When I was a kid, I used to love playing with “gadgets.” Also, if I got a toy that required assembly, I would try to figure out what I could without looking at the instructions. Jigsaw puzzles – it’s cheating to look at the picture on the box! Computer programs or any computerized device – these were my favorite – I would explore everything I could to see what I could do. Fast forward to today – I have thought it must be a function of getting older, but now it takes me forever to figure things out. I am anxious to get a book on the latest version of Photoshop so I can maximize my effectiveness using it. I actually broke down and read a book “For Dummies” to figure out how to put up this blog – I would like to learn how to do more, but one day I attempted to edit the CSS file all by myself and the ENTIRE BLOG DISAPPEARED, so now I’m a little gun shy. Our nice new camera? I can point and shoot and that’s about it, even though I had actively lobbied for a camera that “does more stuff.” This one does, but I have to download the book to figure out how to use the extra features. My new cell phone? Forget it. I had to be shown how to answer the thing – the first couple of days I had to wait until the call went to voice mail and then call them back (that was particularly embarrassing). I finally got the data feature and I waited until we saw our nieces to attempt using it – it was tricky to figure out.
So, I have become “that grownup” the one who needs the kids to show her how to work the computer. I read Chapters 11 and 12 of Wimps today, and it specifically talks about the divide between kids and adults with regard to technology. Marano suggests that adults tend to fear technology, because it is new enough for us that we have to scramble to keep up with what is new while, for our children, it is “simply the water they swim in.” I’m not sure – I think I am probably of an in-between generation, because I had a computer when I was a kid, and I got a cell phone pretty early (not while in middle school, but early). Part of me is willing to believe this though, because I’m not sure I will appreciate any alternative explanation – I had thought it was because I don’t have as much free time to explore and figure things out, but I have spent so many hours trying to figure out these style sheets for this and my other blog that now I’m not so sure.
Anyway, the book gives this parental fear of technology as one reason why so many parents give their children whatever they want – some parents might subconsciously fear our children because they have the upper hand with regard to the tools of today. I guess it goes something like this – because they will ultimately “rule us” since their brains are developing with better capability to understand what is to us “new” and to them “ubiquitous,” we cede the power to them when they are still small.
This section also takes a look at parents who are taking increasingly young children to the psychiatrist, demanding meds for conditions such as “bipolar.” The symptoms? Tantrums or other willful behavior. Here is one particularly disturbing quote:
“The temper tantrums of belligerent children are increasingly being characterized as psychiatric illness.” [psychiatrist Elizabeth Roberts] singles out bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome as the diagnoses particularly favored today “to explain away the results of poor parenting practices.” It’s simply easier to tell parents their child has a brain-based disorder than to suggest their parenting skills need an overhaul.
I am always surprised at how casually people think of pharmaceuticals today, particularly with children, for whom we cannot possibly know the long-term effects. It almost makes me fearful in the other direction – I HATE to give Baby Girl medicine because I don’t want to do the wrong thing.
On a more positive note, some kids are growing up in a non-pressure atmosphere at a special school where the kids just play if they want to, where learning is entirely up to each child. Here is their website: Sudbury Valley School. I just spent over an hour looking at the photos and reading how the school works – my gut level reaction is that it’s ridiculous to put your children in this type of environment – if you have the money for this school, why not find one with an actual curriculum? After thinking about it a bit, the idea might be growing on me – at least these kids will grow up knowing how to be self-motivated, with leadership and social skills that can be well-utilized in whatever they decide to do next. (I won’t address my standard problems with access and socioeconomic status except to say that if it’s a school only for rich kids, it’s not for my kids, even if I win the lottery tomorrow – unlikely because I don’t play, of course).
Other posts about A Nation of Wimps:
Post 1: A Nation of Wimps, by Hara Estroff Marano
Post 2: Bathing Suits and Bogeymen
Post 3: My Favorite Subject is Recess
Post 4: Beer Bongs and Fragile Children
Post 5: Cell Phones Can Cause Depression?
Post 6: Teach Mommy How to Answer the Phone, Baby Girl