Feel Their Pain

Here’s a link to an LA Times piece in which a class of high school students tried going unplugged — no cell phones, no computers, no TV — for a week, and in the process made certain discoveries:

Daniel Romero read a book for the first time this year.

[Andres] Lopez actually communicated with an uncle during a rare conversation about swine flu, politics and history.

Jenny Corona connected with her autistic brother, and, to her utter amazement, read an entire Harry Potter book in four days.

Without her headphones blocking out the real world, Flor Salvador heard strange chirping sounds.

“I didn’t know we had birds!” she wrote in her journal.

Don’t think I’m mocking these kids. I know exactly where they are coming from.

76 Comments on “Feel Their Pain”

  1. I have a cell phone, laptop, iPod, you name it… and I wouldn’t shed a single tear if they were to disappear entirely.

  2. I agree with DougK – my cell phone died suddenly (it’s last words flashed solemnly on its screen: “Contact Technical Support…”) and, being a college student living in a rented house, I had no contact whatsoever for the 3-7 days it took to get a new phone sent out.

    In that week, I discovered freedom again. I would tell people that I would be somewhere, and I would be there. If I was late, they waited until I arrived, and I apologized.

    It was magical.

    Also, I know we’re not supposed to mock these kids, but “I didn’t know we had birds”? Really?

  3. I should clarify my first post a bit: computers and cell phones are useful tools, but no more than that, at least to me. I think it’s sad that these kids were so plugged-in that they never paid attention to bird songs, but also gratified that they even made the attempt to unplug. Hopefully they’ll do that more often.

    And yes, I’m aware of the irony involved in making these comments on an internet blog.

  4. I work at a college and the other day, I told my wife I would love to ban cell phones from the premises. She asked why.

    It’s not because of the incoming calls or loud talking. It’s because people just lose themselves in those things. I walked into the Library (where I work) and a student plowed right into me because he was so focused on texting. Just down the hall, I stopped to get a drink of water at the fountain. Got ran into by a girl who was going for a drink, but didn’t look up from her cell phone to see if someone was already at the fountain.

    It’s 70 degrees outside, birds chirping, and after 8 months of Iowa winter, you’d think people would want to enjoy it.

  5. I do wonder about how all the modern gadgets will effect kids these days. When I was a teenager (in the late seventies early eighties) I read voraciously. Reading a novel in a day or two was not unusual.

    Today, that is rare. It has to be a damn good novel, and even though, unlikely. Some of that is added responsibility, but a hell of a lot of that is added distractions. It’s the PS3 with more games than I have to play and the DVR full of programs I haven’t watched yet. It’s the Internet full of blogs like this one. I have to actively make time to read whereas before it was my primary passtime.

    None of these things really existed when I was growing up. We had arcades, but having to actually leave the house and pay money made that self-limiting. We had TV, but the programs were on when they were on, and much of the time they only showed crap you weren’t interested in. We had dial-up BBSes, but at 300 baud and only 1 phone line, they were naturally limited.

    So it doesn’t surprise me at all that kids these days don’t read or talk like I did when I was that age…I don’t either anymore.

  6. This is exactly why I’m not taking my laptop with me to Los Angeles this weekend. I am taking my cell phone, but only because 1) I’m driving and want to be able to call roadside if something happens to the car and 2) I’m meeting someone for dinner while I’m there and need to be able to be in contact. Otherwise the beast is staying turned off.

    However, the motel room will have TV and if there’s something good on HBO (which I don’t have at home), I am so watching it. Still, I’m taking a book to read (“The Last Colony”, if I haven’t finished it by then, by the way) and my knitting, rather than a bunch of high-tech gadgets.

  7. I think becoming disconnected in such a fashion would be a glorious exercise. I resist getting internet access at home in part because of the expense, but mostly, I find I’m more productive without it (assuiming I don’t need to know what something looks like at 2 am–something my library doesn’t cover).

  8. Our 14 year old has a laptop, an ipod, a cell phone, etc. And still reads 4-5 books a week. It can be done, you just have to lay the foundations of what’s important early on before the technology invades.

    She’s in DC for a week with school right now. They took away their phones, and they only get them for an hour a night, once they’re back in the hotel. They pass them out, the kids call home, and then they collect them again. They have no internet access, etc.

    I wonder how bad some of them are suffering?

  9. I agree with Angie @9, or at least I *hope* that’s the case. My kids are 4 and 3 right now, but we’re trying our best to lay the proper foundation now so that when they’re older they still appreciate non-electronic things. Like nature.

  10. I note that none of these young people who were so mesmerized by their non-tech experiences actually ended up giving up their high-tech lifestyle as a result. Just saying.

  11. I posted briefly about Turnoff Week (TV, everything) a few weeks ago in a couple spots, and invariably there was at least one other poster who said over my dead body.

  12. Well, I did know a woman who had terrible eyesight and eventually had surgery which gave her correctable vision for the first time in her life. One of the first things she said was she never understood that trees had leaves — so MANY leaves… they were just those big fuzzy blurry things before.

    Of course, she had a real reason.

    Dr. Phil

  13. Kevin @12

    Me too. My son just turned four, and I’m pretty sure he thinks that a mouse is just a furry animal. I guess we’ll introduce the computer in a year or two. He has a couple of Max & Ruby DVDs that he watches occasionally, but he doesn’t view any other TV.

    On the other hand, he has a bookcase stuffed with books. He is deep into the standard little boy dinosaur phase, and he just discovered lego. He’s familiar with the birds*, lizards, and insects in our backyard, and he helped me plant a vegetable garden this year. His favorite place in the world is the creek close to our house, and his hair is rapidly bleaching as Spring progresses and the sun gets stronger.

    Electronic diversions? Meh. There’s time for that later.

    *regular birdcalls heard around our yard: barred owl, pileated woodpecker (an insane laugh), the neighbors’ rooster, and a peacock somewhere nearby. How can an ipod compete with that?.

  14. I agree with Angie too. I’m nowhere close to being a teen (sob…) but far too many people blame the gadgets when it’s a lack of self-control. You can take your iPod with you on a walk… or not. If you take it you can listen to it all the time… or not.

    But these are teens/college kids and they’re always all about the music and staying in touch with friends etc. That’s not new, it’s just the tools that are. Give them a few years and they’ll change – but it will be fascinating to see how, since they formed in a different era than Old Man Scalzi or even Older Man Rick.

  15. I find I often enjoy days when necessity requires me to go unplugged for a day, or even most of a day. I’m seriously considering incorporating an unplugged day into every week, though I think my writing discipline will make that very difficult for me. And there’s no way I can start something like that during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

  16. Without my ipod, I might accidentally make eye contact with people on the subway who I haven’t ran through the “is this person a nutcase” filter. Then they might notice me, and try engaging me in conversation. That never ends well.

    A pair of headphones, and the ability to drown out noise from the rest of the subway train is a mental health issue in NYC.

  17. We’re just cancelling our last cell phone (my wife’s) due to lack of use and tightening up the budget. I lost my last cell and forgot to get a new one because I used it so rarely. On the other hand I’m on the Internet at least 10 hours a day.

    My kids are both six and we have yet to have them use a computer at home. They do have them at school. At home they have a Wii they can use Friday through Sunday, no TV at all except for DVDs Friday through Sunday.

    What they do instead is read, play, and draw. Their play consists of intricate stories constructed and acted out with PlayMobil often followed with drawing out variations. This is when they’re not outside doing essentially the same thing.

    Being a full on techie myself I have no objection to them using it but at this age they have a whole other skill set to build first: play, story telling, drawing, music, imagination, etc.. I expect over the years they will pick more and more tech but I hope it is for them what it is for me: an extension not a substitution.

    My hope would be that they will be able to deal with not having tech by reverting to it’s non electronic forms: pen, paper, book, etc.

  18. I have my toys, but I love to ride my bike long distances as well. It is nice to ride to work, to talk to neighbors walking their kids to school. I hear the birds, I see the cherry trees bloom, and in the fall and winter I see the trees become eerie silhouettes.

    To fit this into my life I cut most of my TV time out. Now I only watch ~2 hours of TV/week and ride about 12 hours/week.

  19. At present I’m about halfway through being 19 years old. I pretty much live on the internet (and spend a lot of the rest of my time playing video games), though I’m compelled to mention out of fairness to myself that this is because all of my friends have somehow managed to be roughly two thousand miles away from me. Such is the result of growing up with jerks, then growing out of them and finding that internet people are the only ones you actually still like.

    This does very little to keep me from experiencing other aspects of life, though. When I was younger I read constantly; every Harry Potter book got picked up at midnight and was finished around dawn, then re-read over the next two or three days more slowly. These days it’s true I read much less, but the simple fact is that it’s because I’m running out of books (probably a side effect of rising standards). Instead of just grabbing whatever my mom brought home from the library or some store, I order six or seven books at once on Amazon every few weeks and go nuts. I also re-read less now, but maybe that’s also related to the standards thing; it’s one thing to get bored and decide ‘Hey, I’ll read Harry Potter 3 again today, why not,’ but quite another to decide to give Infinite Jest another run-through one afternoon. That way lies madness.

    Anyway, it’s true that one can become so absorbed in technology that she fails to notice much else in life, but it’s not like technology is the only such pitfall, and it at least allows some connection to elements of the world more varied than just whoever happens to be walking down the street your house is on or idly sharing the same general space at school or work.

    Honestly, I think TV is the most serious culprit; with a shocking dearth of worthwhile programming (how we miss thee, Firefly and Arrested Development), it’s the perfect valueless time waster. Kill the cable. If you must sit in front of a screen, at least let what’s on it be something you actually care about. Channel surfing is intellectual suicide.

  20. As great as our most commonly used hardware and software is, a lot of it is really put to use either as a distraction or a timewaster.

    I often set a kitchen timer when I’m surfing the internet or gaming, just t obe awre of the passage of an hour.

    I’m glad that my kids aren’t growing up completely wired, the real world would have to suck pretty bad to isolate oneself from it all the time.

    I love my iPod, but some piece and quiet, maybe spent reading a book, is often my preferred method of relaxing.

  21. As great as our most commonly used hardware and software is, a lot of it is really put to use either as a distraction or a timewaster.

    I often set a kitchen timer when I’m surfing the internet or gaming, just to be aware of the passage of an hour.

    I’m glad that my kids aren’t growing up completely wired.

    The real world would have to suck pretty bad to isolate oneself from it all the time, if kids are growing up that way, how will it affect future society? Didn’t John Brunner write a novel about all this?

    I love my iPod, but some piece and quiet, maybe spent reading a book, is often my preferred method of relaxing.

  22. Astonishingly, it possible to have children who have all manner of new-fangled gee-whizzery in their lives who still manage to read books, notice the presence of flora and fauna, and communicate with other human beings without the intervention of a keyboard.

    Granted, you lose a round of My Parenting Is Better Than Yours, because you won’t get to loftily announce that your children shan’t be iPod zombies, they have books and nature hikes, thank you so very much.

    I will say that this reminded me of that Onion article, “48-Hour Internet Outage Plunges Nation into Productivity.”

    “Thank God, Earthlink service is back, and with it, online shopping and entertainment news,” office worker Emily Jaynes said at 7 p.m. Tuesday. “I’m ready to head home now. I couldn’t bear to spend another evening repainting furniture and using my pool.”

  23. Add me to the list of cell phone haters. I own one (friends gave it to me) and I turn it on every two or three months when on the road. I’ve been SORELY tempted to invest in a cell phone jammer for my classrooms. I’ve been deterred not bc they’re illegal in the States but because I’m cheap and afraid that they probably don’t have the range I’d require. I have now given up trying to shame kids into stopping texting during lectures by shooting them with a laser pointer and making examples of them (the Dean, in her infinite mercy, won’t let me taser them ). Next semester, they’ll just be asked to leave that class and come back next lecture.

  24. Off topic. Just found your series Old Man etal. THanks for keeping me guessing where you were going to go with the stories. Too many authors are fun to read but are entirely predictable. You took some common themes but trailed off in unexpected directions. Looking forward to seeing some new works by you as I can see you aren’t a one trick pony.

  25. Matt@4,

    I grew up as a walking reader- i’m sure that I ran into my share of people, but primarily remember the telephone poles and gopher holes. I was also famous amongst my siblings/peers for being unable to hear when the book was open.

  26. Steve@#5: I think you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, there. Being of an age with Scalzi, I remember full well that many of my classmates in the 70s and 80s had little interest in reading of any kind. I remember one high school literature class that had an assignment to just read three books…ANY books. [I read the Lord of the Rings, in case you wanted to know.] Technology wasn’t the interference as much as lack of interest in many of my peers.

    At the same time, most of my friends owned Ataris, Pong, Vic 20s and Commodore 64s. We had plenty of distractions then, as now. Sony Walkmans and its many imitators were available in vast numbers, then, too. Boomboxes were all the rage. We had different distractions, but we didn’t have NO distractions. You might argue that they were less compelling (and I might agree), but the idea that unplugging is a new idea is off the mark, to me.

    The real difference NOW is that we have much more control over when we access content, as opposed to the other way around. When I was a kid, everyone watched Disney on Sunday nights or SNL on Saturday Night. Now, you might DVR it and watch it (sans commercials) three days later. Or three weeks later. I don’t have to decide which album to take with me in the car and I can have all my playlists (the new ‘mix tapes’) at one time….or make them up on the spot. I can watch movies or TV anywhere I go, now. So yeah, that can be more distracting…but I didn’t have the Internet to blame back in 1989 when I failed to get a term paper done.

    Some folks are just pre-disposed to it and younger adults and teens especially so.

  27. And I should add that yes, my kids read like CRAZY. But my son still loves video games (as does his father) and my daughter would still rather hang out with her girlfriends or listen to music, sometimes.

  28. I was reminded of this article from the Washington Post, by a professor who assigned her class a 24-hour blackout on electronic media. I take a self-imposed blackout once a week for religious reasons, and find it a wonderful vacation. It gives me time to talk to people and to read books that have been piling up.

  29. It would be hypocritical of me to mock them (even if a part of me wishes I could do so), I’m as addicted as they are.

  30. WizardDru@30: I guess my point is that as an adult, I now spend far less of my free time reading than I did as a kid. Back then, I often read the evenings aware. Now, most of my reading is confined to the train-ride to and from work while I spend my evenings in front of the PS3, goofing off on the Internet, or with Netflix/Tivo. Either I’ve personally changed, or the distractions have increased.

  31. I know that this is going to show my age, but my high school Senior English class had to read and write reviews of 52 books (we were given the assignment the preceeding spring, so we could get some done during the summer.) The hard part was choosing which of the books I’d read to write reviews of; the reading was easy, the writing harder.

    Had radio telephone in the ’60s. Mostly hated it. Had fax machine in the early ’70s. Hated it. Had pager. Hated it. Had … there is no end to the number of machines that will be invented to allow other people to yell at me, essentially about how the world does not work the way they want it to.

    Have cell phone. Mostly it’s turned off; I used to use pay phones, but they’ve disappeared, so I finally got the cell.

    I do use a little MP-3 player for tinnitus. Very nice. Paper DayTimer instead of electronic; I still carry it, because it runs a freeware HP-42 clone.

  32. Pam@29:

    I too used to be a walking reader and I was more likely to hurt myself than others. I don’t bother putting on music when I read because I’ll tune it out within minutes. My parents have learned not to ask me to do anything when a book is open because even if I’m smiling and nodding I actually have no idea what they’re saying.

    With that said I don’t read as many books as I used to. I do most of my reading online now with blogs, web comics, fanfiction, news articles, and so on. Quite frankly, finding reading material on the internet is much more accessible than going to the library or the bookstore.

    Maybe if I got a Kindle I could get back into my book-reading habits, which would be ironic considering the topic of this Scalzi post.

  33. I just back from a trip to Mexico (No swine flu, thanks for asking!), and we had no telephone and no TV (and no newspapers). It was lovely. We went with friends that we have over for dinner once a week to watch and discuss TV (24 and Lost). But we have a rule, when we’re on vacation, no TV, and as little internet as we can get away with.

    Maybe without the need to check on the status of the border we could have gotten away without the tubes, too. I read 5.5 books and 4 magazines.

    Now that we’re back home we’re making progress through our TiVo, but only on the shows we really care about. It’s really nice to have that break.

  34. Ah yes, kids these days.

    I fear we have all grown up to become our parents.

    I know I have. I have the same general round shape as my dad and I have developed his sleeping habits (it involves going to sleep at 9:30 and getting up at 5:30; I do this even on weekends).


  35. Another walking reader here. (And a connection junkie. Not a gadget junkie, per se, but a connection junkie. One of the things I’m connected to is the vast amount of things I can read.)

    What we don’t have at our house is TV. We have a television and a game console, but TV isn’t hooked up to it. We watch shows after they come out on DVD or on Hulu.

    I would still rather read than almost anything else.

  36. @16 – I had that experience when I got eyeglasses in third grade. It never occurred to me that one might actually be able to see discrete leaves while they were on the trees. I suppose I must have assumed they flaked off from the great green fuzzy globs, or something.

    I used to read more (books) than I do, now that I have internet – but I still *read* the internet more than anything else. I lose patience with videos, audio posts, etc, because they are too slow compared with the speed at which I process text. (Is also one reason I don’t buy all my reading material in book form; the internet is a pay-once-price information buffet, and I pick up the occasional Scalzi or Pratchett novel for dessert.)

    I do worry that Kids These Days are going to lose basic penmanship and the ability to spell coherently, but people have been worrying that for aeons and the world hasn’t ended yet.

    Also, get off of my lawn. :-)

  37. Thena@41: My wife’s a third grade teacher. One of the things we both wonder is if there is any real point these days in her teacher her classes cursive. Neither of us can remember the last time we used it for anything other than writing checks.

    I don’t complain about kid’s spelling, because my own is utterly abysmal, though I have to say that I find the “r u there?” stuff grating.

  38. I’m not going to indulge in a round of ‘well, MY kids …’ because, hey, parenting is hard enough without us all getting one-uppy about it – how about a round of ‘we’re all doing the best we can’, hey? I was just going to say that I have just read Zoe’s Tale (with great enjoyment) and this article reminded me of the enforced non-electronics period when the colony first arrived on Roanoke.

    By the way, MY kids …. :)

  39. Steve@42 I’ve found cursive writing to be much easier and faster for me when jotting down notes, actually. Though, as a competitive debater, my partners /hate/ it when I do so, as the notes quickly become unintelligible for anybody but myself…

  40. I guess I’m not surprised at the number of people who were, albeit gently, mocking these kids.

    What, I am forced to wonder, makes interacting with people in the flesh, reading things on paper instead of on a screen, and hearing the sounds of wildlife inherently better than the more introspective lifestyle of the common garden-variety modern teen?

  41. @Jas #45

    Yeah, you’d think people would want kids to be absorbed in technology since it keeps them off their lawn.

  42. When I refer to my kids in a conversation like this I don’t do it to one-up anyone, I do it because they’re the kids I know. I don’t know if I’m doing a good job or not. For all I know I’m crippling their future tech abilities. I do my best to not be judgemental about how other parents raise their kids because I don’t want people to overly judgemental about how I raise mine.

    My wife and I raise our kids to fit our lifestyle and expect others to do the same. If it fits your family to have your kids completely immersed in technology from the moment they’re born (and I know some of these) then go for it. It doesn’t fit my family so it’s not how we’re doing it.

    The reason I mentioned my kids here was they are an interesting contrast to the kids mentioned in the article. Of course this is the way my kids are at six, I don’t know where we’ll be when they’re in high school. They may be much the same as the kids in the article or even more so.

  43. We do this every year in my class and it is hard on the students. More than half the class fails at turning stuff off every year.

    I am no better than my students. I am always on my computer. Writing my blog, checking my email, twitter. I have a problem for which there is no cure.

  44. “i didn’t know we had birds”….pretty much says it all. i love my technology, but no way will i allow it to put me out of touch with our garden planet.

  45. I blame the parents.

    My kid (here we go) is 18n months old. The TV is on all the time when we are at home. It’s tuned to Nick JR, and Noggin. She has certain shows she loves, certain one’s she watches peripherally, and some she cares little for. If it’s an episode she’s seen, she usually ignores it, unless it’s Dora or Yo Gabba Gabba.

    All day she goes from lounging in her bean bag eating snacks or hanging out to playing with every toy in her toy pile to running crazily around the living room. When songs come on she recognizes, she sings them. She doesn’t know all the words but she knows the rhythm. She also grabs books and brings them to me and says “Read! Read!” She plays with my guitar and drums, and loves watching bands play – especially the drummers.

    With respect to those who allow no TV, etc – I am of the mind that denying these sorts of things to an immature mind makes them want them more. By her being constantly exposed, she knows it’s there, and it has little meaning for her. She can take it or leave it. It has also helped in teaching her how to count to ten, what colors look like, simple rhythm games, how to beat box (Thanks, Biz), and half a dozen other things I never would have thought of.

    Of course, we go out all the time, too. We go to the park, and LegoLand, and drive around listening to music. She loves AC/DC and punk – doesn’t care for low-key ambient or sludgy goth.

    I would slightly mock these kids – seriously; “I didn’t know we had birds”? – but mostly would point to the parents and say “have you ever tried to engage with your kids? Maybe do what they want to do, watch their shows, check out their stuff – get on their level? Maybe then they won’t feel like they need to be plugged in all the time and can actually connect with other humans.”

    OK, I’m done. :)

  46. I can’t help but feel defensive whenever this topic comes up. I need these crazy modern electronic devices in order to do my job (36, freelance writer of online content, professional blogger, and website developer) . Other people’s jobs may involve the use of “pencils” and “copy machines,” but mine is entirely electronic and online. In my free time I use a wide variety of computer-y devices including an iPod (audiobooks while knitting), DVD player, and a computer proper.

    Does that make me a bad person, consumed by the electronic maw of modern life, insensitive to the nature of the world, and its plethora of sensory inputs? I just bought chickens, and I live in the woods – do I get credit for that?

    I wonder how other people would feel, if I decried the use of manila folders, or tried to promote a “24 Hour No Use Of Pens Whatsoever” writing instrument blackout. Tell a lawyer it’s “No Paper Week,” which involves a self-imposed ban on copy paper, yellow legal pads, and anything that might take a two-hole punch, and see what happens.

    SOME of us are actually getting work done with these newfangled electrically-powered gadgets, y’know. Crazy but true.

  47. (Miffed snark not directed at anyone involved in this thread, but at the LA Times source article.)

  48. LOL. My 23-YO roommate just left on an unexpected but important several-hours excursion on public transportation. “OMG, my phone only has half a charge! ZOMG, my Palm is drained! WTF, my iPod is missing!” I think he would have stayed home cozy with his broadband, if my son hadn’t dug up an old MP3 player with suitable music still loaded.

  49. Personally, I’d be happy if music playing devices were banned on the public transportation I take (BART). I can tune out the sounds of the train itself, and to a lesser extent the sounds of conversation around me, but the number of people who have no comprehension of the concept that they shouldn’t force others to hear some or all of their music via inadequate or nonexistent headphones is staggering. And I resent like hell that to avoid that I’d have to stuff things (e.g. earplugs) into MY ears, blocking out my awareness of my surroundings because other people, like the ones who can’t hear their cellphone ringing because their ears are filled with iPod noise, have already done so.

    On the very rare occasions when I’ve actually wanted to hear something, such as playing a DS game instead of knitting as I usually do, I either turn the volume off or use headphones that let out so little sound that I can’t hear anything when I have them around my neck instead of on my ears. How dare these people with earbuds that may as well be speakers (or no earpieces at all) think themselves above such consideration! GRR. As if mornings weren’t bad enough already.

  50. Robin: I use noise canceling earbuds both to avoid annoying people with noise and to better block out the noise of others.

    Erika: I dunno…I didn’t actually read the article, but speaking as someone who spends ten hours a day in front of a computer only to go home and spend another five in front of another one (or a game machine, which is essentially the same thing) I often wonder if it might be better for my own psyche to have the threat of alien doom to force me to do without for a bit.

  51. Reading is a technology that Plato lamented was corrupting the youth of his day.

  52. Another walking reader here – but also a driving reader, in heavy traffic. But, not a paper reader, as I read all on my Palm Treo. So, combining reading and tech. Good times.

  53. I had lots of distractions in the early 80s . . . Gilligan’s Island. I have lots of distractions nowadays . . . Lost. I’m still waiting for that “lost” Japanese soldier to pop up on Lost. Fingers crossed tonight . . . I agree with what’s his name . . . Nintendo and Vic 20s . . .. kept my friends and I busy, as did those handheld blinking-cursor football games. I was an avid fantasy reader back then, until Williamn Gibson brought me around to the enlightened side. And let’s not forget Dungeons and Dragons . . . I spent whole weekends locked away in my basement with my friends, mapping our imaginations, sneaking cigarettes and coffee from upstairs whenever chance afforded us. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t be a reader, or writer for that matter, if I hadn’t been a Generation Xer.

  54. It’s interesting reading this–I’m 29, so I grew up in the generation just before this one. I can remember when my black-and-white-screen Mac SE/30 was the coolest thing.
    Of the tech things mentioned, the internet is my biggest problem, though I have a set series of blogs I read… it’s more a procrastinator because writing–the main thing I use my computer for–can be difficult. I grew up a big reader, and still retain that (just read in the past month: Special Topics in Calamity Physics, The Shadow of the Wind, and Pratchett’s “Moving Pictures,”–the last two are highly recommended). I have a cell phone b/c I don’t have a land line. I don’t have an iPod, though I might get one for the car.

  55. @51 Corby Kennard

    “With respect to those who allow no TV, etc – I am of the mind that denying these sorts of things to an immature mind makes them want them more.”

    This is an interesting question and I’d be interested to hear from people whose experience differs from mine here.

    I grew up with little to no TV. We had one and when I started obsessively watching it my mother put it in the closet. We took it out for big events and I would sneak it out when she wasn’t looking. As an adult I’m a take it leave it guy with TV. There’s some great stuff on TV but it’s not a major part of my life. I don’t deny that denying my immature mind made me want it more but I do think denying helped me control that desire.

    My wife is the reason we don’t have cable, satellite, or even rabbit ears. She grew up with TV all the time. Home for lunch, watch TV. Home from school, watch TV. Weekend, watch TV. As an adult she finds TV to be an addiction. If it’s there it’s extremely hard to resist. So our TV is connected to a DVD player, Wii and a computer. We watch what is available through those.

    But this is all anecdotal and there are a lot of variables in our upbringings that missing. Some real research on this would very interesting.

  56. We raised our boys with some public TV only. We had no cable or big antenna, and they were not able to see the standard fare. They mostly used it as a machine to watch VHS tapes and later, DVDs. They did get to see tapes of Japanese commercial TV though. It had an odd effect – they really wanted to go to Japan, because they thought that was where all the cool toys were!

    They are teenagers now. They love to watch DVDs on the TV, although it is mostly confined to after homework and on weekends. They are both voracious readers (which may have been an inherited trait). I introduced them to D&D a couple years back, and like good geeklets, they took to it immediately. My 14-year-old is now playing the DM, and entreating me to play together with them (what is it with all these new rules, anyway? Get off my rulebooks! :-)

    I don’t think they have missed much, nor do I see any greater desire to have or constantly watch commercial TV. I don’t think they will go overboard when they have their own places. (Facebook, however, can hold them enthralled for hours).

  57. Paul @47 – “If it fits your family to have your kids completely immersed in technology from the moment they’re born” is, indeed, a passive-aggressive little snipe at how others rear their children. Perhaps you didn’t intend it that way. But if I said “If it fits your family to have your children completely shut out of modern technology….” you’d see it as the slightly slanted, well-if-you-MUST condescension it is.

    And what WizarDru said. Kids managed to goof off, hate reading and refuse to play outdoors in the fresh air long before the Walkman was invented, much less the iPod.

  58. They are great tools for home bound people like me.

    Letting my daughter be online play WoW and EQ plus texting her friends, was only thing that keep her from going into a deep depression. She refuse to take part in social activities other then Renn Faire as a teenager.

    She is now an adult and off all medications with active social life. Texting and Facebook are often the only way I hear from for between monthly calls, now that she lives several states away.

  59. mythago @64

    My apologies, I did not intend it that way and I don’t see anything wrong with people raising their kids far more immersed in tech than mine. Part of the problem here is that many parents are very defensive about their choices. It becomes very difficult to talk about one’s own choices without a parent taking it as criticism of their own. Trust me, if I was intending to be critical I wouldn’t be passive about it.

    I’m not sure what a better phrasing of my sentiment would be but I honestly believe you should raise your children to fit your family. That might mean all tech all the time, no tech anytime, or anything in between. You have to try and choose what’s right for you and right for your kids.

    “And what WizarDru said. Kids managed to goof off, hate reading and refuse to play outdoors in the fresh air long before the Walkman was invented, much less the iPod.”

    Yup, never disagreed with that.

  60. but I honestly believe you should raise your children to fit your family

    Sure. Anybody who says “OMFG you mean your kid isn’t Tweeting yet and he’s THREE?!?!?!” needs a boot to the head. But people get defensive about it because, well, there are a lot of parents who do the parenting equivalent of only listening to obscure bands nobody’s ever heard of, and then abandoning any band that achieves popular success. There’s a very luddite wing of the Xtreme Parenting squad.

  61. Steve @56, that’s not to say I don’t read articles about the potential for another Carrington Event and gleefully think, “Burn, baby, burn!” But it’s more a fantasy about early retirement than a comment on my personal relationship to technology.

  62. OK, guys, am I going to have to bring Scalzi in here to slap you all silly? Didn’t I gently suggest that we all be supportive as fellow parents and yet we’re still all getting defensive and touchy?

    Perhaps we can all agree on one thing (she says, wearily, knowing that it’ll never work): that our children’s natures will form our families way more than our family ‘types’ will ever form our children. Or, you know – whatever. Just chill, dudes. Buy a slurpy. Get an ice-cream cone with your kids (Jeez I just opened up the ‘I never let MY kids eat ice-cream – don’t you know what’s in it?!’ discussion). Sermon over, thank you – normal service resuming shortly.

  63. Kay @23, I’m still giggling at your notion that you’re running out of things to read. I’m 52, and I know quite well that I’ll never live long enough even to read all the books I *own*, much less all the books I want to read. There are riches galore out there. If you need suggestions, just reply to me on this thread, and I’ll be happy to send you links to a couple of lists that are readily available on the net, and should keep you going for quite some time. Here’s just one example:


  64. Terry,

    It’s probably more of a “can’t find anything that appeals to me” than a “there literally is nothing more to read”. (And here I use the old-fashioned dictionary definition of “literally”, lest this hyperbolic world mislead you.)

    I feel that whenever print media reports on stuff like this, it frequently exaggerates things to make kids look like tech addicts. I mean, I spend a huge amount of time on the computer, but I also spend considerable time reading and having face-to-face conversations and looking at random things outside. You don’t need to “unplug for a week” to do any of those things.

  65. Aoede, I hope you get past that feeling soon, because truly, there are so many riches in so many different areas of literature. Try going outside your comfort zone and reading things that *don’t* initially appeal to you — you might be surprised. If you read hard sf, try fantasy, and vice versa; if you read epic sf, try slipstream. If you read all this stuff, then try mainstream. If you read only contemporary fiction, try the classics. If you read only fiction, try nonfiction. Truly, you can’t ever really run out of wonderful stuff to read. If you need some specific suggestions, honestly, email me off list and ask for some, and I’ll be happy to come up with a few for you (tmweyna@gmail.com).

    I do get your point about not needing to unplug, which is what you were aiming at — but it’s so painful for me to read of someone who can’t find a good book. It makes me cringe; for me that would be hell on earth. So I’m happy to try to help if I can.

  66. A side note on penmanship— I work for a photography studio that has high schools as its primary clients, and I URGE any of you with children above, say, ten, to check to see if their handwriting is legible. We have the students fill out basic information such as names so we know who we’ve photographed, and some of them are so scrawled we literally have no idea who they are. Then they can’t get their photos.

    Mind you, I’m not exaggerating when I say that some of them write little more than a bumpy line. If I had time, I could scan some hair-raising examples. Some are merely confusing (“is that an a, an o, a d or a c-l?”), and quite a few are perfectly legible, if not beautiful.

    But give your child a test to see if they could write a note in an emergency situation that can be understood, and if they can’t, you might present a few hypotheticals where good writing might be really helpful, if not life-saving. As I’ve heard people say in response to penmanship: “We can’t all be doctors.”

  67. I went without a cell phone for 6 months last year. I just told people to email me. It was bliss. Now I have a phone again. It just annoys me every time it rings.

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