Friday, February 14, 2020

Digital Slugs

     I found this at Brock Townsend’s place:

     There’s a “pincer movement” involved here. Worse, really: a pincer movement normally has only two active elements. This problem has more than that.

     First, parents are more burdened than ever before, especially by our economic situations. Consequently, they’re less involved with their kids than ever before. The “glass teat,” whether it’s a TV, a tablet, a game console, or a phone, is a burden reducer for the parents. They lack sufficient incentives to change the pattern.

     Second, the makers of digital diversions are very, very good at making them psychologically addictive. Kids are easy to hook, especially kids who are already disinclined to exercise or are averse to the outdoors. Their preferences tend to strengthen with the repetition of their chosen behavior.

     Third, the world beyond the front door, whether or not it’s actually getting more dangerous, is being billed as more dangerous than ever, especially for children. That’s another disincentive to shoving Junior outside and requiring him to find something to do.

     Fourth, many of the pastimes kids of previous generations adopted were ones they acquired from their parents. Today’s typical parent probably doesn’t have any pastimes he could share with a pre-teen. Very few maintain gardens, or build treehouses, or go walking regularly, even in districts where there are inducements to such things. In part that’s because of Item #1 above – contemporary American parents lack time and energy owing to their economic burdens – but in part it’s because the many habit-forming digital diversions that surround us have affected us too. I know a considerable number of people whose smartphones are never out of their hands. In fact, I’m married to one.

     Fifth – and this one may strike you as paradoxical – there’s been a sharp decline in the activity from which kids and their parents once acquired their interest in new activities and pastimes: reading. Reading has been called “the key to power,” and it is exactly that. It opens the world to you, to a far greater extent than watching TV or YouTube videos. So while reading is a quiet, non-physical “indoor” activity, it’s a spur to the inquisitive mind that prompts such a mind to investigate new activities...and what’s more inquisitive than the mind of a pre-teen?

     I could go on. For example, I haven’t said anything about the role of the schools in this, and they do have one. But the above five elements strike me as the most important ones. Moreover, they’re coupled in a fashion that makes them mutually supporting. It’s possible that they must be solved concurrently or not at all. Think about it.

     All that having been said, we must start somewhere, and my preference is here:

If you have young children, don’t give them smartphones.

     That’s where the addiction most commonly originates. The smartphone, with its embedded access to diabolical contrivances such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a plethora of games, is probably the worst thing a parent could inflict upon a defenseless child. The cost ain’t trivial, either.

     Take it seriously, Gentle Reader. Think about it. There will be consequences either way – and some of them could be for you. Would you want a noodle-muscled slug, a useless lump of flesh who probably can’t even think of changing a flat tire without giving in to the shivers, to be responsible for your care when you’re an aged invalid? Wouldn’t you prefer to have a moderately competent, strong, and resilient son or daughter to haul you around, change your nappies, and keep you company when you need to vent about “the old days?” Or would you rather be a pig in a nursing home, surrounded exclusively by indifferent orderlies who walk right past you, and other octogenarians, none of whom will stop talking and listen to you for just one minute?

     Verbum sat sapienti.



Amen. I fight that with my kids; my wife hands them tablets, or phones, or whatever as a way to babysit them (while she herself watches the phone too).

The one good thing: our kids have gone to a Montessori school system which is very good, and my wife has had them in sports very aggressively. The older one has six-pack abs for crying out loud.

This fall we gathered 10 pounds of acorns and I need to design a mass-crusher. We've gone on foraging trips and this spring we'll make dandelion blossom bread, and I'll let the kids try (don't expect them to like it) wilted dandelion greens. And so on.

I scream about LIMITS on the phone, and they're getting better. But yes, these things are deliberately designed to be addictive.

Brian E. said...

I watched the video, and I take our gracious host’s admonition to think about the long(-ish) range consequences of continuing the current trend away from non-technologically based pastimes and the decline in reading for enjoyment, and I find myself thinking: can’t anyone else see that eventually, this is how something much like “The Matrix” could come to be? And this isn’t being thrust upon us by ‘the machines’, or AI (at least, not yet) - but rather by our own hand.

There are none so hopelessly enslaved as those who enslaved themselves.

Think about it - where else could this end when we have nearly an entire generation (and then some) begging for their shackles?

Linda Fox said...

Probably the best thing I ever did was to get off FB last year. I do occasionally post on Twitter, Gab, or other social media, but that's just used to promote blog posts or other writing.


We have a (mostly) enforced limit of 2 hours a day. And I grumble that it's that much.

This morning the kids were enjoying working on a kids puzzle; my wife said I should buy some more... even as, last night, I was thinking "I should get some more puzzles"! (Married 13 years.)

We kick them outside. This spring / summer - as I wrote above - we're going to go foraging and I'm looking for a hard-core survival school to take them to for a week. This fall: gathering cattail tubers and cooking them as a "proof of concept" thing. Also, maybe, make a minnow trap from a plastic bottle. Catch and release, but again, show them the concept and that it works. And today, driving them to school, discussed orienteering.

Drake said...

That video tells all.

I recall a story a couple years back, somewhere out east. Maybe NYC. Group of Boy Scouts or some youth group went upstate on a camping trip for a weekend. The writer noted that, until that trip, none of the kids had ever seen stars in the sky because of all the city lighting.

Linda Fox said...

In terms of schools, it depends. In social studies, students can interact with children and adults at a great distance. They can learn GIS and mapping via the many apps. Not just "turn left for 1.4 miles", but learning how to navigate, whether online, or by GPS units and orienteering.

In science, technology is a game changer. I can quickly set up a lab, even in the field. The students can collect data on:
- temperature
- gas pressure
- turbidity of a nearby stream or pond
- soil analysis
- velocity of a projectile
- acidity

In one science class, I was able to set up equipment so that a legally blind student could fully participate in a chemistry lab, including being able to use video playback to enhance his ability to see what had gone on. I could post the lab instructions in a re-sizable font, and he could take control. The equipment allowed realtime data collection, and could be repeated, if necessary.

We used video analysis of physics experiments, and were able to generate meaningful graphs of the motion. We could collect data on even small changes in voltage, charge, and luminosity. Students could make connections between the pitch of a sound, and the frequency and wavelength.

The skills learned were translated into marketable skills.

So, yeah, sometimes, the technology is just a high tech form of filmstrip/video, but, in the hands of a teacher who knows how to use it, the tech can be very powerful. Even the immediacy of ability to quiz/test, and generate multiple versions, is a time-saver that many teachers appreciate.

evilfranklin said...

Linda Fox
I would counter that all of what was accomplished could have been better learned through the use of trial and error and no technology. Just as learning 1+1=2 is better learned without a calculator.