Kids & Tech: No One Right Answer

Readers — I like this piece by Janell Burrely Hofmann, mom of five, public speaker, and  author of iRules: What Every Tech Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. Most of all, I appreciate her reminding us that imperfect parenting used to be considered NORMAL. Now it is UNACCEPTABLE…even though perfect parenting doesn’t exist! No wonder parents feel bad all the time! While she’s writing about how parents deal with their kids’ use of technology, her point is valid in all realms of parenting: No one has all the answers. Luckily, no one NEEDS all the answers. – L.

Kids, Parents & Tech, by Janell Burely Hofmann

Recently I was giving a talk about living in balance with technology to a group of parents and educators. The auditorium was full of equally eager and exhausted faces. I welcomed them and assured the group that showing up for a talk on a Wednesday night in the middle of spring to talk about tech parenting clearly showed they were doing all right by their families already. I sensed their disbelief. In a culture where imperfect parenting is unacceptable instead of entirely normal, we question ourselves at every turn. In doing so, we stop listening – to ourselves, to what we know instinctively, to what feels right for our family.

Over the course of the evening, I encouraged conversations with our kids – assess them first, worry second. I preached that we each know our own families – our wants, needs, goals – and parent from there. I offered practical tools and strategies and stories of success and mistakes from my own life raising five children. I offered pieces of the cultural conversation, how the technology impacts the modern family and how we can navigate it without fear, but with engagement. I felt the resistance. A hand went up begging for statistics – proof for every topic. Another couldn’t stop worrying about online predators and privacy. A dad was furious that his son stared down at his phone during the entire family vacation. A mom overwhelmed that she couldn’t peel her daughter away from social networking sites without screaming and tears. Another mom, “By telling me I can do it, that it’s up to me to define what works for our family, you’re not making it any easier on me.” Indeed.

The truth is, that is the only solution. I do not have a recipe that can make any of us absolved from the labor and uncertainty of parenting. Think of the best parent you know – your own or otherwise – ask them if it was easy. Some pieces might have been comfortable or natural or in their favor, but I doubt they knew exactly when a curveball would be thrown and how to prepare for it. I doubt they knew just what to worry about and what to let go. I doubt they went with confidence through every decision never holding their breath. Instead, I imagine all of our collective parenting greats have found themselves undoubtedly unsure, but have rallied to rely on their own definition of boundaries, consequences, truth. Want a behavior to change? Want more or less of something? Need to change your mind or revaluate? Need support or a conversation? Go on and get it! This is the beautiful and sacred piece of parenting – we get to decide what works for us. And what works can shift and evolve or not. When we commit to lead our families – even with the acceptance of imperfection – we already know the way.  J.B.H.

How can I make sure my child isn't using this the wrong way?

How can I make sure my child isn’t using this the wrong way?

 

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36 Responses to Kids & Tech: No One Right Answer

  1. Stacey April 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Coincides nicely with this week’s post: http://www.lethereatdirt.com/i-am-the-standard/

  2. Emily April 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    I spent much of my day in our local autism center as they evaluated my son today. Every single kid walked in with an electronic device. I didn’t judge since my kid was one of them. There’s not a formula and there shouldn’t be. My son doesn’t have a visible disability and we don’t even know what he has, how many things he has and how they’ll effect our family in the long run.

    We’re pretty free range, even with this little guy, but what it comes down to is that we have to juggle 120 combined hours of parents working each week, homework, extra work and interests (will work for Titanic books), and family and marital life. Our life looks totally different than anyone else here. Everyone does. I feel very resentful if I’m expected to fit into a box because no one in my house ever does. I don’t want anyone to fit in our box either.

  3. Havva April 29, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    It still looks strange to me seeing little kids with ipads and iphones and what not…even thought my daughter plays with one from time to time.

    Balance matters and no one can see that from a few minutes of observation. Often observers can’t see what they are doing with it.

    I had a memorable incident a few months back at the hardware store. The 2 year old was being very cooperative and following dad while having a rare and brief session with the defunct iphone. And I fell back to look at the new LED bulbs. Two random women started up a conversation pointing to my daughter as an exemplar of everything wrong with kids these days. Over the weekend I went to clear out her finger over lens photos and found only bad shot and a surprising number of decent shots from that trip. I have to wonder what the women criticizing her/us would have thought if she was pointing and shooting with a traditional camera or playing with a calculator?

  4. E April 29, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

    I’m not sure I’m getting the intended takeaway on this one (and I’ve read it twice). Can parents be perfect? Of course not.

    What this has to do with effective ways to deal with technology, I’m not sure.

    I do think that technology has changed the way kids interact with each other to a great extent. Their social circles and influence are much larger than that of our generation (or our parents). In my youth, kids had 3 means of communication, handwritten, face to face, and by telephone (that anyone could pick up). Now there’s dozens of ways.

    I guess I should read her book (maybe that’s the point) if I were interested in a little more than ‘try your best’. I think it’s a legit concern about what your kid was exposed to via social media…I think it desensitizes them to what might be risky or dangerous behavior. I didn’t get exposed to that as a kid because I didn’t hang with those kind of kids. Social circles (media wise) are huge.

    I continually say that I’m glad I didn’t have it when I was a teen. It was nice to come home and just eat dinner and do homework and maybe have a phone chat with a friend. I might giggle and wonder if a boy liked me, but I imagine it’s completely different when you can look at his FB or twitter page and see who he’s paying attention to. I look back and am thankful for that built in compartmentalization.

  5. Donna April 29, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    E –

    I think the take away is that there is no magic bullet for parenting. You get to define what your life looks like and it doesn’t have to meet anyone else’s ideal. And it is sometimes hard to figure it all out and you will make mistakes along the way.

    I could be wrong, but as I read it, the author gave a talk about strategies strategies for managing children’s tech use. The article is about her thoughts concerning the conversations with the parents during the talk. She is not saying that the parents were not bringing up real issues facing parents today, but that they somehow expected her to have a magic 3-step program to perfect tech parenting that they could follow and end up raising perfect adults and they seemed upset when she gave them the strategies but didn’t specifically define perfection and how to get there and instead told them that they each have to define their acceptable tech life for themselves and work out the path to get there.

  6. BL April 29, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    What saddens me is all these kids using these digital devices as little more than toys and knowing nothing about what goes on inside. I’ve suspected this for years and saw this confirmation a few weeks ago on another blog, from a professor who has taught programming since the 1990s:

    “Most [of my students in the 1990s] were computer hobbyists, who had built their own computer from Radio Shack bits, had written spaghetti-like Basic, and had set up their own websites with very primitive tools. We used to grouse about the fact that we had to undo lots of bad habits, but we never had to teach them sequential flow! Today’s students are a far cry – most have no idea what happens in a computer, can’t navigate the file system (and are unaware for the most part that there IS a file system) and are terrified of the computer. They are as far from ‘digital native’ as they could be, despite the hours they spend gaming, surfing Facebook, and futzing with their phones.”

    As someone who did this at a college level in the 1980s, I’m shocked by the existence of students who are terrified of computers and who can’t grasp the concept of sequential flow. I don’t remember anybody like that back then, at least not anyone who would dream of taking a programming class.

  7. lollipoplover April 29, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    “A dad was furious that his son stared down at his phone during the entire family vacation. A mom overwhelmed that she couldn’t peel her daughter away from social networking sites without screaming and tears.”

    This has less to do with technology and more of a parent’s inability to say “No” to their child and set limits on use of gadgets. It could be the ipad, ipod, or the Xbox. Figure out what works for your family and set limits. We have one laptop for 3 kids to share. Homework takes priority (why do they need to do powerpoints in 2nd grade?!) but after that they each work out who gets to use it. If they fight over it, I take it away. Problem solved.

  8. anonymous this time April 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    I think we’re all going crazy because we are all trying to reinvent the wheel, in our own little box, while watching images of perfect families on TV.

    We. Weren’t. Designed. For. This.

    Lenore, I’m reading that book, finally, “Free to Learn,” and the whole description of “primitive” human families / tribes just has me shaking my head and thinking, “These folks have no parenting conundrums. At all. Why have we made ourselves so insane this way? Why the hell did we have to start cultivating grains? We ruined everything.”

    So for me, it’s not about tech per se, it’s not about “what works for your family”… Holy crap, I don’t think any of this sh*t is really, truly working for anyone’s family. Look at the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in young people. Look at the desperations parents feel. We can’t “parent” our way out of this mess, living isolated lives in this “traditional single family” way… because it’s NOT traditional! It’s NOT what we are designed for! This whole setup sucks.

    Sorry, but tech is just one more wart on the backside of a huge monster to me.

  9. Jenny Islander April 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm #

    The sweetest piece of advice I ever received about dealing with tweens: “I know that the Smiths do such and such at their house, but this is our house. Every house has its house rules, and in our house the rule is thus and so.”

    Setting boundaries for technology requires looking at the individual child, not a checklist of The One Way That Studies Show. (There isn’t one anyway.) One child can handle having her own phone and another one will stay up until stupid o’clock every night for a week in order to chitchat with her friends about, basically, nothing, unless her phone is locked in her parents’ fire safe. (True story.) Paying attention to each child, how they react and choose to act-that’s key.

    And being able to talk to your child, and listen to your child–that’s the foundation of it all. I think that raising a child with constant dithering over how everything and everyone is dangerous and only Mom & Dad’s magic checklist will keep her safe is just as likely to produce a kid who won’t talk as, oh, calling every ignorant mistake she makes a sin and punishing her for it. In either case the conversation becomes about the ideal in the parents’ heads and how reality just isn’t getting with the program, instead of about what is actually happening.

  10. Cassie April 30, 2014 at 12:30 am #

    I am also confused about this article.

    It seems to be saying that it is okay for kids to use gadgets and that we shouldn’t be worrying?

    I am sorry but a kid playing for 5 hours on a playstation or an iPhone is very different to a kid spending 5 hours reading or playing outside.

  11. Andy April 30, 2014 at 4:22 am #

    @BL I suspect that the main difference is that only computer hobbyists went to study programming in 1990. Most kids in 1990 were no computer wizards, they knew very little about computers, but they also never signed up to programming course. It is hotter these days, so an average kid is more likely to trying to going to study it in college. Consequently, the professor or someone like you or me is more likely to meet them.

    We had few weeks of programming in high school for everybody and I can tell you most of my peers were no geniuses.

    There is another layer to this. Judging from few tech related criminal investigations that made it to news, current adults have a tendency to treat tech as some kind of super dangerous wizardry. Anything related to computers seem to have ridiculous sentences and standards slapped into it. Quoting one US attorney: “I’m flabbergasted that this could be called anything other than a hack. He had to download the entire iOS system on his computer. He had to decrypt it. He had to do all sorts of things—I don’t even understand what they are”. Oh, you do not understand what he did, therefore it is a crime?

    If this is the standard for prosecution, then I’m not sure it is even a good idea to teach kids what goes inside. Anything beyond the most ordinary use seem to put you at risk of being prosecuted if you cross someone powerful.

  12. BL April 30, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    @Andy
    “I suspect that the main difference is that only computer hobbyists went to study programming in 1990. Most kids in 1990 were no computer wizards, they knew very little about computers, but they also never signed up to programming course. It is hotter these days”

    I assure you it was “hot” in the 1980s-90s. I was there. Enrollments tanked around 2000-2008 but have been going up again.

    The point is that calling everyone who (over-)uses digital devices “tech-savvy” is absurd. It’s like calling anyone who shops at a supermarket “ag savvy” as if they must know quite a lot about farming. Heck, I even buy at farmer’s markets and wouldn’t presume to call myself knowledgeable about agriculture.

  13. MichaelF April 30, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Parenting by metrics is a zero sum game, if you look for the stats in everything you are already lost.

  14. J- April 30, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    My mother tells me all the time that there were things she did as a parent that she regrets. Things that, if she could do it all over again, she would do differently. I know 30 years from now, I am going to be saying the same damn thing. At the same time, I have a lot of my mother in me. I feel it seeping out of the deep recesses of my soul to occasionally come out of my mouth without thinking. I know I am going to screw up with my kids in many of the same ways she screwed up with me.

    I can tell you right now, firm, that videogames will be VERBODEN to kids during the school week and during weekend daylight hours. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, that’s unrealistic. I was born in 1983 and two years later Nintendo hit the market. Guess what, video games were VERBODEN in my house. I didn’t get my first console until I was a senior in college. The only games allowed on the family computer were Oregon Trail, Yukon Trail, Number Munchers, and the Carmen Sandiego series.

    TV was not watched on school nights, with the exception of NOVA and Star Gazer. Saturday morning cartoons were strictly prohibited. Saturday morning were spent being schlepped to one personal improvement program or another. My mother had a thing for sailing, I still love sailing, but I was hauled off the to the local yacht club for junior regatta lessons. Going round and round three buoys in a harbor while a coach yells at you from a dock with a bullhorn is the fastest way imaginable to take the fun out of sailing.

    There was also boy scouts, I love boys scouts. Our troop was rather free range, and after merit badge instruction was done for the day, we were left to run off into the Everglades with a knife, and axe, and a box of matches and left to survive until next morning. Thinking about it now, I’m surprised I’m not dead.

    My children, like me, will have no idea what the lyrics are to pop music. When they hear a Michael Jackson or Nirvana song what will think of is the Weird Al version. All that was played in the car when I was growing up was Weird Al, Classical music, stories/books on tape, and Boomerang (http://www.boomkids.com/). I will probably add some Gilbert and Sullivan and Sweeny Todd show tunes.

    THEY WILL SCRUB FLOORS, WINDOWNS, TOILETS, AND DOGS. THEY WILL KNOW TO PICK UP COUCHES TO VACUUM UNDER THEM. THEY WILL DO THIER OWN LAUNDRY AND IRONING ONCE THEY REACH AN AGE OLD ENOUGH TO NOT BURN THEMSELVES WITH AN IRON.

    If I have done everything “right” my children will resent me from ages 16-30. Then when they have they have their own children, they will come to me and say “I see what you did there, it all makes sense now” and I will smile, knowing, that I said the same exact thing to my parents.

  15. Reziac April 30, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    Someone says, “Look at the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in young people.”

    And look at the big common factor across youth suicides: TOO MUCH PRESSURE. Pressure to perform, to be perfect, to never make a mistake, to always ‘feel loved’, on and on and on. The more ‘perfect’ (“safe” and “scheduled”) you make your kids’ lives, the more pressure they’re under. Back off, stop putting artificial pressures on top of the pressures kids already feel just from being kids.

  16. Warren April 30, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Maybe because tech is constantly changing, and evolving with things that a lot of parents just have no experience with, that they are paranoid about it.

    Parenting has not changed, because of tech. You teach them, you give them the life tools, and then trust them to use them. It really is that simple.

    Sure they will make mistakes, just like in all areas of life. Just be their to help them learn from their mistakes.

  17. lollipoplover April 30, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    This made me laugh so hard because my son was born in 2001. I remember the drama of Y2K and the *dangers* of technology. The world won’t come to an end either if your teenager overshares on Instagram and Twitter.

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/extremely-upsetting-facts-about-the-class-of-2018

  18. Jessica April 30, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    One of my favorite quotes from my dad was “All you can do is raise your kids the best way you know how, and hope you have enough money saved for therapy when they’re older.” Like someone else said, we’ll always wonder if we could have done it better, but no one is perfect, and we shouldn’t act like we are with our kids (otherwise, how will they learn it’s ok to fail?). I probably give my kids too much screen time, but I really don’t care. They’re happy, they don’t break down when we take it away (unless they’re really tired), and even though my four-year-old will constantly ask if he can use my phone, the tablet, or play the “penguin game” (tux paint), if I say no, he doesn’t throw a fit. So yeah, there’s a balance, but it’s up to each parent to determine that balance.

  19. anonymous mom April 30, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    I think one issue with technology is that a lot of modern technology is designed to be incredibly addictive and instantly gratifying. To some extent, it is harder to say no to kids when they are asking for video games because they simply ask harder. And, every family I know–from those with very lax screen time limits to those with extremely strict limits–deals with this. Their kids, as soon as they play their first tablet or phone game, just wants to play it ALL THE TIME. It requires near-constant vigilance to enforce screen time limits. The only even close parallel I’ve found is trying to put limits on the Easter candy the kids can eat the week after Easter. It’s hard. It’s harder, I think, than anything my parents’ generation had to put limits on.

    That said, I think it’s important to find the balance between appropriate parentally-imposed limits and allowing children the freedom to set their own boundaries and limits. Because, learning to control their time on the screen is going to be a HUGE thing for them when they grow up. It’s a challenge for me at times, and for many adults I know. I don’t think that kids will really develop the skill to self-regulate screen time if they are never allowed the freedom to do so.

    I certainly don’t have this down, and especially when we have month after month of awful weather, like we did this winter, I allow my children more screen time than I’d like. But, I do try to balance limits and freedom. I’m a big fan of Ellyn Satter’s eating philosophy, part of which involves sometimes giving kids snacks where the parent controls the portions (everybody gets two cookies) but at other times giving kids snacks where they control the portions (you just bring out a big plate of cookies and everybody can choose how much to eat). It gives kids some sense of control, and the freedom to learn how many cookies they want (and, at times, to learn what happens when you eat too many cookies, so that they will have a basis for making better choices in the future). I try to do the same with screen time. We have times–like most weekdays–where there are screen time limits (my oldest gets one hour after dinner, the little two can get up to 30 minutes if they want it), and other times–like weekend afternoons with nothing planned, or some vacation days–where my oldest in particular has no limits on screen time. Within reason (like, if my husband or I needs to work on the computer, he needs to get off Minecraft for a while), he can play as much and as long as he likes. Sometimes he will play for hours on end, at other times he chooses to do something else.

    Anyway, I don’t think there are any easy answers. I do think we need to realize that screens are here to stay, and that part of parenting now is not just figuring out restrictions and limits, but also helping kids to learn how to navigate these technologies, and the other ones that will develop, on their own, so that as adults they can make wise choices that will allow technology to enrich their life rather than consume it.

  20. Really Bad Mum April 30, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

    When everyone in the family stopped talking to each other and spent hours on electronic crap, I had everything disconnected and bought prepaid SIM cards, prepaid broadband and no foxtel. Since it was all in my name I can do what I want, so many parents I have told say ” my kids wouldn’t let me do that” WTF? Ummmm, since when did parents become sub servant to children?

  21. Rachel April 30, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    When people tell me that parenting kids today is harder because of the Internet, cell phones, and the fact that there is always something entertaining on TV or on the Internet, I often feel myself agreeing. I find it a challenge to know what the right thing is to do, with little help from looking at the way I was raised by my parents, since these tools did not exist when I was a kid.

    Then I remind myself that each major change in society has brought on panic and alarm from the older generations. When books were first widely printed, and kids read novels, their parents thought they were spending their time idly reading–doing nothing productive. they would rather have seen their children harvesting the crops rather than reading a book. Then came the radio and TV. I’m in the TV generation, where parents worried about us turning into zombies as we starred at the screens.

    Maybe we need to relax about the challenges technology brings. With every change in technology we give up something and we gain something else.

  22. E April 30, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    @Rachel — I agree with you to an extent….

    I don’t have the sympathy with parents complaining how much time they are spending doing X….it’s completely up to them. It could be “no tv on school night”, “phone in this basket on the counter at X:00” or whatever other things you do to manage your kids. We put game consoles in the attic once school started.

    My issue with today’s technology is that it has shifted how teens/preteens (whoever has a cell phone) interact with each other. I suppose the telephone did that too, but again, it was 1 system that was obvious when in use.

    It’s gotten to the point (with smart phones) that there is literally no way to “monitor” your kids. It doesn’t matter if you put a PC in your kitchen or family room, they fit in their pockets. I realize that the temptations/risks that kids take hasn’t changed much (promiscuity/alcohol/drugs), but you can sit in your bedroom (or on the toilet) and see/read what kids are doing….they tweet/snapchat photos of passed out “friends”…their drugs… whatever. And these kids don’t have to be in the primary circle of friends of our kids…they have 100s of “friends” and wouldn’t be caught dead “unfriending” or “unfollowing” someone. I think it IS a challenge for parents to adapt to that kind of bombarding of information.

    You can tell your kids that self-esteem shouldn’t come from likes or tweets or whatever, but that’s easier said than done. You can tell your kids that drugs are risky, but if they see kids doing it with no issues or consequences…it’s different.

    My kids didn’t really deal with this as they graduated from HS when twitter/snapchat became popular…they had FB, but didn’t have smart phones for most of that time. It’s just something that I wonder about. How VERY different my teen/young adult life experience is from today.

    I deleted my FB account because it wasted time and left me frustrated at times (political posts, perfect kids posts, etc) and I didn’t like how I allowed it impact my mood. I don’t think kids walk away like that.

  23. Sia April 30, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Of course, you can’t MAKE your child use anything the correct way. The solution isn’t to ban everything. The solution is education. Yes, they’ll still mess up. They’re humans, after all. Taking allowance as an example: They’ll make finanical mistakes – sooner or later, your kids will blow it. The question is whether you want your child to make the mistake with 6 pennies/cents, 6 pounds/dollars, 60 pounds/dollars or… do you want them to mess up with allowance, salary or inheritance?

  24. Jenny Islander April 30, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Re teens oversharing online: Children’s minds didn’t change that fundamentally when it became easy to snap an embarrassing picture of oneself and let the entire world see it five minutes later. They still have to learn the old fundamental lesson: who is a friend and who is not. That is what parents need to talk about. Yes, it’s a bit more difficult now that “friend” means “some random person I don’t even really know who can read my diary and pass it around,” but it’s still a very important conversation.

    Kids think that anybody who looks good must be good. They think that anybody who says nice things must be nice. They think that smiles are always an invitation to the kind of fun that is fun for all parties involved. They need to learn the truth while they can still be protected from the ever-more-disastrous consequences of naive trust. So, first have the talk about friends vs. “friends,” and then let them be free range online.

  25. Andy May 1, 2014 at 2:54 am #

    I think that adults are part of the problem. Computers are tools that can be used to do whole range of things, but we adults treat computers as toys-only all too often. Adults start with assumption that wherever is done on computer is only playing and do not even try to use their more useful/creative functions.

    As someone wrote, if you restrict kids access to computer, then they will use phones and tablet. The difference between those is that while computers are pretty good at content creation, phones are are exclusively for consumption. I would prefer my kid to use computer so I can show him how to create once in while.

    These debates are always skip step where adults teach kids how to use computers effectively: writing, reading, programming, drawing, making videos or comics – creating things.

    As for playing game too much, it is true that games are designed to be addictive. However, they also cost money and you do not have to pay.

    Especially those that requires you to buy things to proceed. Teach kids to be on the lookout for psychological tricks and do not give them unlimited source of money. Some of those games seemed to cross ethical line (or are extremely close).

    The task is effectively the same as teaching kids to be aware of conman on regular market in the past.

  26. BL May 1, 2014 at 7:55 am #

    @Andy
    “Computers are tools that can be used to do whole range of things, but we adults treat computers as toys-only all too often.”

    Well, yeah.

    Even if my earlier suggestion on learning to program computers, or at least understand their innards, doesn’t appeal, there’s so much to be had on the internet.

    The phrase in this blog post, “we starve amidst a banquet”, has been haunting my mind for several years. All the literature on Project Gutenberg or archive.org, all the serious lessons in language or music or mathematics (etc. etc.) you can find on youtube. From beginners to advanced, on any subject you can think of.

    And all that 99% of people do is send “LOL BFF” messages on Twitter or Instagram.

    “We starve amidst a banquet”:

    http://karls.blogspot.com/2009/11/it-is-best-of-times-it-is-worst-of.html

  27. Andy May 1, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    @BL Exactly. Adults are key there. A young kid/teenager will not find good book on Gutenberg. That would be naive. He has no idea which one is good and which is too difficult or boring. Well read adult or teacher should be able to show him one that the kid might like.

    Except that is not going to happen if adults treat anything with screen as a toy or sin.

    Internet actually have plenty of good supportive communities. There are sites where you can show off your art, music or mini-movie and the discussion is polite, civil and pleasant. The same for pretty much anything a kid might be interested in. We should focus more on diverting kids towards those and less on fear based absolute bans.

  28. Sia May 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

    ” Should be outlawed. Allows criminal gangs to conspire and plan crimes without having to meet in person, from the privacy of their own homes.”

    Sound familiar? It shouldn’t. That’s the general reaction from the law-enforcement of the times when the telephone was invented. Plus, you should see what Socrates thought about writing, some time.

    Panic-hens/panic-roosters have always been the same.

  29. BL May 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    ” A young kid/teenager will not find good book on Gutenberg.”

    Why not? Not by just randomly picking, of course, but there are books reviews on Amazon, or goodreads, and other places.

    And they should be looking for something “too difficult”, at least on first reading. That’s how you stretch your mind. I think it was Mortimer Adler who said if you understand a whole book on first reading you’ve wasted your time.

  30. Emily May 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    I think a big part of the problem is that a lot of parents prevent their kids from having age-appropriate freedoms in the real, physical world, so they can’t go out and meet their friends in person, and so, they get around it by “meeting” with their friends virtually over the Internet. I think that, if young people had more freedom to roam, they’d spend less time online. Maybe this isn’t so much the case now, with the advent of smartphones, but it’s still healthier for a kid to be out with friends and doing something real and taking pictures of it on a smartphone, than sitting “safely” inside and playing Candy Crush Saga or talking on Skype for hours on end.

  31. Emily May 1, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    @Andy–Phones and tablets aren’t entirely for consumption–I use my smartphone to take pictures and videos fairly often. I have a vlog that I do called the Peaceful People Project, and since I don’t have a proper video camera; just a laptop webcam, a still camera, and a smartphone that can take (pretty good) photo and video footage, I’ll use my phone to film “on location” when I go to events. For example, I used my phone to film and photograph parts of my city’s International Women’s Day celebration, and then I took all of that footage home, and put it together on my computer. First, I talked about what I did that day, and what International Women’s Day was about (using the laptop webcam), and then I created a montage of footage of the day–photos of the rally at City Hall, and of myself next to one of my paintings that was being exhibited in the “artwork by local women” exhibit at a small gallery I belong to, video footage of the Raging Grannies’ vocal performances, and more video footage of a belly dance group. So, basically, I used my phone to document the day, and raise awareness about International Women’s Day, and about gender equality in general. So, while I do use my phone for things like Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and other activities that kill time and brain cells, I also use it for positive things. I’m not a teenager (actually, I’m 29), but a lot of teenagers do the same thing–they use the cameras on their phones to create videos, the same way that I do.

  32. Andy May 2, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    “Why not? Not by just randomly picking, of course, but there are books reviews on Amazon, or goodreads, and other places.”

    You have to be very determined that you want to read to go through that search. High rated book does not automatically mean that you will like it too, so inexperienced readers have it much harder. Finding good books is million times easier if you already know a lot of books and can use “readers of this liked that” feature. Signal to noise ratio is not that great.

    “And they should be looking for something “too difficult”, at least on first reading. That’s how you stretch your mind. I think it was Mortimer Adler who said if you understand a whole book on first reading you’ve wasted your time.”

    There is pleasure reading and there is learning. If you insist on the second with every book, you may easily kill the first one. No matter how much the book could theoretically teach, the kid will learn zero if he gives up on that after two pages.

    When I am looking for books for my kids, I look for the ones the will enjoy. My point was about showing kids you can do better interesting things on the computer, not about turning their free time into another school like lesson.

    Plus, if it pleasantly stretch your mind then it is not too difficult. Too difficult means that book uses hard to understand overly long sentences or is boring enough to make you sleep or assume prior history knowledge the kid does not have. It may be an old text dealing with now obscure political problem of long forgotten monarchy.

    One French writer wrote whole book without letter e. It is masterpiece in language handling, but it is also something most kids will never finish – and there is no point in making them so.

    Some of the books on Gutteberg were forgotten for good reasons – there is not that much value in them for most people.

  33. Papilio May 2, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    “if you understand a whole book on first reading you’ve wasted your time”

    I’d say that depends on what you have to learn. If you’re reading to gain new insights or perspectives on something, then maybe. But IMO it’s perfectly okay to understand the whole book if by simply reading it and seeing words used in the correct context you also learn the difference between for example ‘then’ and ‘than’, or ‘loose’ and ‘lose’ 🙂

  34. JP Merzetti May 3, 2014 at 11:35 am #

    Well, we have to admit that we’re in a bit of thrall to technological distractions. And that spans all ages.
    I’ve noticed for a long time now, how gadgets allow kids to escape (virtually) without allowing them to escape – literally.
    I escaped all the time…in the 3D world, until I left home.
    (from what?) Whatever it was that gave me the urge to be outdoors and away from meddling adults!

    But technology itself? There has always been lots of technological distractions available to kids. (well, since the dawn of the industrial age.)
    Depends on what it’s for, what it does…

    I think it’s a sad thing that so much of the social mystery of life is removed by ubiquitous personal online connection, and its invasive quality.
    A kid can have a thousand “social” contacts in a week – and very few of them as meaningful as real life, face to face.
    It’s a great way to avoid that, actually.

    I’ve also noticed that many young people don’t even think of a cell phone as a “phone” anymore. They don’t actually talk on it. (as if……talking is just too up-close, personal, intimate.)

    But how do kids learn interpersonal skills at a time of life when all this is supposed to develope?
    Are those gadgets really the slaves to our masterful selves, or is it the other way around?
    I absolutely adore ignoring the irritating command of a communication device, when the timing is lousy, or I’m not in the mood.

    And one thing’s for sure: when eyes and/or ears are glued to tiny screens or speakers – those two sensory bits of human equipment miss an awful lot of what is going on around them in the real world. To know and understand the difference between real and broadcasted…is a fundamental part of how a human learns about the world, in real time and place.

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