Saturday, April 18, 2015

Losing eye contact

This is a disturbing article on the possible connection between excessive use of screen technology by kids and the loss of their capacity to interact normally with other people.  Anecdotally, I feel like I've noticed that kids who use a lot of iPads and iPhones and general iShit are less socially graceful.  They don't talk as naturally to adults or even to other kids.  Indeed, there are many youngsters (and their parents!) who think nothing of a kid's busting out some handheld device and playing a game in the middle of a social occasion like a meal at a restaurant.  There could be nothing more socially inappropriate than this.

Both of my kids are still pretty young for electronic devices, especially given their parents' relatively hardline stance on the issue.  I'd say that most of their friends still don't seem to get much screen time at this tender age, either.  But a few do spend a lot of time hooked up to an entertainment machine, and you can often see that they just don't seem to value or understand human interaction the same way as the screen-free kids do. 

I'm not as worried about my kids' becoming more or less normal, well-adjusted social beings--Caro and I make that a priority in our parenting.  By normal I mean people with a sense of their place in a larger society, both what they are entitled to and what they owe to the collective.  By normal I mean people who exercise their minds and bodies instead of passively ingesting consumer products and experiences.  By normal I mean people who understand that sometimes you should tirelessly go after what you want, and sometimes you need to just accept and deal with the present situation.  By normal I mean people that find wonder and terror and joy and sadness in life, that create and believe in things and sometimes sink into despair; this is in contrast to people who consciously or unconsciously flatten out all of life's majesty and drama by devoting themselves to pursuits that ultimately don't matter at all beyond the fleeting "buzz" they may provide.  

What I'm very worried about is that my kids will be among the few normal ones in a sea of other people who've been acculturated to a totally insane way of living--watching TV, playing violent games, looking at a screen all the time, eating poorly, never having a quiet moment, consuming constantly (from food to toys to paid experiences).  Thus far I've felt that our definition of normal, well-adjusted kids coincides with the values of a lot of people in Colombia, while in the US it's hard to find people and kids that aren't caught up in a whole slew of things we just consider bizarre.  But the onslaught of electronic devices, consumerist parenting and childhood, pathological individualism and a quest for total control, junk food, and so many other things that I blame for the generalized social maladjustment in the US, are now advancing to all corners of the world.  You can even find peasant kids in Colombia these days who sit and watch TV or play with their phones instead of helping their parents on the farm.  What will it serve my kids to be normal if everyone else has gone crazy?  Who will they hang out with and relate to?

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