We thought we could control it. And this is beyond our power to control.
October 29, 2018 12:24 PM   Subscribe

A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K. (SLNYT)
posted by box (116 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
Could I get a side of data with that?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:34 PM on October 29, 2018 [37 favorites]


I think "less" is a good level of exposure. I don't think anybody is ever going to discover true consensus any more specific than that.
posted by rhizome at 12:36 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


So 'screens' just means 'phones'? Because I've been looking at screens since I was 12 years old or so, and my learning has been garage than average garage.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


I agree with the gist of the article, but yeah--without any data, it reads as if screen time is just the new high-fructose corn syrup/GMOs/etc. thing to avoid for high-SES parents in tech.
posted by witchen at 12:49 PM on October 29, 2018 [17 favorites]


As a parent, I tend to start reasoning from the hypothesis that our kids are unavoidably going to live in a world of screens. As such, I don't think that sheltering them from media will work -- and that it's better to place more of my effort into making them critical thinkers who can understand the motives and valences of the mediated screen experiences to which they are exposed.
posted by turbowombat at 12:49 PM on October 29, 2018 [57 favorites]


While this article is not wrong, there are bajillions of kids with tablets and cell phones out and about every day in Silicon Valley. You could find just as many data points that rich Silicon Valley people are getting their kids into equestrian show jumping as are banning phones.
posted by GuyZero at 12:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [10 favorites]


So 'screens' just means 'phones'?

It's also TVs as phones and tablets are now TVs and it's also tablets. This is the new "I don't even have a TV!"
posted by GuyZero at 12:51 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


I grew up without any screens at home and very few anywhere else. It didn't harm me and maybe kept me a little more physically active. I want to see hard data before jumping to conclusions, there seems to be precious little hard statistical data and no real prospect of collecting it easily.
posted by PennD at 12:57 PM on October 29, 2018


I don't think that sheltering them from media will work -- and that it's better to place more of my effort into making them critical thinkers who can understand the motives and valences of the mediated screen experiences to which they are exposed.

I really needed to offer this more than a favorite. Well said.
posted by mordax at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2018 [7 favorites]


It's good to talk about stuff like this, as long as it's calm and thoughtful dialog, supported by actual peer reviewed research and longitudinal studies. Which is why I'm skeptical of articles with the subtitle “I am convinced the devil lives in our phones.”

And some of the parents in this article came off as serving their own convenience? Which is actually probably the fault of the article rather than the parents.

And it is important to remember that "these damn kid with their slightly different way of doing things" is a historical theme that has been with us since always. And that if you want me to believe that the present is different somehow, you'd better bring your extraordinary proof.

I submit this opinion about young people's technology from 200 years ago because it is relevant and also funny.
posted by Horkus at 12:58 PM on October 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


Well, online education sure needs a bushel of side-eye.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:00 PM on October 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


I don't think that sheltering them from media will work -- and that it's better to place more of my effort into making them critical thinkers who can understand the motives and valences of the mediated screen experiences to which they are exposed.

That's great but have you been to a restaurant around 5-6 pm in the suburbs lately? Its full of toddlers with their faces buried in iPads playing snood or whatever. No interacting with other people. No talking to anyone else, nothing. I've seen 4 year olds with headphones on during an entire meal with their family. I get its easy on the parents because then they don't have to pay attention to their kids at all but I can' imagine any of it is healthy.

I'm sure given all the right conditions teaching your kid how to manage their own screentime is great but a lot of things need to be in line for that to work out right.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [33 favorites]


There is a looming issue Ms. Stecher sees in the future: Her husband, who is 39, loves video games and thinks they can be educational and entertaining. She does not.

“We’ll cross that when we come to it,” said Ms. Stecher, who is due soon with a boy.


Really? Are we still doing this?
posted by Snacks at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [18 favorites]


I submit this opinion about young people's technology from 200 years ago because it is relevant and also funny.

Assuming that you are insinuating that this means that contemporary concerns about "screen time" have no merit, that is of course a fallacy.
posted by thelonius at 1:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Really? Are we still doing this?

110%
posted by GuyZero at 1:05 PM on October 29, 2018


My brother and sister-in-law did this with her kids (no screens - no TV, no phones when the kid was in the room).

What happened was:

a) They definitely used their phones to take pictures of her kids and by the age of 2, her oldest was obsessed with phones anyway and would constantly try to steal them.

b) My mother would sneak in MSNBC when babysitting from time to time, so there was a fairly long period from when was two to three where my nephew would associate all screens with 'Morning Joe'

c) The oldest is still obsessed with televisions whenever there's a TV in the room, notably more so than other kids (though he's stopped shouting 'Morning Joe' at them)

IDK, limiting the amount of time seems like a good idea, but the sheer impossibility of keeping kids away from all screens quickly makes itself known. She's gotten a little more lenient recently (very limited TV, but she also doesn't give me an evil eye for checking my phone with the kids around). The oldest is now interacting a lot more with other kids on his own, and she keeps on be surprised that he knows about things like laser guns, despite her best efforts.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:09 PM on October 29, 2018 [12 favorites]


I'm a Genxer, and I think comparing this to "I don't even have a TV" is sophistry. Yeah, we watched a ton of TV when we were kids. We didn't bring them to school; we didn't sit glued to them in the car; we didn't bump into people while we were walking down the street because we couldn't look up from our phones; we didn't sit in restaurants looking at TV throughout the entire meal without looking up once. I'm not saying that this NYT report has any merit -- it seems to be pretty anecdotal -- but I think dismissing it as the same old alarmist stuff as we heard about TV is neither helpful nor accurate.
posted by holborne at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2018 [59 favorites]


I feel grateful to have reached the age of reading glasses, just as phone culture has gone asymptotic. It's easier to avoid the temptation when you can't see the darn things very well.
posted by elizilla at 1:17 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


Screens let kids mainline dopamine. This isn't an issue of media literacy, it's one of brain chemistry and addiction, imo. I have no answers, but, having just come from two weeks with my 5 y/o niece and seeing how crazy addicting screens are for her, the idea that we can just teach kids out of the risks feels like magical thinking.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:18 PM on October 29, 2018 [70 favorites]


"As a parent, I tend to start reasoning from the hypothesis that our kids are unavoidably going to live in a world of screens."

Is it your kids or your kid's kids who will be the ones to transition from all screens, to wanting more analogue tech around as electricity becomes more scarce or unaffordable?
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:18 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


We didn't bring them to school; we didn't sit glued to them in the car; we didn't bump into people while we were walking down the street because we couldn't look up from our phones; we didn't sit in restaurants looking at TV while we ate.

I'm Gen-X too, and yeah we actually did, they were just much worse then. We had handheld games (the original NES in 1983, the Gameboy 1989 but there were crappy versions of Pong from like 1985). The 'not in restaurants' is really a 'class' thing. Restaurants in 1985 and earlier were where 'fancier' meals happened. Restaurants now are just where people eat food, they don't convey as much about social standing (other than the ability to afford food). People played handheld games at school (where do you think we learned about them in the first place?) .

We have essentially 30 years of evidence of 'portable screen time' to use as research.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:21 PM on October 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


I mean if your response is "screens are great my kid reads the encyclopedia exclusively on her iphone and does nothing else whats the harm" then you aren't dealing with how screens are actually used by the vast majority of kids.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:21 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


On the one hand, I think that "screen time" as a phrase conflates a lot of things. There are a lot of different kinds of content and different ways to spend screen time and I would be hard pressed to say that these ways should have an equivalent effect on the user. There are all manner of distinctions that I think the psych research may not have really looked at or considered relevant, like (passive consumption vs. game vs. creativity/productivity) or (internet-connected free-for-all vs. internet-connected curated spaces vs. not connected). And even among games there is variation in how much the game offers extrinsic reinforcements, and how the game decides to dole out those reinforcements...

On the other, almost all screens do have some physical commonalities that could have effects that are not *especially* related to the content of those screens. They throw off a lot of blue light, but not far away like a sky, and not only during the day; that's weird! And they can discontinuously change a lot of your visual field, but not just during a saccade that you initiated; that's also kinda weird!
posted by Jpfed at 1:22 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


If your argument is that 1) people would have played game boys in restaurants in the 90s but restaurants were fundamentally different than and 2) kids were on screens at about the same rate in the 80s and 90s when they were effectively luxury items, then I'm just dumbfounded.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:24 PM on October 29, 2018 [24 favorites]


kids were on screens at about the same rate in the 80s and 90s when they were effectively luxury items

Screens were not luxury items in the 1980s any more than they are now. You are seriously misremembering history. That's my argument. If we are saying that 'generic screen time' is a problem, then you need to be explaining what happened in about 1975 or earlier than is different now.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:28 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


kids were on screens at about the same rate in the 80s and 90s when they were effectively luxury items

I mean, a one-off handheld game (like the little mermaid handheld that I definitely played whenever I had a chance, including on the bus, but would never dare take out in a restaurant) definitely cost a lot less than an android tablet costs now. The screens we're talking about are more of a luxury item for kids now, not less. The difference is that the coordination involved meant I was slightly older than what we were talking about (plus the light involved, ect).
posted by dinty_moore at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


My 11 yo son is a good control subject for this: his own internet connected macbook before he turned 1 year old, inherited iphones his whole life, an android tablet, 3ds, wii u, ps4, kindle, etc. My position is: if this is the world he's gonna live in, I want him to fully understand and master it.

So far he's turning out OK, smart, funny, caring, fully bilingual, loves to read, empathic, great grades and behavior at school, his teachers love him, good friends, learning how to play the piano and program. He also likes to make flash animations, draw, make comics and has his own youtube channel, and is in the drama club after school.
posted by signal at 1:31 PM on October 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


I can't say that that corresponds to my experience. Growing up more-or-less poor as a Gen-Xer we wouldn't have had access to the latest tech, but going to school with kids of the kind the NYT thinks are ordinary kids (i.e., wealthy), there just weren't screens being carried around and consulted constantly. Portable game systems were just starting to be a thing near the end of high school for me, but I just didn't see them all that much.

As usual, I expect the truth about the effect of screens lies somewhere in the middle. High-SES parents gotta do something to distinguish themselves from the plebs. And, honestly, if the choice is "let the two-year-old watch the Daniel Tiger video for half an hour" or "mom sets the house on fire because she hasn't gotten to shower or nap for two days," option A is probably better.
posted by praemunire at 1:33 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


One huge difference between screens then and now is that kids weren't passively watching on handheld game units. There also weren't a lot of (any?) games designed for very young children, aimed at the exact amount of interaction that would keep them engrossed.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:34 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


a one-off handheld game (like the little mermaid handheld that I definitely played whenever I had a chance, including on the bus, but would never dare take out in a restaurant) definitely cost a lot less than an android tablet costs now

Those games were way, way less sophisticated attention traps than current games and, as wemayfreeze notes, there weren't many that a toddler could play.
posted by praemunire at 1:35 PM on October 29, 2018 [16 favorites]


Looking forward to the arguments in the near future at what age it's appropriate for a google-internet implant. Should a 13 year old be online 24/7, how will we monitor his/her thoughts!
posted by sammyo at 1:38 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Screens let kids everyone mainline dopamine.

Metafilter's funny about this one. When you propose that too much time staring at screens is bad for kids of today you can get a reasonable number of people agreeing with you; propose that too much time staring at screens is bad for adults and/or was bad for kids who are now adults and (shockingly enough for a self-selected crowd of people who spend a lot of time on a community website) you get a lot more pushback. We all spend too much time on screens but we're fine! The kids though, what about the kids!?! I dunno, I like to think I'm fine but if I'm fine and spent as much of my youth playing video games and watching TV as I did, it's hard to square that with a fear that kids today are doomed because technology.

But apparently the recurring theme of my comments on the Blue today is going to be that locking children in towers away from the problems of the real world is a poor strategy for actually protecting them. Because even if we accept too much screen time is a serious problem, it's another big leap from there to believing that just forbidding kids from interacting with those screens is the right solution.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2018 [26 favorites]


I actually have no problems with the concept of 'less screen time' but in my opinion it needs to be expressed in concrete ways, like 'kids should get 30-60 minutes of exercise per day'. Daily gym class also went away in the 1980s in many school districts.

It should probably also be proportionally expressed for adults, like me who spends 8+ hours a day looking at screens for work. Is that what scrum and whiteboarding and stepping away from the desk into a conference room is supposed to represent? Should the web shut down for an hour everyday so everyone goes to get some sun?
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I've seen the "screen time is a meaningless term" argument quite a few times, and it is true, I'm sure, but sorry that we don't have a perfect name for the addictive nature of the sort of screen time that people are worried about. It's hard to define because screens come in many forms and what we put on them varies even more.

I had a game boy in the early 90's.. I think it was not good for me, but probably not so terrible. Thank goodness I didn't have it hooked up to every single game, song or video ever created and had it set to run an unbelievably effective algorithm designed to use my observed preferences to determine what thing to show me next that would most likely get me to continue staring at it for as long as possible.

It's not a completely new problem, but it's definitely, definitely not a completely old problem.
posted by skewed at 1:40 PM on October 29, 2018 [26 favorites]


Hey I'm also a Gen-X-er and you know what I did bring to school, on the bus, in the car, to restaurants (and my parents blew up at me over it) to family events, and once gave myself an epic goose egg walking down the street and right into a telephone pole with?

BOOKS.

While I am all for limiting non-interactive-screen time, and even encouraging a strong diversity of activity for kids and teenagers and actually all humans and maybe some non-humans, kids who want to check out are gonna check out.

I have a 4 year old, I take him out into the world, and you know what I don't see? A whole ton of kids glued to their screens. Occasionally yes, you'll see a kid playing a game on their phone when they're forced to do something they don't want to, or when they're waiting somewhere boring but - walking down the street, in the grocery store, at the mall, at the park? Nope.

Well, maybe at the park but that kid is catching Pokemon and just yelled "GUYS THERE'S A MUDKIP BY THE FOUNTAIN" and he and four of his friends just sprinted across the park to get that mudkip.
posted by FritoKAL at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2018 [25 favorites]


It's still bizarre to me that we refer to it as "screen" time. It's like worrying about paper time. Yes, there's lots of dreck out there -- far more than Sturgeon's percentage -- but there's also lots of good stuff, and the idea that even the most loving, intelligent episode of Sesame Street or Magic School Bus or whatever should be discussed in the same breath as Snood, a FPS, or Youtube videos of kinder eggs seems like a bizarrely physical account of art. Yeah, they're all on screens, but paper has had a lot of dreck committed to it too, and the solution is finding the good books. There's certainly a technical challenge in finding good screen content, but it's mainly just a technical challenge, and it's not like there's any dearth of careful recommendation lists, ratings, essays, and so forth out there.

I'd also be wary about who is promulgating this stuff. It's worth reading the companion article in the NYT -- Silicon Valley Nannies Are Phone Police for Kids.
From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children....

“The nanny spotters, the nanny spies,” said Ms. Perkins, the UrbanSitter C.E.O. “They’re self-appointed, but at least every day there’s a post in one of the forums.”

The posts follow a pattern: A parent will take a photo of a child accompanied by an adult who is perceived to be not paying enough attention, upload it to one of the private social networks like San Francisco’s Main Street Mamas, home to thousands of members, and ask: “Is this your nanny?”

She calls the practice “nanny-outing.”...

Sometimes a parent will step in to defend the nanny and declare that the phone use at that moment was allowed.

“They’ll say, ‘Actually it was my nanny, and she was texting me but thank you for the heads up,’” Ms. Latif said. “Of course it’s very, very offensive on a human rights level. You’re being tracked and monitored and put on social media. But I do think it comes from a genuine concern.”
These people (silicon valley types) are lunatics and their growing doubts about the empty core at the center of their lives is being projected out onto their children. There is a cautionary tale here, but it's not about screens.
posted by chortly at 1:42 PM on October 29, 2018 [52 favorites]


This thread is like watching addicts talk.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:44 PM on October 29, 2018 [53 favorites]


If you have kids, I trust you to know how your kid is doing and what opportunities you have available to help your child and whether your particular kid needs adjustments to how they use technology or anything else. Parents who didn't grow up with much technology could probably use more support figuring out how it all works and how to monitor or control access when necessary, but I've done volunteer work with digital-native middle schoolers and they were, by and large, fine. If today's middle schoolers are fine, I don't see any reason to fret that much about younger kids, because the phones and tablets have now been around for quite awhile in some capacity or another. Which is not to say "woo no rules all screens all the time"--but I think there's no reason not to trust parents to work out what's helping and what isn't and to be able to manage that.

Like, if you don't think it's good for your kids, don't do it, that's fine. But if you go around comparing it to crack cocaine, you know what? We actually know what things like heavy drugs do to very small children, and no, letting your kid watch YouTube at age two might not be scientifically optimal but it is not crack cocaine. Please stop using race- and class-coded drug metaphors to back up the idea that your parenting is great and everybody else is basically abusing their children.
posted by Sequence at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [25 favorites]


propose that too much time staring at screens is bad for adults and/or was bad for kids who are now adults and (shockingly enough for a self-selected crowd of people who spend a lot of time on a community website) you get a lot more pushback.

Not my experience.. there are all sorts of products aimed at adults that encourage limits to their use of the web. I've had many a wonderfully insightful metafilter post deleted mid-draft because my browser runs out of time and says "TIMES UP, DO SOMETHING ELSE WITH YOUR LIFE".
posted by skewed at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2018


I feel like there are shades of comic book/rock music/etc. parental frenzy in the discourse.

The complicating factor is that parents and everybody else uses this stuff, too, so it's not as much like "no TV" as "no cars," or "no shoe laces." I don't know how to disentangle this into a workable logic that will make sense to children and that they'll respect, but all in all we know that banning doesn't work and they'll get exposure from friends and schoolmates that come from less-vigilant households.

I (obviously? ;) don't have kids, but from what I've gathered from the few acquaintances I've known who have been paying attention, the least bananas strategy is just to slow it down and wait as long as possible. I think this should extend to computer learning in school as well (I don't think kids really need computers until high school, junior high if they show aptitude), but I realize that district funding likely makes that an impossible battle on these terms.
posted by rhizome at 1:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


"It's still bizarre to me that we refer to it as "screen" time. It's like worrying about paper time."

From what I have read, some research points to tangible differences between acquiring knowledge from paper vs screens. Even e-readers. I don't have an absolute opinion on this, but it does worry me from time to time. My 6 month old goes bananas whenever there's a screen around, and sometimes I think about this in terms of addiction and I worry a little.
posted by Tarumba at 1:49 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


As a parent, I tend to start reasoning from the hypothesis that our kids are unavoidably going to live in a world of screens.

This is like someone in the 1920s predicting that their kids will unavoidably live in a world of radio.
posted by Miko at 1:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [9 favorites]


To the extant that there is something new here, I'd zero in on a pair of tendencies mentioned in this thread:

1) for passive media, the algorithms designed to capture your attention most effectively. Research funded by and for advertising has honed these to a very fine point, and while generally objectionable I find it plausible they are particularly pernicious for very small children.

2) for active media, research funded by and for micro-transactions has likewise honed the feedback loop to a high degree.

Ultimately, the problem here isn't screens, it's capitalism.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [18 favorites]


Some data!

Screen time for kids has gone up a small but meaningful amount since 1981 (roughly 10 min/day). As you'd expect, the much more massive change is in what screens are being used, moving from "basically all TV" to "a bunch of stuff but definitely phones." More detail in the links in the tweet.

As a parent, this kind of article is not super helpful both because (as many have pointed out) there's a lack of hard data / science, but also because the day-to-day discussion encompasses both total time (which does matter) but also how much, what device, what content, with whom, etc. Just right now with my 9-year old I am having a complex discussion that does involve total time, his total obsession with The Current Game and where it's reasonable to set limits around that, a little but of Dad Is Suspicious About Potentially Creepy Youtube Personalities., and a few other dynamics. And that's one 9 year old!

We need better language to talk about this. I'm definitely not thinking there's no problem, but we need some depth of nuance & study we don't yet have.
posted by feckless at 1:51 PM on October 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


I don't care if anyone is on a screen all day, every day. The issue here is the content. Modern web content, especially stuff for kids, is designed to encourage and reward as much active engagement as possible. Video sites are designed to play video after video by default, with "related videos" thumbnails, and "you might like" algorithmic recommendations (not to mention the whole creepy world of meaningless, randomly-produced animated content with lots of sounds and colors to keep kids watching). Games are literally designed to be addictive, with incentives encouraging players to keep playing and spend real money as often as possible ("look, a new Fortnite skin!"). Everything has points and likes, and you feel like you can keep your finger on the pulse of what's cool and funny and interesting. The goal is always to keep users coming back, again and again.

I don't know enough about child psychology to comment on how young brains process those kinds of stimuli. I can say that I have a hard time breaking away from that. I have an addiction to my phone and my computer. Why would I expect that kids will just naturally sort their way through this stuff? Yeah, I read books and did all kinds of stuff to self-isolate, but at least it was a little more on my terms. Kids aren't being exposed to the real world through their screens, they (and all of us) are being exposed to an online environment that was constructed to extract something from its audience, and I don't think it's at all Luddism to be concerned about that.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:52 PM on October 29, 2018 [34 favorites]


1) for passive media, the algorithms designed to capture your attention most effectively.

Maybe, but these have all been 'perfected' on tv, ie: we have several instances this week of grown men overdosing on FOX News to the point of harming others, not engaging in self-harm. If there is evidence that kids are going to be even more susceptible and damaged than these guys are due to engaged content, I'd really like to see it.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:54 PM on October 29, 2018


There have been a couple comments bad-mouthing Snood in this thread. The Snood that I knew was a perfectly fine but not terribly noteworthy or popular Bust-A-Move/Frozen Bubble clone; has the modern age perverted it in some way?
posted by Jpfed at 1:56 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


There is not now and will never be enough hard data to back any specific media consumption strategy vis child-rearing because modes of media delivery and consumption along with media trends keep changing and making the data stale. It is a moving target, and nobody will ever agree. So just go with your gut and probably the maxim "everything in moderation" and you will be just fine.

Also no, in the 1980's the vast majority of kids were not playing Gameboys in class because 1) teachers wouldn't put up with that BS and B) most kids didn't have a Gameboy.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:59 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


If you let your children jack into the 'net while their brains are still developing, they will become cyberpunks. We have known this for a long time.

No but seriously as a parent, if I could launch the internet and every device used to access it into the sun with the touch of a button, I would. I'd spend the rest of my life in some hell of boredom and withdrawal and regret, but brothers and sisters, I would do it
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2018 [23 favorites]


I have a 4 year old, I take him out into the world, and you know what I don't see? A whole ton of kids glued to their screens.

Yeah, I don't know if it's where I live (not Silicon Valley) or what but I don't see a ton of this either.

One thing I will urge the commentariate to think about: when you see a kid you don't know out in the world with a screen, you are seeing a single moment in that child's life. There can be any number of reasons he or she is screening out in a context which you deem not appropriate, and many of them are not "neglectful parents willfully turning their child into a zombie." You're frequently seeing the result of "I never do this but...." situations.

I have given my kid a screen at a restaurant once or twice. I don't do that as general practice but when your older, childless family members insist on taking your family out for dinner at a fancy restaurant on a weeknight after a full day of school and it's getting close to bedtime and the adults want to Enjoy Their After Dinner Drinks While Speaking of Adult Things, there are far worse thing that could happen in that scenario than a kid spending 30 minutes watching Peppa Pig on headphones. (Alternative activities include: protracted meltdowns, endless whining, overtired sobbing, everyone else in the restaurant hating you.)

Having a kid is hard, man. And there are unlimited variables that can contribute to it being even harder than the mean.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:02 PM on October 29, 2018 [51 favorites]


Since we know that "digital natives" have such a big edge in tech fields, why would tech-worker parents want to deny their own children this wonderful advantage? Could it be that it was a flimsy excuse for age discrimination all along?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:21 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


Jason Toff, 32, who ran the video platform Vine and now works for Google, lets his 3-year-old play on an iPad, which he believes is no better or worse than a book.

Yes but, which book?!
posted by chavenet at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I finally got a new iPhone that was capable of installing Instagram, it was an unusual experience to have my 4 year old teach me about filters and special effects. Turns out he had 2 years of Instagram experience with his nanny! It also meant that he knew how to make some pretty amazing selfie dance videos. I’m conflicted about this because the dance videos are truly the best - so much joy and craziness in 30 second clips of dancing to David Bowie!

That said, grandpa has been the biggest technology enabler in our family - my kid begs to go over to papa’s house and play Angry Birds on his iPad. Our home iPad is used purely for video distraction during hospital stays and home haircuts, but I’m waiting for him to make the connection that games are technically possible at our house, too. It’s a weird time to figure this stuff out, both for parents and kids.
posted by Maarika at 2:24 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also no, in the 1980's the vast majority of kids were not playing Gameboys in class because 1) teachers wouldn't put up with that BS and B) most kids didn't have a Gameboy.

My wife is a high school teacher. Her school has a 1:1 Chromebook program, which is great on paper. It gives every kid a Chromebook and for kids at the lower end of the economic scale a real computer they can use to do work both at home and at school. (Forgetting them is a real issue but that's tangential to my point here).

Because she can't be everywhere at once, kids can and do play videogames when they're supposed to be doing work. It's not that she wants to put up with it, but it happens.

Having raised two kids, my vibe is that kids have poor impulse control. It's not a knock on kids. It's the truth. You don't leave the Flintstones vitamins on a bowl on the table and tell kids to only take one a day because they'll treat them like candy and get iron poisoning or something.

Video games are by their nature designed to make want to play them. Kids will decide to play videogames to the exclusion of all other activities. I don't think video games are bad per se but they're like chips and candy - fine within limits. Thus, we have limits on screen time.

Honestly screen time limits are for the parents as much as the kids - just sticking your kid on an ipad all day long is lazy parenting. Now, yes, there can be a good reason. Parents need their kids out of their hair sometimes. But assuming you're not already at the end of your rope it's a good motivation to make sure your kid has something to do that's not just watch tv/play a game. Both are fine in moderation. And I'm not even saying the parent has to be involved! Just make sure there's something for the kids to do.
posted by GuyZero at 2:28 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


Our 9-month-old granddaughter has had phones (both screens and just the side with the camera) in her face since day-1. Very early on, it was very apparent that she was drawn to the things, to the point of knowing to pay attention to any phone that is being aimed in her direction. Whenever she happens to visit and grandma carries her into my office, the baby’s attention is aimed directly at my computer screen, even if it’s showing just a page of text. We Facetime with them and the baby goes straight for the screen. I have to admit feeling a little concerned about it all. At least nightly story time is always for-real books, which she greatly enjoys.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yes but, which book?!

Atlas Shrugged mixed with Mein Kampf.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I dunno, I regularly have to tell my son's friends to put their phones on the charging station as part of the 'wash your hands and come to dinner' ritual. They're amazed by the fact that we sit at a table, and talk to each other at dinner.

My experience with allowing phones and whatnot is anectdotal, but I wish I could have kept him away from having a phone longer. He had to have one in Junior High to do work in school, or he would have had to schlep a laptop a couple miles a day...and be responsible for a laptop.

But my kid went from being a kid who devoured 800 page books to being a kid addicted to the dopamine rush of the internet seemingly overnight. Nobody can tell me that social media isn't addictive, at least for some people. And the problem is; that's how his entire generation communicates and interacts.

I know a lot of teenagers. A lot. Most of them aren't dating, most of them aren't hanging out somewhere after school unless it's an extracurricular activity to pump up transcripts, they leave for school at 730am, they're in school until 430, after bus rides, they get home around 5pm, they have two hours of homework, and that's if they not in band, theatre, drill team, sports, etc. Those nights run until 11 or later some nights.

These kids are grabbing dopamine breaks where they can, and the internet/games/apps/social media can provide a hit instantly, quickly, and then it can be put back in their pocket until the next opportunity to take a hit.

It's not like I have a solution, clearly. I wish my kid would spend more time interacting with classic literature and the actual real world, rather than reddit and instagram, and I've made that desire clear, but outside of that, and setting limits on when and how he can access media, I don't know what to do about it.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 2:31 PM on October 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


My parents were extremely strict about screens and also about sugar relative to others in our community. I see a lot of parallels - yes, you want to teach kids to have a healthy relationship with sugar and to self-regulate and to choose the worthwhile stuff, but also, too much at a young age can be actively harmful in more immediate ways so some limits are definitely necessary. And that self-regulation was never my strong suit, on either count, so I'm glad my parents limited the damage I could do to myself when I was young (knowing myself I do not think more access to screens or sugar would have taught me to regulate better.)

And of course it's not ever something to shame other individual parents over because wow parenting is hard and we don't know their lives but at the same time there is a huge difference between expressing concerns about a trend and castigating individual decisions.
posted by mosst at 2:31 PM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Since we know that "digital natives" have such a big edge in tech fields, why would tech-worker parents want to deny their children this wonderful advantage? Could it be that it was a flimsy excuse for age discrimination all along?

There was at least one mention in the article of toddlers learning to code, so it seems like they've thought that aspect through. And, anecdotally, I have had some rough experiences with Gen Z kids and tech. Helping undergrads "build a website" (on Wordpress) a few years ago and seeing basic comfort levels with html, even tasks as minor as incorporating hyperlinks into paragraphs, was eye-opening.

My take on it was that young people now are "digital natives" in that they consume a lot of content that comes ready-made for them. Their experience does not include fooling around with MS-DOS on a hand-me-down desktop (for example), or with much at all to do on the back end of anything. It's all sleek and optimized for mobile.
posted by witchen at 2:33 PM on October 29, 2018 [17 favorites]


It's still bizarre to me that we refer to it as "screen" time. It's like worrying about paper time. 

Try this experiment. Find an infant. Put an open paperback in one hand and your phone in the other. Wave your hands around. What do their eyes track?

Obsession with books needs to be taught; fixation on screens is innate.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:36 PM on October 29, 2018 [10 favorites]


digital natives" have such a big edge in tech fields

Do we know this? My understanding from colleagues who are university professors and high school teachers is that we presume kids are comfortable across all digital environments but have prepared them inadequately to use fundamental digital tools. I hear stories of young people unable to use most features of basic word processing and spreadsheets, ignorant of the principles of a good slide presentation, very poor at search, and so on. Using the easiest of tools created for purposes of marketing and entertainment does not make someone digitally accomplished.

fixation on screens is innate

That's nonsense. Fixation on motion and bright lights are probably hardwired. There's nothing innate about screens, which haven't existed for most of human history.
posted by Miko at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2018 [10 favorites]


Since we know that "digital natives" have such a big edge in tech fields, why would tech-worker parents want to deny their own children this wonderful advantage?

I mean, I'm clearly not a supporter of the hysteria here, but there's a recognized issue where there was this one generation where "growing up online" basically meant you were doing at least simple programming and command line use from the time you were very young, and then all the new devices not only made that unnecessary, they made it almost impossible to access your own devices in that way. So tech got a big boost from kids who grew up with the Commodore 64--not a whole generation, clearly, just those specific kids--and then from those who grew up with DOS and building websites on Geocities and such, but the proliferation of phones and tablets and Chromebooks never did actually distribute these experiences to the masses.

The age discrimination is still bullshit because I don't think there's necessarily any reason to think that it was super different to have gotten your Commodore 64 at age 25 versus at age 5, but while I do think the kids are fine, the kids who are getting a leg up into tech careers are being given specific programming experience as children now, because there is precious little way to organically develop that sort of computer literacy.
posted by Sequence at 2:41 PM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Dammit, kids, get off your phones and go out and vandalize something like we did in the old days when we were bored! And stop following online Nazis!
posted by clawsoon at 2:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


fixation on screens is innate

That's nonsense. Fixation on motion and bright lights are probably hardwired. There's nothing innate about screens bright lights that move, which haven't existed for most of human history.


FTFY.
posted by grumpybear69 at 2:46 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


mosst: And that self-regulation was never my strong suit, on either count, so I'm glad my parents limited the damage I could do to myself when I was young (knowing myself I do not think more access to screens or sugar would have taught me to regulate better.)

Based on how addicting I sometimes find the Internet, I sometimes wonder if my family would've been full of alcoholics if they hadn't all been teetotalers.
posted by clawsoon at 2:48 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Restaurants in 1985 and earlier were where 'fancier' meals happened. Restaurants now are just where people eat food, they don't convey as much about social standing (other than the ability to afford food

Not sure how to even respond to this. It’s just flat out wrong. And, not incidentally, misses the point completely.
posted by holborne at 2:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Try this experiment. Find an infant. Put a flashlight in one hand and your phone in the other. Wave your hands around. What do their eyes track?

Or a brightly colored toy, or a stuffed animal that lights up, or a balloon. OR A BOOK THAT LIGHTS UP.

Tiny humans are drawn to lights and movement and colors. Of course they don't look at the book.
Jesus I swear this website sometimes.
posted by FritoKAL at 2:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [20 favorites]


It's frustrating that this is framed as top-down parental strategy for kids. It's not so narrow as that in reality. More and more people are reconsidering their time spent craning their necks gazing into glowing screens all day long. More people are becoming aware of the sinister traps tech companies have sprung for them, the complicated webs of dopamine feedback loops ensnaring us, altering our political and personal realities, estranging us from even the people who live with us and spend the most time with us. Most of us by now are going on a decade-plus of Facebook, smartphones, etc., and if we're not outright seeing the problems, we're at least kinda no longer wowed in the way we used to be, and instead feel like the gnawing sense that something is missing hasn't been satiated in the way the Apple ads promised us so convincingly not too long ago. There's almost a sense of betrayal about it - the piece talks about how there were some "lost years" and that's how I'm starting to feel about it. I think there's going to be a real push toward screenless or monochrome UIs, away from hyperconnectivity and IoT-/big data brinskmanship, and a renewed understanding that just because you can display an information firehose at all times for a user so he can feel like he's at the helm of a command center at all times, that doesn't mean it's actually necessary or pleasing or healthy for our overtriggered, desensitized nerves and brains. As humans we actually really require very little information to get on with what we need to do, broadly speaking, and I believe we're genuinely happier when presented with less non-critical data in our daily lives. It's just that we can't really trust ourselves right now to choose less information when the option of more information is right there. We can feel around the edges of the problem, but we can't fully confront it yet because we've been thoroughly reprogrammed and we've been soaking in it for too long to easily disconnect from the sources of the issue. The best many can do is intuit that it's probably bad for the kids.
posted by naju at 2:57 PM on October 29, 2018 [13 favorites]


Tiny humans are drawn to lights and movement and colors. Of course they don't look at the book.

That was the point of the comment.
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:58 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


It’s ironic that those people most encouraging other people to live their lives online don’t want it for their own children.

It’s a bit like socialists advocating state schools for everyone and sending their own kids to Eton.
posted by Middlemarch at 3:02 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


We had handheld games (the original NES in 1983, the Gameboy 1989 but there were crappy versions of Pong from like 1985).

Are you seriously claiming that the percentage of kids with Gameboys in the 90s is comparable to the percentage of kids with cell phones or tablets today?
posted by straight at 3:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


Middlemarch: It’s ironic that those people most encouraging other people to live their lives online don’t want it for their own children.

I wonder how people who work at Monsanto feel about their kids playing with Roundup.

It's also ironic that we're all getting into arguments about this in front of our screens. In my day, dammit, you had to yell at people in person!
posted by clawsoon at 3:06 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


My 9 year old son now walks to school on his own. He has his own phone. He needs his own phone because we don't have a landline and he is alone at home for about 30 minutes before he leaves for school. He also gets home from school about 15-20 minutes before my wife gets home from work.

I constantly have to remind him not to forget his phone at home. He doesn't check his texts from mom. Aside from a few days where he played Doodlejump for like 30 minutes he hasn't screwed around with the phone. (Parental controls locked that down - and the new iOS update where I could show him exactly how much time he spend doing program X or website Y, that helped immensely!)

Now when he comes home and turns on the Roku, that's straight crack to him though... it's just very, very easy to hit "next episode"... if you haven't disabled auto-play on your streaming channels yet, do it. We often have to ask him several times to shut it off before he actually stops.

I think there is a benefit to some screen time, specifically learning - some kids are motivated to keep doing math apps if they are a little gamified, for example (ST Math, developed at MIT I think? The kid LOVED that for years and tests very highly in math...) but other kids do better on paper. Our son isn't doing "computer math" like some of his classmates, he is using a workbook, and I think for him it's better, because the current iPad math app the school uses just doesn't grab his attention like ST Math did. But again, it is kid-specific, it is topic-specific. A parent should know his or her own kid best and set limits accordingly.

Our limits for example include no TV in the car. (Read, buddy, like we did in the olden days!) No devices at dinner, for anyone. He does take my wife to task if she checks her phone during family movie night (hey, some kid-friendly movies are not mom-friendly, I guess!) and we all appreciate the screen time tracking in iOS 12 (2 hours a week average! Oh, wait, it isn't counting my computer or video game time... and to be fair, if I play a video game with my son, jeez neither of us keeps very good track of time!)

tl;dr: I'm not doing it right and you probably aren't either, but we're all trying I guess? Parenting is hard.
posted by caution live frogs at 3:13 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


can't debate screen time: busy watching dr. squeeze marathon with lil lurk. on edit: dr. squish.
posted by 20 year lurk at 3:28 PM on October 29, 2018


I know a lot of teenagers. A lot. Most of them aren't dating, most of them aren't hanging out somewhere after school unless it's an extracurricular activity to pump up transcripts, they leave for school at 730am, they're in school until 430, after bus rides, they get home around 5pm, they have two hours of homework, and that's if they not in band, theatre, drill team, sports, etc. Those nights run until 11 or later some nights.

These kids are grabbing dopamine breaks where they can, and the internet/games/apps/social media can provide a hit instantly, quickly, and then it can be put back in their pocket until the next opportunity to take a hit.


It doesn't really sound like the screens are the problem here.
posted by Ragged Richard at 3:29 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


I think the meaningful distinction I'm making between beneficial screen time and harmful (or at least non-beneficial) screen time, for myself personally and maybe for my son when he's older, is - am I creating or producing something, or proactively exploring an idea, or engaging in unstructured creative play as humans need sometimes? Or am I passively being entertained or catered to, is my main reason for the screen time to shut off my brain or decompress, am I ticking the boxes of notifications/alerts/updates for fear of missing out, is there no end result or thing I'm working toward in this activity? Not that production is the useful metric, exactly - that just puts you in danger of doubling-down on capitalism and getting into anxieties about whether you're maximixing your gains and outputs - but, in a hard-to-define sense, what is the qualitative experience and does it honestly feel rewarding and challenging on a deeper level or merely release some chemicals along predictable neural pathways or distract you from stuff you're trying to avoid?

A few use cases for screen time that I'm usually not going to feel super bad about - because they unlock that feeling of deeper qualitative reward and substance - is programming or learning how to program, writing or structuring/thinking about how/what to write, researching or reading long-form mind-expanding works (you have to be careful with this one and not lie to yourself that you're researching when you're just compulsively reading articles one after another), producing/composing music or learning how to do so (and not just compulsively reading about the latest and coolest gear or software, uh, speaking from experience).
posted by naju at 3:33 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


It’s ironic that those people most encouraging other people to live their lives online don’t want it for their own children.

The article is absolutely framed that way on purpose. It's a bit of outrage bait.

I don't think that Silicon Valley parents (having been one until my kids moved out to university recently) are that different from parents elsewhere in seeking to regulate their kids' time/behaviour when it comes to TV & the internet.

If the article framing was "silicon valley parents have the same concerns and anxieties as other US parents", it wouldn't have been a very interesting headline, would it?
posted by GuyZero at 3:40 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Another thing to think about -

I don't remember where I read it, but there's growing data/evidence that screens are bad for kids not just in the sense of them having too much screen time, but in the sense of parents having too much screen time. Even a very young infant can instantly tell within a second whether your attention has drifted elsewhere. Very quickly they come to the conclusion that the phone screen you're always staring at is more interesting to you than they are. This has deep consequences on a societal level that we haven't even begun to get a sense of. So while limiting screen time for your kids is all well and good, are you taking real steps to limit screen time for yourself? Do you even consider that possible? And if not, why not?
posted by naju at 3:47 PM on October 29, 2018 [21 favorites]


Screens let kids mainline dopamine. This isn't an issue of media literacy, it's one of brain chemistry and addiction, imo

and brain and nervous system development. We’re talking about the ages when a child is still learning to connect to others. A lot of this is still being studied, but this is real shit — synchrony, the ability to use mirror neurons to feel connected to another person, the very ability to feel human. Normally when this stuff gets seriously interrupted by some kind of trauma you see life-long effects, depending on how young the kid was, whether there were protective elements in play, whether they later get the right treatment. Developmental trauma is no fucking joke. And maybe the effects of phone addiction at a young age won’t be exactly the same as, say, long term neglect, but it’s still not gonna be good.

Fwiw I always had my nose in a book, too. But it was because I was developmentally arrested because of that sort of trauma and didn’t have the ability to connect, or socialize, the way my peers did. It’s taken me literally years to retrain my nervous system, and I’m not nearly done.

I don’t have kids, and I’m not planning on having any. But if I did I sure as shit would be aware of, and wary of, the risks posed by exposing a developing nervous system to isolating addictions at a young age.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:06 PM on October 29, 2018 [14 favorites]


I don't live in SV and I am not a parent, but I am a machine learning engineer and I have done some work in platform engagement and advertising. Neither I, nor any of the other people in my team, want their current or hypothetical kids to spend any significant time interacting with the internet. Even for education. Especially for education. Outside of a handful of places, the internet is an advertising machine that is more pervasive, effective, and mind-altering than anything ever devised. There is literally nothing about the online media and attention economy that isn't destructive, addictive, and misery-making. This is not by chance. If you hate capitalism, the best way to rebel is to unplug and build real and substantive relationships with the people around you.
posted by cirgue at 4:21 PM on October 29, 2018 [25 favorites]


If you hate capitalism, the best way to rebel is to unplug and build real and substantive relationships with the people around you.

Yes, the best way for teens to make friends is by saying "my parents don't let me play Fortnite"
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


It's what's on the screens that concerns me. Consider the quality of creative content, in general, that's being hastily thrown-together.

Comedy, film, television, radio, news ... what's happened to the great voices? Who 'speaks for their generation' (or acts or jokes or creates skits, or DJs, or somberly announces) now ... as did so many in the last century?

It's great that people have easy access to one another. (To the extent that they're not too busy binging.) But ... what are we leaving behind (to the extent that nothing's on a durable medium) that will speak to future generations? Who's analyzing where we've been and where we're going?

People eventually adjust to all technical fads. And when they do, pull away and look around them ... what's left ... ?? Apart from the plastic?
posted by Twang at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2018


Yes, the best way for teens to make friends is by saying "my parents don't let me play Fortnite"

To be less snarky, for better or worse a lot of socializing takes place online today, both for teens and younger kids. And it's not necessarily bad, but it can definitely get bad. "Cyber bullying" is real and just opting out of online platforms doesn't change that. School events get coordinated via Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and all sorts of online places. My daughter commented how weird it was that people all used Facebook at her new Canadian university when FB was persona non grata here in Silicon Valley and everyone at her high school apparently used Instagram to coordinate group activities. Saying you're not going to talk with someone over Snapchat is not that far from just saying you're not going to talk to them at all. It's just not an option for many kids. And as I said, it starts in middle school.

If you want your kid to act out, cut them off of the internet for a while. I guarantee they will go to lengths that will make heroin addicts say "wow, dude, maybe you need to dial it back." Cold turkey is ineffective. Managed harm reduction is the only path (for kids online, maybe for heroin too, I dunno)

Now, back to the OP, kids in strollers not getting ipads from their nannies is less controversial. People have higher expectations of their nannies than what they'd do themselves.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


my learning has been garage than average garage.

huh?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:04 PM on October 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


No phones until the ninth grade is straight up privilege - married privilege and rich privilege. I am a single mom and I don't have a landline at home. My daughter was issued a cell phone as soon as she was able to start spending time unattended (age 10 - fifth grade), which coincidentally is when I separated from her dad and she needed a communication channel with him that was not my phone. I guess if you're married and have 24/7 child surveillance the kids do not need a phone.
posted by crazycanuck at 5:05 PM on October 29, 2018 [11 favorites]


I have a 13 month old. She knows how to swipe and tries to swipe our thermostat and her monitor. Her dad travels 60% of the time and my brother and his family live out of the country. We use the phone together to:
- listen to music
- take pictures and videos
- FaceTime family
- text info to her dad

She knows all about the phone and loves it. I’ve done my best to eliminate other uses in front of her. When she is absolutely losing it over not having the phone, we FaceTime someone.

Maybe I’ve been kidding myself but I’ve been trying to use the phone as an activity we do together rather than a thing we consume (with the exception of music).

It’s a lot as a parent/mom to figure this out without much reliable advice out there. I can’t help but feel that this is just another method to label “bad moms” and “good moms.” Consider that we are mostly just doing the absolute best we can that day and until there is more systematic support for parents/people raising children, we will see a lot of “just trying to make it through the day” parenting.
posted by CMcG at 5:06 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, we watched a ton of TV when we were kids. We didn't bring them to school; we didn't sit glued to them in the car; we didn't bump into people while we were walking down the street because we couldn't look up from our phones; we didn't sit in restaurants looking at TV throughout the entire meal without looking up once.

Yeah, this exactly describes what I did with books. I'd read in class. I'd read in the car until I made myself carsick. I'd read while walking home from school. I'd read at the dinner table.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 5:48 PM on October 29, 2018 [13 favorites]


This seems relevant (circa 2009, btw).
posted by jeremias at 5:54 PM on October 29, 2018


"digital natives have such a big edge in tech fields"

I'd say if the people we've taken to calling "digital natives" have any edge in tech fields it's probably more due to ageism than any innate skill.

If anything most of the twenty-somethings I interact with are woefully under-prepared for dealing with anything tech-related that isn't handed to them in a fully functional state with a nice app-ified user interface, and are way more scared of "getting under the hood" than people who are old enough to remember user-serviceable computers.

The benefits of screen learning were very clearly overstated to sell flush school districts tablets (cheaper than teachers!). Dunno about the implications of so much home/school screen time, and I'm finding the article a little weak on data. Pretty sure it can't be a net positive though.

For me the real striking concern is in the ubiquitous touch screen - I have several times now seen infants trying to swipe or zoom on things like airport arrival screens and magazines. I'd be very curious if that has any consequences for their development of tactile skills like e.g. locating something by touch alone / playing an instrument / using a wrench.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:56 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


My wife doesn't have a PIN for her phone so our son when he was maybe 1.5 would wake up and access her phone. He's actually pretty good with not being addicted to screens but when he is on them he knows how to do everything - his older sister will have him open videos or apps for her. I will say that my own worries about my kids' screen time has resulted in me doing a lot more reading of books and magazines at home.

And come on the "digital native" comment was obviously a joke.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:01 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I used to be the mom that had no screentime other than 15 min of either Signing Time or Mr Rogers on DVD but this:

That's great but have you been to a restaurant around 5-6 pm in the suburbs lately? Its full of toddlers with their faces buried in iPads playing snood or whatever. No interacting with other people. No talking to anyone else, nothing

Made me laugh because I had a no-screen policy when my kids were toddlers and our interactions in restaurants mostly went like “ta, ta...give mummy the sugar packets. Okay, here’s a red crayon, let’s colour...no don’t put it up your nose...mashed potatoes don’t go in your belly button...ok we are leaving now. BYE BYE RESTAURANT.” I do not remember this as quality time. I used to read books at the table as a defensive measure, I hope the room loved The Hungry Caterpillar.

I have no real answers. My kids watch too much YouTube, but we also go for walks, they do many no-screen activities in and out of the house, and have no screen time periods at home every day. My goal right now is to make reality more fun. We carved pumpkins tonight.

My 7 year old told me a few months ago an atom has the “same positives as negatives” and when I asked him about it he told me he was using his brother’s Khan Academy to learn chemistry. In my day if our Golden Book Encyclopedia did not cover it I think either I waited for the library trip or forgot that I cared about atoms. Which is better? He also obsessively watches and follows how-to-draw videos. At his age I read obsessively. I think that was better but I’m not sure the entire Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys canon really was and I know Sweet Valley High later did damage.

Social media worries me though, and my 13 yr old just started an Instagram account.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:01 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this exactly describes what I did with books. I'd read in class. I'd read in the car until I made myself carsick. I'd read while walking home from school. I'd read at the dinner table.

I did this too, FWIW.

But it was not something 75% of other people were doing - I have no stats to back this up, but in my direct lived experience there is a substantial difference in how much attention people are paying now that every phone is a tiny networked screen.

You didn't used to see cabs running red lights because they were looking at a potential fare as represented by a moving dot in a map on their book. You didn't used to see people biking and looking at their book. People didn't used to stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon checking their book.

There's some middle ground between "this is a crisis" and "NBD, I used to always have my nose in a different kind of immersive medium."
posted by aspersioncast at 6:02 PM on October 29, 2018 [8 favorites]


Try this experiment. Find an infant. Put an open paperback in one hand and your phone in the other. Wave your hands around. What do their eyes track?

Since this was directed at my previous comment, having raised one and being the process of raising a second infant, not only is this rhetorical question mistaken, but even the down-thread claims that they prefer bright moving lights to all else are in my experience false. Perhaps if we're talking about less than 1 month olds it may be true, but anything up from that, an interesting looking book will eventually win out over a screen randomly flashing colors, at least after a few minutes of examining/eating both. Again, it's so bizarre to find myself arguing that it's the patterns on the screen/paper that matter more than the medium itself, as if children of any age would always choose an hour of flashing triangles over an hour of characters and a story they liked. The problem is not the medium, the problem is the content -- brainless games, youtube auto-start and algorithmic suggestions, and endless piles of bad video. The difference between this and books is that, as with the rise of social media over traditional news, the gatekeepers -- publishers and editors -- who maintained a certain level of quality are now gone, opening the floodgates to vast seas of dreck. Even finding the appropriate walled garden is hard these days. But while it's a hard problem, it's not an inherent one, just as with the wild internet it's hard to find oases like MF, but that doesn't mean they don't or can't exist. The real tragedy, as far as I'm concerned, is that I have to wade through 100 high-profile jeremiads against the medium for every decent article that actually tries to sift through the dreck and find gems to recommend to those of us who believe that just because it glows and moves, that doesn't mean it's somehow uniquely or inherently destructive.

I know this isn't a scientific discussion here, but usually there's a bit more research googling mixed in with the anecdata around here -- though of course the main fault lies with the journalists who are being paid to write high-impact articles where they can't even be bothered to mention the extensive research on this topic. For instance, how many folks are even aware that the increasingly dominant view is that the dose-response curve for screen time and mental well-being is probably quadratic with a health peak at around 1-2 hours of screen time a day? (Eg, Figure 3 in this meta-review, or Figure 1 in this APS paper.)
posted by chortly at 6:09 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Children aren't your fucking ubermensch or philosopher king in training or social experiment. They are human beings that need to connect to other people, to support others and be supported, and by "protecting" them from mainstream society you can end up leading them toward a painful, lonely, miserable life.
posted by idiopath at 6:31 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


I don't care if anyone is on a screen all day, every day. The issue here is the content.

I think there's are different issues with each. Exposure to "screen" media may be a generally bad idea for very young children. When they're a little older it's more an issue of content.
posted by atoxyl at 6:52 PM on October 29, 2018


I submit this opinion about young people's technology from 200 years ago because it is relevant and also funny.

Assuming that you are insinuating that this means that contemporary concerns about "screen time" have no merit, that is of course a fallacy.
posted by thelonius at 3:04 PM on October 29
I meant the opposite, I think. That these concerns would be raised whether or not they had merit. As understandable as these concerns may be they are not, in themselves, the evidence we need to thoughtfully evaluate them.

Also the article pretty much called phones the devil, that totally puts me on guard for moral panics.
posted by Horkus at 7:04 PM on October 29, 2018


I think a kid having a screaming meltdown might be in the process of learning something important, and as annoying as it might be, it's probably time better spent than them looking at a screen. Easier said than done, I know.

I tend to think developmentally it's terrible for very young kids and it's not much better for the rest of us either, in day to day life. Putting mine down now!
posted by agregoli at 7:06 PM on October 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


All I know is that youtube tells me that dogs are not fans of screens either.
posted by srboisvert at 7:29 PM on October 29, 2018


From the article: "'On the scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,' Mr. Anderson said of screens."

Except that he's the crack dealer, or one of many, and his solution is to keep crack from his children. Or, at least to outsource the removal of their crack pipes to the nanny, per the linked article. Lots of parents who don't have that luxury would end up depriving their children of their electronic babysitters. In the meantime, the Andersons of the world keep getting rich off that crack.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:01 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can instantly text my kids and exchange photos with them at any given moment. It fucking sucks!
posted by Brocktoon at 9:06 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


The screen debate is already obsolete. My next door neighbor's one year old son's first word was Google. As in "hey Google" home automation. (His mom is making him a Christmas ornament). My friends' 5 year old busted out with "hey Google play ACDC" at our neighborhood brunch, much to my amusement, but not so much for my fancier (older) neighbors, who couldn't figure out where Dave Brubeck went or how to change it back or turn it off.

Apparently my neighbors are still planning to teach their kids to read and type despite the fact that they've already mastered the new technology. But it is interesting to think about how far away we are from typing going the way of handwriting (and check books) and becoming more of an art rather than a skill. Personally I find written instructions more useful than videos for most things, and I can bang through 2 or 3 novels on my Kindle/phone/2 in 1 laptop in the time it would take for one audiobook ( (or a hardcopy, for that matter, that I can't read in bed next to my husband or on the bus). But OMG Google Home is awesome as a timer in the kitchen. The discussion about what and when and how much is a useful and important conversation to have. (Maybe if we'd had it about the automobile sooner we wouldn't be trying to retrofit our cities in the US to allow people to walk in them). I doubt, however, there are many cases where a total ban is really in the best interest of any particular child.
posted by DarthDuckie at 9:40 PM on October 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


My personal relationship with this is that my ability to muster kind of deep, structured focus that is required to make sense of and have interesting thoughts about difficult texts, like a work of philosophy or serious literature, has been seriously compromised by the advent of always-available internet in my pocket. These books, that require significant effort and focus, simply can't compete with the various easy dopamine rushes available to me 24/7 now. I read a lot less, and a much higher percentage of my book reading is trash that doesn't challenge me. I'm lucky that my work in web development offers a similar series of regular dopamine hits on screens; I'm not sure that I could have a career in academia at this stage and it's yet another reason that its good that I left.

I've probably gotten a little bit dumber over the last ten years from 26-36 but not enough to fully explain this drastic decline. It saddens me. It's not hard for me to imagine that my children will be even more vulnerable to this sort of issue.
posted by Kwine at 6:34 AM on October 30, 2018 [8 favorites]


Screen time may not be the devil, but I'm unconvinced that social media is a net positive.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:56 AM on October 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


The fundamental difference between books / television and smartphones / game consoles / iPads is that the latter allows the user to enter an interactive reward-based feedback loop, and now there are hordes of apps designed specifically to target the brains of infants and toddlers for the purposes of profit, not healthy child development. So it is wise to be at the very least extremely wary of anything not thoroughly vetted and also to limit the interaction time since, you know, people have died from video game addiction.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:59 AM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


"There were ads that no child could reasonably be expected to close out of, and which, when triggered, would send a player into more ads."
posted by salt grass at 8:33 AM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


Comedy, film, television, radio, news ... what's happened to the great voices? Who 'speaks for their generation' (or acts or jokes or creates skits, or DJs, or somberly announces) now ... as did so many in the last century?

It's called YouTube... (and the internet) that's where my kids went for their generational idols, music, comedy and entertainment.

It's like the time I came home from work, when my daughter was supposed to be doing homework... All I could see (generational bias) was that yes, her homework was in front of her, but she had her headphones in the laptop, and when I went around to see, it was YouTube... When I got upset that she was watching YouTube, I learned that no - she was listening to music, YT was just the mechanism she used for streaming it...
posted by jkaczor at 8:55 AM on October 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


So - back to the discussion about screen time - my kids were raised as "digital natives", they each had their own laptop by the time they were two (Reader Rabbit, etc.).

My daughter is now 20 - and my opinion has definitely changed, if I could do it differently, I would significantly reduce screen-time, and monitor the internet connection a bit more diligently.

And, frankly I don't see the instant social networking availability to be helpful, it only seems to spread rumor and nastiness faster than ever before. Once you have hundreds of social network connections, they are diffused - and essentially meaningless when it comes to real-world support when you need it.
posted by jkaczor at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah if you don't know who the "voices of a generation" are it doesn't mean they don't exist. It just means you're OLD.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


(source: Am old.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I was looking through my CD cabinets, because I wanted to play a specific Marillion song, and even though my cabinets are like apothecary drawers, and in alphabetical order (more or less), Boy launched the xbox, launched youtube, and had the song playing before I could get the CD. He watches a lot of stuff/listens to a lot of music on YT. And Youtube celebrities are absolutely a thing. He had I have had to talk about a lot of problematic YT people and broadcasts. And the youtube algorithm just feeds right wing crap in randomly, it seems. It's hard to police.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:17 AM on October 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah used to be you could plop your kid in front of the TV for a few hours and the worst that could happen was they'd want you to buy some new garbage cereal. Leave them with YouTube unsupervised and they come back wanting to tell you how the wage gap isn't real. And god help you it's not long before they decide they want to become one of those hollow-eyed clowns mugging for thumbnail pics and begging for likes and subscribes. We are in both the Bad Place and the Darkest Timeline.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


And god help you it's not long before they decide they want to become one of those hollow-eyed clowns mugging for thumbnail pics and begging for likes and subscribes.

Ask any random eight year-old to say "Hiiiiii everyone", "Welcome to my unboxing video" or "Remember to like and subscribe!" and you'll wonder how they found the 10,000 hours in their short lives to practice those two lines.
posted by GuyZero at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I submit this opinion about young people's technology from 200 years ago because it is relevant and also funny.

But also fake, from a satirical essay in 1978
posted by Lanark at 1:29 PM on October 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


Yes, the best way for teens to make friends is by saying "my parents don't let me play Fortnite"

It really depends on what it's replacing. Fortnite seems much more worthwhile than most of the TV I watched by myself at that age, but if it's actually replacing significant amounts of the time I spent with my friends in person, it seems pretty dystopian.
posted by straight at 4:22 PM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]




have you been to a restaurant around 5-6 pm in the suburbs lately? Its full of toddlers with their faces buried in iPads playing snood or whatever

Oh man, I totally forgot about Snood. Turns out there's a pretty good iPhone port. Awesome!
posted by slogger at 1:40 PM on October 31, 2018


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