot. The changing standard of childhood is a little better understood in Japan, where the concept of modern childhood was largely introduced by globalization in the 19th century [findarticles.com], and was thus studied a little more rigorously than in Europe and America, where it was a more organic process.

    What many of us now consider "childhood" (school and play, with hardly any work until late teens) is really a 20th century phenomenon - once the West de-ruralized and mechanized, the amount of work needed to be performed on a daily basis dwindled to the point where child labor, at home or away, wasn't really needed or desired. The Western 1950s-70s were the absolute high-water mark for a childhood of outdoor leisure - not surprisingly, exactly the time when Pullman (and I, and a large chunk of Slashdot) grew up.

    As with any nostalgia trip, Pullman (mis)remembers all the highlights of these times, but not the downsides like the often crushing boredom of having absolutely nothing to do on a rainy weekend (unless, like us, your were a geek and read a lot).

    Maybe playing Madden 2007 on a rainy day leads to less creative thought than reading "The Mad Scientists Club" for the fifth time, but I don't think Pullman convincingly makes that case.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by RogerWilco (99615)
      I was never ever bored as a child, I had paper and pencil, lego and an imagination. I would either draw of build.

      I still think those made me into the engineer I am today.
    • Re:Childhood's End (Score:4, Insightful)

      by atomic_toaster (840941) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:45PM (#16090484)
      I agree with brianerst that the modern concept of childhood, i.e. "a time of play and learning lasting well into your teens", is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is only in recent history that industrialization and advances in technology have made it unnecessary and undesired for children to work much the same way that adults do.

      But I would like to take it one step further and point out that it is also a relatively recent idea that children must be entertained at all times. In this day and age it seems that a child cannot make their own fun; rather, their entertainment must be provided by their parents (or other responsible adults). When did the threat of "go find something to do or I'll find something for you to do" lose its effectiveness?

      Also, I have learned that many parents use electronic entertainment (TV, video games, computers, etc.) as a way to not have to deal with the responsibilities inherent in raising children. It seems to me that too many adults aren't willing to have the kids "underfoot" while they are doing things like cleaning house, fixing the car, doing lawn work, etc. However, this attitude has gone on for long enough that there are teenagers (and even adults) these days who leave home and suddenly realize that they don't know how to run a washing machine (as an example).

      One of the best ways that children learn is to imitate their parents, and believe it or not children actually like spending time with their parents, just about no matter what their parents are doing. Even if a child is too young to actually help with what the parent is doing, they will be more than happy to play with related tools (e.g. if parent is cooking dinner, child plays with pots and wooden spoons). It may require a little more supervision and (possibly) a lot more noise than plunking your kids in front of the TV while you make dinner... But aren't kids supposed to be noisy and actually require effort to raise?

      (And no, I'm not saying that kids can't try a parent's patience and need to be distracted by something, anything quiet far away from where the parent is. I'm specifically talking about people who do this as a matter of course rather than as an exception.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Monkelectric (546685)
      There are some interesting theories about extended childhoods I've read as well. Namely, that young people now (myself included) aren't *EVER* reaching what we would traditionally think of as "adulthood."

      The author of the paper claimed that in the past, peoples thought processes and opinions and personalities would become fixed. The author went on to claim that as a byproduct of the rate of change of the world, this fixing process is not occuring in younger people.

  • by tezza (539307) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @12:41PM (#16089311)
    I work just near Tower Bridge in London. We get school groups of kids all the time. The German kids all dress like adults. The Japanese kids are all in cute little kids uniforms and sit outside the London Town Hall and paint the bridge in watercolours. The British kiddy winkles are just as varied: uniforms or no, cute or chavvy.

    So much variety. Encourage a rounded upbringing. And if technology leads to a narrowing of focus then that is bad. But tech can lead to a widening of focus, that is good.

    No easy path through these waters, GPS guidance installed or not.

  • by brundlefly (189430) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:25PM (#16089801)
    Like anything, it depends upon specifics....

    I got an Apple ][ back in 1978 when I was 10. It had only a couple of crappy text games on it, and I wished I had more. So I taught myself to program.

    Fast-forward 28 years, and I am still programming, making mid-six-figures in salary, and I never finished college.

    Would I take away my early exposure to computers? Um, hell no. Will I give my 3-year-old a computer when he is ten? That depends upon whether or not I can "restrict" his usage to "productive" tasks and harmless media. So, probably.

    But will I give him a Nintendo when he is ten? Absolutely not. My parents would never buy me an Atari console as a kid, making me save my lawn-mowing money up to buy one when I was sixteen. And you know what? By the time I bought that thing, I really didn't even play it that much because programming was so much more engrossing.

    And I still thank my parents for being so discerning between types of electronic media. It makes all the difference. There's a good chance that if they had bought me an Atari at age ten instead of an Apple ][, I'd probably be a college dropout working at Starbucks instead of a highly recruited UI engineer.

    So, like anything else, it depends. Bottom line: parents are around for a reason. Namely, to make the correct decisions involving the upbringing of their children. Sure it's easier to just buy them a console and plug them in for a few hours a day. But that's not what parenting is about at its core.
  • Not fast enough! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meburke (736645) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:38PM (#16089924)
    Children are the last minority. A child can be tried for murder as an adult at 12, but cannot get a job or a means of taking adult responsibility. In Houston, the schools are already starting to look like prisons; fences, guards, security systems, etc.. With curfew, they are under House Arrest from 10:00PM 'til 6:00AM, thus making their incarceration more complete.

    I lied about my age and joined the Army back in the '60's, and two months later had an Army GED. The State of Alaska granted me an actual Diploma when I turned 18. People used to laugh at people with GED's, but now you have to take a GED test before they will let you graduate (in Texas they call it TAKS), and it's not even as hard as the one I took back in the '60's! But if some kid showed up for his Freshman year of High School and passed the TAKS, do you think they'd let him graduate and get a job? NO! He still has to serve the rest of his sentence!

    Just wait. The population of the US is getting older. It won't be too long before they lower the age at which young people can go to work to support the old folks on Social Security.

    Check this out: http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/multimedia/jtgsound _paradox.htm [johntaylorgatto.com] The rest of the site is pretty interesting also.
  • by jvj24601 (178471) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @01:54PM (#16090069)
    My son:

    • Age: 11 (starting 6th grade)
    • Number of months in his life, total, with TV in the house: 24 (last two years)
    • Number of months in his life, total, with cable TV: 1 (I just got cable to watch CNN)
    • Number of videogame systems (PS, XBox, etc) in the house: 0
    • Number of computers in the house: 2
    • Average number of different sports teams he plays on in one year: 5
    • Average number of books checked out of the library at any given time: 3
    It's not that he's technologically deficient - he has his iPod and as well as a cell phone. He uses the computer to check his email, do homework, and play games on Miniclip.com. When homework is done, we're outside playing catch (football, baseball, etc), or talking a walk in the park with his mother, or snowball fights when it's cold.

    When it comes to his friends, I encourage them to do outside activities. Since my son gets bored with TV and video games, he's chosen his friends (obviously) who have similar interests.

    It's not that hard - all it takes is some focus from the parents. Of the time I spend away from my son, I spend >90% of it in front of a computer doing work or surfing the web. I'm much more nerdy that he is. When I was his ago, I had an Atari 2600, then later an Apple IIe, so I had my share of geek toys to play around with. But I also played outside, played with toys (Lego), played sports. My parents enforced some balance to my life, and I try to do the same for him.
  • by kakapo (88299) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:02PM (#16090141)
    I have two children, one 7 months old and one just starting kindergarten a month or so shy of his 5th birthday. Essentially the only broadcast TV Boy#1 sees is PBS cartoons (we have basic cable plus Netflix), and we often feel like granola eating luddites compared to a lot of our friends. He has seen mainstream cartoons and movies at friends' houses (and we have the usual Pixar crowd plus some movies, which he likes although he usually wants to fast forward the scary parts), along with Playstation and Nintendo, and so far he has accepted that other families do things differently from his own.

    He plays outside, paints, draws, runs, jumps, rides his bike, knows basic math (addition and subtraction with numbers less than 20 or so, and I am not sure how high he can count anymore). He knows his letters, and can recognize a bunch of words and is certainly "ready" to read, as the jargon has it. He loves to help me "build". He designed and I constructed a wooden garage for him out of off-cuts, and he got me to buzz round the edges of the roof with my router to give it a nice edge (he knew what the router was for, and could visualize the finished product), and I am trying to find tools he can safely use -- he constructs huge sculptures from offcuts and glue, which he calls "Star Wars things" and then spends several sessions painting them. He goes sledding, swims, jump off the diving board, eats all kinds of foods, and knows that any good breakfast wil have protein, carbs and some fruit.

    He also knows Spiderman's real name is Peter Parker, can identify Batman at about 100 yards (as well as Batcat and Batdog, minor deities he and his preschoolmates include in the pantheon on the same footing as Batman himself), and can hum a passable rendition of the Star Wars theme, despite never having been provided with this information by his parents. And he went off to his first day of school with a Superman backpack -- so far as I can see his room has only one other superman, but about four spidermen and a couple of batmen... He can operate a digital camera (he took a lovely shot of his Mum and Boy#2 the other day -- and she tells me that he carefully asked to her to move as he composed the shot on the screen), and work the DVD player.

    Bringing up kids is almost always about flexibility and compromise -- in the end, you have to live in your culture and times, even as you try to give your kids the tools they will need to navigate through the world. But a lot of what my son loves to do would not be a part of his life if he spent too much time in front of a screen -- and in the long run, it is much better to experience the natural world first hand than it is to watch it via some electronic simulacrum, as we learn through touch and smell, as well as just sight and sound.

    But what I have seen is this. Kids we know with similar backgrounds to us who watch a lot of TV or spend a lot of screen time, are almost always more "jumpy" than kids who don't -- and I am not implying that Boy#1 is any sort of angel (he threw a fit in the supermarket over the weekend that had people turning and staring from a couple of ailses away, and I explained to him that behaving badly wouldn't get him what he wanted -- namely some sugary cereal with a cartoon character on the box), and more likely to initiate violent play -- which my kid will cheefully join in with, at least until he gets hurt.

    And if you want to rail against the corruption of modern life, TV is not the only issue -- avoiding shitty convenience food is a huge part of raising happy and healthy kids. I never expected to be a nutrition nazi, but loading kids with sugar does terrible things to their attention span and plays havoc with their emotions as they come down from the rush...

    The other thing I have noticed recently is that Boy #1 is completely unable to make a distrinction between a nature program and a commercial (and he certainly does learn from some of the TV he watches) -- he happily told me that "Peanuts is the best video ever" parroting a trai

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