The Great Gizmo Dilemma
The NYT runs a fascinating article by a parent of a 6-year old who can’t stop using the iPad. Addiction, they call it. The kid loves the machine. He can hardly get dressed in the morning because he can’t tear himself away. He is all about it, before and after dinner and sometimes he drags it out during dinner. He is happy using it and unhappy otherwise. It is his constant companion.
Is this a terrible problem? Well, on the face of it, it would seem so. But consider. He is using apps that are highly intelligent, interactive, and incredibly stimulating. One allows him to make his own cartoons from beginning to end. Another is a traffic game that allows for strategic puzzle solving. Another trains in music, permitting him to assemble rhythms and make music, effectively composing music. This is for the preschool age.
I can promise you that no such programs were available when I was six, and if they had been, this would have been a fabulous thing. The elites thought that Sesame Street was the great thing when I was young. Now that something infinitely better has come alone, the elites tell us that this is the end of the world.
And it’s not just the elites. Middle-class parents are not celebrating these astounding tools. They fret. They worry. They complain about addiction. We worry that a whole generation is being wrecked because kids aren’t outside bird-watching or building mud pies or cutting out paper dolls.
Why? Why do we worry? Do we have some sense that the screen might be implanting some kind of evil into their tiny heads? Are we even aware of the extent to world that reality itself has engaged in the world’s biggest migration from the limits of the physical world to the infinite possibilities of digital world?
Some famed studies say that there is an inverse relationship between internet time and serious learning in the early years. There is probably some truth in that. But how the mix turns out, what programs and functions and activities help as opposed to hurt learning, whether and to what extent a child should be permitted to avail himself or herself of these new tools, my guess is that everyone is guessing at this point. There are no experts who know for sure.
This is the great dilemma faced by every parent today. My own view: in a world of dramatically changing technology – all of which is constructed in the service of humanity and in the cause of human progress – liberality as a general disposition is not an error but good parenting. The kids will survive, and they might just thrive as no generation in the history of the world.
Jeffrey Tucker is the editor of Mises.org and author of Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail. See Jeffrey A. Tucker's article archives.
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