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Consumer Electronics Causing 'Death of Childhood'?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the ack-mein-childhood dept.


An anonymous reader writes "Top children's authors, including best-seller Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), have written an open letter to the British Government claiming that consumer electronics have brought about the death of childhood. They say that children desperately need 'real play (as opposed to sedentary, screen-based entertainment), first-hand experience of the world they live in'. The letter writers also state that children have lost their imaginations because they are, 'pushed by market forces to act and dress like mini-adults and exposed via the electronic media to material which would have been considered unsuitable for children even in the very recent past.' The article asks, 'is modern life too fast for the supple human mind? Do children have a rev counter we're red-lining by exposing them to so much input?'" So what does Slashdot think? Are kids growing up too fast nowadays because of them new-fangled technologies?

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Growing up too fast? (4, Funny)

Zardus (464755) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089022)

Short answer: No
Long answer: Yes

And in other news (3, Funny)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089091)

Kids live longer today than they did before, so let's not all start talking about going back to the "simple life" where all the farm girls look like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.

Re:Growing up too fast? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089144)

in the words of Rockstar Games:

Jeffrey 'OG Loc' Cross: [in radio interview] "I've been gangbangin' since I was three."

'nuff said.

Re:Growing up too fast? (4, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089168)

Letting your kid outside to play with his friends is un-workable in dangerous, urban environments. I'd much rather my kid get the same kind of exploratory feelings I got from playing in the woods from playing Zelda, versus having him venture, unsupervised, into the dirty, polluted, woody ravines by our home in east Oakland, which are overrun with crack users, and prostitutes.

Henry Jerkins at MIT makes the excellent point that kids playing videogames are basically doing the same thing as kids playing cowboys and indians, and that videogames have become the virtual playspace for a new generation of kids who don't have the opportunity to roam in real environments. (He also makes the point that mom's are only freaked by games because they never saw what kinds of real and imagined violence went on when kids played outside.)

Finally, anyone who thinks kids today have been robbed of their imaginations should drop a box of legos in front of them.

LEGOs (2, Insightful)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089025)

Well, LEGOs would solve your problem right there. How many geeks grew up with Legos and got into DIY projects?

Re:LEGOs (1)

EwokMolester (918844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089046)

LEGO is already plural

Re:LEGOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089150)

Agreed. It's annoying when I see LEGOs.
I've heard some people even pronounce it LayGos :-( *shudder*

Re:LEGOs (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089123)

I'll attest to that. LEGO was an integral part of my childhood, up to the point where I starting building machines that LEGO robotics just could not handle (this was around the time I put a transmission system in my robot but could not make it automatic). In all seriousness, however, I definitely think that LEGO makes a better toy for kids than a Nintendo. Give them video games when they hit middle or high school, and not a minute before that.

Re:LEGOs (0, Redundant)

kennygraham (894697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089179)

They're "LEGO bricks", not LEGOs. Watch out, or you may get a chair built of LEGOs thrown at you. Oops.

Re:LEGOs (1)

rbochan (827946) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089259)

But which makes more $$ for the manufacturers... LEGO or LEGO Star Wars?

Current generation fears new technology. (1, Insightful)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089029)

Justifies fear with unfounded appeals to emotion referencing the corruption of youth.

More on this... every generation from now.

Re:Current generation fears new technology. (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089068)

It's not a matter of the "corruption" or "degeneracy" or youth in the sense that the kids are rebelling. That is the perennial complaint. Rather, it's a example of parents responsibly asking themselves if they are meeting the needs of their children.

Re:Current generation fears new technology. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089180)

No, this is authors lamenting the dryng up of their income stream as video entertainment outcompetes them for kids' parents' dollars/pounds/what have you.

Wrong Choice (3, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089035)

It's easy to see why parents, assaulted by the constant barrage of news items on paedophile attacks, terrorism and murder, encourage their children's seclusion in the hermetically sealed confines of a softly carpeted room with a plasma TV and Xbox 360.

I personally think that parents who make this decision are failing their children. The child needs to be aware of what's going on in the world. That's why I love school classes that have current events, I encourage my child to read and / or watch the news. If they're secluded from everything, they're going have no clue what's going on when they hit the real world.

No, right choice (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089057)

Children play at what they will be doing when they grow up, in order to learn. When people were doing mostly manual labor, physical play was important. Now that more and more work is mind-work done one computer and electronic equipment, it makes sense for children to play with electronic toys and games, using their minds more than their bodies.

Re:Maybe, both choices (4, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089153)

Now that more and more work is mind-work done one computer and electronic equipment, it makes sense for children to play with electronic toys and games, using their minds more than their bodies.
Possibly -- except that the social interaction is very different when a child plays almost exclusively with electronics. Physical activity is also important to one's health, and establishing a habit of exercise in a child bodes well for their future physical condition and health.

IMO, the key is balance. Exercising only the mind or only the body is unhealthy in a child, and in an adult.

Re:No, right choice (1)

Niomosy (1503) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089177)

Not quite. Doing so will lead to what we're already seeing, the growing obesity problem in America. No, kids should be playing outside. Learn the world around you. Appreciate the world around you. Learn to socialize and make friends outside chatrooms. There's still plenty of time for the Xbox 360. I was outside a ton of the day and still had time for playing Atari or games on my friends computer.

What you're suggesting is just going to bring about worse personality and health conditions for kids.

Re:Wrong Choice (1)

flajann (658201) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089085)

If you think watching the news will tell your child what is really going on in the real world, I'm afraid you are sadly mistaken. Mass media, especially news, tends to be very slanted to the local prevailing politics and market expectations. If you want your child to know what is going on in the *real* world, it's going to take a bit more effort than watching CNN or NBC news. There are *many* news sites on the Internet that report from different perspectives on what is going on in the real world, and not all of them are in English, either. I would strongly urge teaching your child one or two languages and encourage them to explore the Internet to get an inkling of what is going on in the *real* world.

Re:Wrong Choice (1)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089202)

Better still go there! Obviously not Iraq, Afghanistan, Beirut, etc. but, much as I applaud your suggestion that children should learn a forein language the best way by far to see the other perspective is to go there.

Re:Wrong Choice (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089117)

But do you encourage your children to read /.? If I ever caught either one of my kids reading that degenerative, microsoft bashing, open-source commie loving site I'd give a thrashing they would never forget.

Re:Wrong Choice (1)

simong_oz (321118) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089127)

The child needs to be aware of what's going on in the world...If they're secluded from everything, they're going have no clue what's going on when they hit the real world.

But that is surely the crux of the matter - does a child actually NEED to know what is going on in the "real" world? Or should they be allowed to worry about that when the time comes?

I don't know the answer, but I do think that this is the essential difference between the current generation and the previous generation - today's children are not children, but small adults. Maybe it's because there is more media in your face, maybe because people feel they have to grow up sooner and take responsibility to "make something of their lives", maybe ...

Dang kids today.... (1, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089041)

Dang kids today, with their sprialgraph and rock em sockem robots.

In my day all we had was a hoop and a stick! And sometimes we didn't even have the hoop!

Re:Dang kids today.... (1)

szembek (948327) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089069)

Get off my lawn!

Article raises a good point (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089044)

Maybe after TV's have been in people's homes for 50 years, then we'll have the answer.

I guess we'll just have to wait until that happens.

Re:Article raises a good point (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089132)

TV's HAVE been in homes for about 50 years.

Kids ARE over stimulated today. I think this (along with enviromental pollutants) is the main cause of the dramatic rise in autism, asperger syndrome and a host of other problems.

When I was growing up, we had two TV channels. Cartoons were on Saturday morning and a few after school. That was it.

Now, my kids have cable, computer with the net and half a dozen consoles. I work on limiting it, but it is tough.

My parents were smart... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089048)

They saw this very thing as a problem so they protected me. I am now 30 years old and they still won't let me get a cell phone, watch movies, or play with friends who have an ipod.

Back in my day (4, Insightful)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089051)

We played with dirt and we LIKED it! Dang playstations are gonna kill imaginations worldwide! Get off my lawn! :)

But sincerely,

Every generation has some aspect that is supposedly going to bring utter ruination to the future. And every generation manages to cope. I think we will be allright as long as parents bring some healthy balance to thier kids activities. When has that concept ever been new and fresh? It has always been that way.

Re:Back in my day (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089174)

We played with dirt and we LIKED it!

There's evidence to suggest that playing in dirt and mud at an early age helps prevent allergies later in life. Now whether mud is entices kids imaginations better than a PS3, I don't know. I somehow doubt it though.

Caligulazation (5, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089213)

Every generation has some aspect that is supposedly going to bring utter ruination to the future. And every generation manages to cope. I think we will be allright as long as parents bring some healthy balance to thier kids activities. When has that concept ever been new and fresh? It has always been that way.

But how many generations had their kids sitting in front of, essentially, puppet-shows (or some other analog equivalent) all day, every day? In fact, one could argue that the loonier offspring of the "idle" artistocracy and their highly entertained (but not so very challeneged, physically, etc) kids were the precursor to what we're seeing now, but across much larger swaths of the society: flacid minds, a sense of entitlement, no sense of causality or critical thinking... sort of the Caligulazation of a much wider population.

Basically, the standard of living for most of modern western society is now so high that most of us are living like (or better than) the aristrocracy of the not very distant past.

Yes, we all assume that our current generation's kids are the ones that will wreck civilization, but there's actually something TO this one, I think, at least a bit.

Re:Back in my day (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089219)

Bringing (participating in) some healthy balance to their kids' activities would probably do the parents good too.

I don't think it's likely that any particular piece of technology, or technology in general is likely to destroy a generation, but lack of moderation with anything could.

When I was a kid we DID play with dirt! I remember building an entire town out of mud, rocks and sand in my friend's back yard before they planted grass. We even built in water mains (hoses) which we later turned on to make town fountains and a river.

Re:Back in my day (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089256)

Fuck you and your dirt, we had dog shit.

Firsthand experience of the real world ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089055)

I need it too!

Childhood schmilehood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089056)

Bah! The idea of childhood is a product of the late 19th century. Before that kids were considered to be little adults, and put to work just like adults. I say, put 'em to work again! The passive, TV-centered childhood entertainment of today is just training these kids to work passive, computer-centered jobs in the future. Put 'em to work gold farming now!

No real programmers either (3, Interesting)

adisakp (705706) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089059)

Yes I know this is a troll...

But how many people out there were claiming we wouldn't be having any new low-level programmers because kids these days grow up with Windows and Macs rather than Apple IIe and C64's?

Re:No real programmers either (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089242)

We have young low level programmers?

There were a few who took up assembly when you needed it to program shaders on video cards but they quickly released high level languages for those.

The reason that kids are growing up too quickly... (5, Insightful)

Traegorn (856071) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089062)

The reason that kids are growing up too quickly has to do with the parents encouraging kids to just watch TV by placing them in front of it instead of actually paying attention. This behavior becomes habit -

-also, as we over protect our children, we seperate ourselves more and more from the rest of the community. This splits our kids away from the available social networks and playmates - encouraging further isolation.

So, it's not the technology - but the fact that we don't teach or give our children any other options.

Re:The reason that kids are growing up too quickly (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089196)

"The reason that kids are growing up too quickly has to do with the parents encouraging kids to just watch TV by placing them in front of it instead of actually paying attention. This behavior becomes habit -"
Often the reasons that happens is both parents work or it is a single parent home. Plus there is so much mind numbing entertainment that our culture now expects to entertained all the time. I can not tell you how many times I have seen kids watching DVDs in the car when they are just driving around town! Adults are no better, we have games and TV on our cell phones, and movies on our IPods. One wonders what we could do with that time if we where not being entertained.

Yes, but only if.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089066)

You let your kids become zombies.

I'm a geek. I find it hard to get off my ass and get away from the computer, until I glance over and see my 2yr old with glazed eyes watching the TV. Then it's oput to play ball and run around, or take the dog for a walk, or play with Lego or SOMTHING.

The square babysitter needs to be used carefully!

Re:Yes, but only if.. (2, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089186)

It's funny, really. My dad was a computer programmer by profession before I was born, but we didn't even have a home computer until I was eight and had been exposed to them in school. As a young kid I played tee-ball, soccer, and volley ball, played with Legos, Construx, Hot Wheels, Tonka Trucks, etc, and was fairly limited in the TV that I was allowed to watch for some time. Eventually I graduated into slightly more mature cartoons and television shows like Perfect Strangers, and slowly evolved away from Hot Wheels and Tonka Trucks into car models and model rocketry, and eventually into computers.

We never had cable TV, except for one month when we moved and the previous owners' cable hadn't yet been disconnected. I remember that the month after that was very difficult as we had started to gravitate toward TV a lot more than we were before, and readjusting was hard.

Today I don't even have an antenna, let alone cable TV. And while I collect movies (and have more than 300 on Laserdisc, and about 100 more on DVD and VHS) I don't just let random crap come broadcasting into my home. I self-censor because I have better things to do with my time than sit there and watch TV for several hours a night.

Choose what you're going to experience, don't just passively sit there and let others choose it for you.

Dude! (1)

Clazzy (958719) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089067)

Like hell they are, losers!!!111

(Mathew, aged six)

Re:Dude! (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089104)

Thanks! I'll have to put in an order for a new keyboard now, but that made my day.

It's more than just electronic games. (3, Insightful)

blcamp (211756) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089070)

It's also electronic content. A kid should not be raised by proxy in front of a video screen, whether he/she has a controller (or a mouse and/or keyboard) or not. There's more to growing up than that.

One should also be actively and physically engaged as well. Playing outdoors, running around, playing with physical objects (whether they be Legos or whatever).

Being raised is a matter of mind and body.

Not my children (2, Interesting)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089071)

My daughter has a computer (a Macintosh running Mac OS 9). The only games she has are educational with no killing. She has a simple word processor, a complex drawing program, and other programs that create, not simulate destruction. We use Tivo Kidzone to record only programs with positive messages. So far, she doesn't watch much at the neighbor's kid's houses. We have a garden that she helps in, two dogs, and she spends most of her none school time running around outside, so I'd say, no, her childhood isn't being destroyed by consumer electronics. Your Milage May Vary.

Re:Not my children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089137)

Happiness is mandatory! The computer is your friend! Are you not happy? Please report to clone vat D-4 for recalibration!

Re:Not my children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089152)

Your kid is going to end up a total weirdo. I remember everyone beat up the kids like that in junior high.

Re:Not my children (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089251)

She's also in gymnastics and at age 5 can lift her own weight and then some. I don't imagine that by junior high, she'll have any problem holding her own in a fight.

Um, no (0)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089073)

It's soccer moms scheduling "play dates" between karate and balet on their PDAs that's caused the "Death of Childhood".

If you want your kids to grow up happy: leave them the fuck alone.

Balance (1)

Sounder40 (243087) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089074)

Balance. In all things, balance.

'Nuff said.

Sad Sight (4, Interesting)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089081)

A few months back, I went to a local model rocket launch. It was on a farm in a beautiful chunk of Oregon (See the background of this: .jpg [] ). Dozens of geeks and their families were there, launching model rockets big and small into the sky.

More than a few of the kids present were squatting on the ground, or in car seats, blank expressions on their faces, banging away at portable game machines.

How pathetic.

Someday these kids will need to take special classes to learn how to walk on dirt.

I've seen this first-hand (5, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089082)

I've seen this problem first-hand in my stepson. He grew up absolutely addicted to video games and he constantly throws himself into the video game world. He has difficulty in coping with the real world. Until we started getting him some help, he was even uncomfortable paying for something at a store counter. His sister, who never shared his video game addiction, grew up to be very okay and completely independent. But now that he's almost 23, coping with real life is a skill he's having to work at. He still lives at home, has had difficulty holding a job. He's starting to turn around -- he's in school and getting A+ certification training (hey, it's a start!) But he's got a long way to go.

Re:I've seen this first-hand (3, Insightful)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089166)

I wish that I had mod points. I hear what you're saying and can attest to this same problem with my nephew. He's 14 and is afraid to go into stores by himself, etc. Heck most kids when I was growing up had to ride their bikes over to the grocery store for mom all the time even when we were about 8 years old or so.

Re:I've seen this first-hand (1, Informative)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089200)

Um, this probably doesn't have much to do with videogames. Your son is probably an extreme introvert (unless he has some other mental illness -- certain drugs can treat shyness).

Read this book [] and if it seems to describe your son, give it to him after you're done with it.

Re:I've seen this first-hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089217)

You seem to be implying that all your step-son's problems can be laid at the feed of the Video Game Devil. Are you sure? I mean, he's a step-son, doesn't that imply something happened, possibly traumatically, to his biological family?

Another thought: perhaps paying for things at a store counter is on the way out and he's reacting normally to the new up-and-coming world? Self-checkout aisles, anyone?

Yeah, I'm posting as AC because I know how irrational parents can be about their children.

Re:I've seen this first-hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089224)

Correlation != causation.

Technology changes us (1, Insightful)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089084)

Society is changing. Childhood is not dying. It just looks different now than it used to.

Re:Technology changes us (1)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089162)

This kind of scare comes along every few years. By some miracle, the kids turn out fine.

Yes, Yes they are (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089088)

Not having RTFA, but having a 4-year-old son I can say that yes, and no.

Children are not 'growing up' too fast these days they are simply replacing their own childhood with one they see on the screen. Entertainment for children has usually been a byproduct of what makes the life of the parent easier. When I was growing up it was easier for my mother to tell me to play outside then to have me ransack the house. Now, with the advent of so much more technology it is easier for the parent to place the child in front of the TV. It allows them to know where they are and what they are doing but it causes the child to miss out on the most basic human desire. The desire for discovery.

I dunno, my kid does not have a Nintendo nor will he until he is much older, if ever. He will not get a cell phone, he is not allowed to stay inside and watch TV all day (he gets enough of that at his mothers) and he has chores to do (offtopic, but important)

The hardest part of parenting in my experience has been the worrying but I would rather my son get a little scraped up and learn the joy of adventuring then be safe and sound in front of the TV.

Not growing up too fast... (1)

Godboy_g (794101) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089089)

I think I can say with the experience of my 3 years of life, that children are not growing up too fast.......

shouldn't it be an open letter to parents? (5, Insightful)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089090)

Top children's authors, including best-seller Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), have written an open letter to the British Government claiming that consumer electronics have brought about the death of childhood.

what exactly does he expect the government to do?

C.E. is actually extending childhood for others (1)

NerdyJock (1001797) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089099)

Consumer electronics, like video games, is extending childhood for young adults. How many grown men still play their favorite childhood video games and re-live the memories, and just for a few moments, feel like they are young and can do anything.

Opinion Vs. Fact (4, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089100)

It's all well and good to have an opinion on something. However, like the saying goes, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink. I can't tell where this guy's opinion ends and real unbiased scientific scrutiny and experimentation begins. TBH, I would have to disagree wholeheartedly with the statement "death of childhood". Childhood may be changing, perhaps in many different ways, but that does not mean it's dying.

Part of me wants to dismiss his entire argument as nonsensical luddite ramblings. Another part of me wonders if he might have at least a small point. But it's where those two parts of me meet and ask "where's the proof?" that I finall come to the conclusion there is nothing to see here, move along.

At least, from the children I know and observe, I don't see them suffering developmentally from the fact that they can play their PSP all day. What I mean is, don't blame the PSP. The fact is, I think through simple, good, old fashioned parenting, a child can have a better upbringing today than ever before, as long as the parent is able to understand and integrate today's technology, within moderation, with the raising of their child(ren).

Maybe too many parents are becoming lazy, thinking technology can replace them in areas of parenting where it should not. But like I said above, about opinions.....


We aren't so fragile of mind (1)

grasshoppa (657393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089101)

The whole purpose of childhood is to prepare the person for ADULTHOOD. Now, in that most adults now a days don't really act like adults, I can see an argument for something in the past couple decades truly ruining childhood. However, I have seen a trend over the past couple years of kids and young adults that seem to be taking responsibility for their actions, so whatever it was I would assume has been corrected.

If you ask me, the fault of poor child raising would be place solely on the parents shoulders, as it always has been.

Poor kids (4, Funny)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089102)

Fortunately my kid's too poor for all that crap. 200 pound per hour therapists? His only indulgence is slashdot.

A childless adult's observation (2, Insightful)

no_pets (881013) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089106)

Hey, I'm a childless adult so according to all the "parents" I've spoken with my opionions do not count. Okay, so here is my observation:

Kids nowadays spend all their time in front of video games, don't even know how to ride bikes (my nephew just learned at age 13 to ride a bike and so did his friends), never play ball in their yard and have schedules or routines that plan out their times at school, after school and at home on the weekend. Everything is planned and scheduled instead of impulse.

My observation is that this is fucked up.

Advertising... (1)

AmIAnAi (975049) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089107)

... or the constant stream of it on the kids channels worries me more ... at the moment. At six years old, my daughter is still innocent of the pressures of modern life, but her expectations are constantly raised by the idealised worlds she finds in the ads. At the moment technology is just a great learning tool that she adopts as naturally as a pencil. And she still loves to go outside and play.

Absolutely (1)

harryk (17509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089109)

I'd have to say yes. I have some nephew's and neices that are great little kids. But they are infatuated with electronics, and not at a healthy level. Being entertainment junkies (to the point of cell phones, portable this and that, games etc..) is not quite the same thing as having a real love for electronics as a hobby. Being a geek and being a consumer are quite different.

Today's kids (generally speaking) are so overwhelmed by communications, entertainment, and anything in between that they aren't really interacting on the playground, or other venues that are 'kid' places. We need to force our kids to unplug, get outside, get some sun, and play. Go build a fort. Go get hurt and come back so we can fix you up. The outside world is only dangerous if you're never exposed to it. The real world really is a great learning environment, honest.

Advertisment (2, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089110)

What cause kids to grow up, society pressures. If the child feels he is outcast because he doesn't have a mySpace account then he will want one, and because he want one when he gets on he will try to assimilate to the mySpace culture as well as he can. If the child enjoys playing with old toys and he gets pressure that people his age shouldn't be playing with such toys he will strive to play with what peers and society thinks he should be playing with. T.V. and Internet Adds tend to create false society pressures on these children to get them to want products that they will not necessarily want. Because society wants them to do this so much they will do it as far if not farther then society demands. I remember the Cell phone add with the Girl who was said to be a teenager (probably just 13 or 12) who kept on talking and talking, using the cell phone minutes. This add wasn't for the parents who buy the phone and plan, it was for kids who are 10-14 who should normally be to young to have a cell phone, but the add makes it seem like it is normal for kids to have them. So Kids get them... With global advertising that are advertising children they are trying to make kids become more grown up. As a kid my father had a "Cell Phone" (a large box with a phone in it) I though it was cool and such but I had no desire to have one for myself, why because not of the kids had them. I wanted the Nintendo or Sega like the other kids. As well as He-Man action figures, Transformers and GI-Joe. Because that was the social norms. While my parents generation were happy with toy cars, and balls (more generic things) . The reason was because that is what other kids in their area had and played with. It is not technology but the marketing of the technology and the stupid parents who buy the kids this crap because they actually believe them when they say they need it.

Complicated question.. With complicated answers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089112)

I think parents using *any* "device" be it TV, DVD player, Mac, Playstation, etc as a babysitter, are doing their children a disservice..

However, if there's balance..and *Parental Involvement*, while using/playing with Legos, Computers, Games, toys, books, etc.. All and more can be great for a child..

I grew up w/ Legos, cars, the etch-a-scetch, speak&spell, comic books, books, etc.. I also had the orig tape Walkman a telescope and my parent's TI-99/4A... I also had a Fuji dirt bike that I could ride from here to sunset if I wanted..

And look at me! I turned out just fine! (WHO SAID THAT!?) ;-)

A nice balance is needed... (1)

wuie (884711) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089114)

I always had a computer when I was a kid. I played rather simplistic games on our Apple IIe until my family purchased a much larger (and intimidating for a child) PC. I would play Chessmaster 2100 on that thing for ages and ages, until I received my very own computer game the following Christmas.

What really struck my childlike mind is the imagination and creativity behind many of these games: one minute I could be a young prince, fighting my way through swordsman and jumping through puzzles to rescue a young princess, and then the next moment, I could be King Graham on the quest to find my bride. Sure, it was escapism, but it also provided fuel for some imagination as well.

When I wasn't playing on the computer, I was running around the yard like any energy-pumped child would. Sometimes I would incorporate themes and ideas from the computer games that I've played, and integrate those into my play time. I made up my own fantasy lands that I was traveling in and between, all in the rain while wearing a towel as a cloak and carrying sandwiches as food rations. I would run from danger, slay vicious monsters, and protected the kingdom that I so dearly loved.

Can consumer electronics spur the imagination? Certainly. They can also inhibit it as well. I could have spent my entire childhood glued to the front of the monitor and never step foot outside, but I didn't, and I'm glad I didn't. The trick to this issue is like most others in life: moderation and balance are needed.

What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089120)

I don't get it? What's wrong with being "sedentary" .. have they identified that? And besides playing video games is NOT sedentary. Some people just arent interested with doing the same things as others. It's better for the economy anyway .. in the future (knowledge economy?) a lot of work will be done in using computers and simulations. As for exercise maybe there'll be a pill that can be taken with the same effects. ..If that freaks you out .. fine they can exercise at home. What's wrong if those who prefer it, do it? There were some parents who didnt want their kids playing video games .. cause "there is no future in it" ..Well guess what now it's being found out that a lot of the better surgery graduates in med schools used to play video games and had improvewd their dexterity. Furthermore, the military currently has use for people who were good in simulator games. Eventually a lot of civilian uses will be there too (operating industrial machinery, mining, and farming equipment). Plus, many games will evolve to challenge intellectual capacity and be vehicles for learning .. because many humans have an intrinsic need for it. So please, just because you grew up a certain way doesn't mean others should. People are different.

FYI... (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089125)

For the real link [] , not a flamebaitish CNet summary...

I got as far as "Page 1 of 15" (And not the Tom's Hardware sort of "page" either!) and gave up, which I suppose strengthens their point.

Re:FYI... (1)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089253)

The summary also fails to mention that the letter was also signed by people like Professor Susan Greenfield, Director of the Royal Institution, who probably knows a little more than the average children's writer about the effects of stimuli on the brain.

Sounds like (2, Funny)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089126)

The Nothing is devouring Fantasia. ATREYUUUUU!!!!!!

What about reading? (1)

mjh (57755) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089129)

Why is it that people always complain about kids playing with electronics? You never see complaints about the negative effects of reading even though reading is just as sedentary and even less interactive than playing a video game. Is there a bias against gadget based sendentary time?

NOTE: I'm not some tweener complaining about all the adults who want to interrupt my game time. I've got 4 children. They get equal doses of reading, computer and TV time. All of that comes with required outdoor, non-sedentary time. I don't have to push them to go outside or play on the computer. I do have to push them to do their reading. I read this book [] and found it to be completely compelling.

Re:What about reading? (1)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089257)

You never see complaints about the negative effects of reading...

You never had to listen to my mother. "Put down that book and get out of the house!"

Unfortunately, my own kids are more like yours - pushing them to read is a lot harder than getting them to do almost anything else.

It is the opposite (2, Insightful)

ignipotentis (461249) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089131)

I would say it is the opposite. People are waiting longer to form family units and have children. The education cycle is stretching out. According to my insurance company, no one is an adult until they are 25. Just some thoughts.

Kids MUST watch some TV (4, Interesting)

shoolz (752000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089135)

Children must have at least some exposure to the crass and cynical consumer world, with a loving parent at their side to explain what all those fancy commercials are really about.

I had a friend in high school who did not have a TV growing up, and as nice a fellow as he was, he was a hopeless rube that at the age of 18, still believed that wrestling was real and would purchase the bridge you had for sale at the drop of a hat.

I think he could have benifited from a few hours of TV per day, with an audio tape loop in the background repeating "None of this is real... None of this is real..."

one size fits all parenting = bad (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089141)

what groups like this need to realzie is that you cant "one size fits all" parenting or raising kids. Just because it doesn't work for them, doesn't mean it won't work for others.

According to this, I should have the least imagination of any of my friends. Actually, I have the most (according to all of them).

Not saying that their worries are completely baseless, but really they need to look for more than just a simple easy answer.

Lack of social consiquences (1)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089143)

If TV, Computer games and straight jacket schooling are preventing kids from learning proper social skills and learning cause and effect it may go some way to explain why so many of my friends have been beaten up by gangs of kids lately.

The concern is valid but hardly new (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089146)

The children of the poor are denied a "real" childhood by early immersion in the problems of the adult world, including of course child labor at various times and places in history ("The golf links lie so near the mill/That almost every day/The laboring children can look out/And see the men at play." --Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorne).

The children of the rich are granted over-structured, over-scheduled "privileges" that tend to consist of training lessons for things their parents consider important.

In the 1950s, Robert Paul Smith's "Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing." which complained that children in comfortable suburbs seemed to be spending all their time in adult-sponsored activities and did not know how to play mumblety-peg or conkers...

Wertheimer's "The Seduction of the Innocent" told of the terrible havoc being wreaks on youthful minds by comic books.

Heck, even David Elkind's "The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon" is in its third printing and approaching its 25th anniversary.

Faster (2, Interesting)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089149)

Personal Opinion here, no fact involved

I think many people would say we need to move faster. The young mind should be free to learn and absorb at the rate it needs. I for one welcome the explosion of information, I think in the past it hasnt been accessable enough to the young mind. And of course it is up to the parent to moderate what kinds of information the child gets, as each family has separate belief systems. But all in all the young mind will soak up things quickly, give it to them. When I was younger I was fortunate enough to have an encyclopedia. Now everyone has one at their fingertips. You can get answers quickly now rather than waiting for the bi-weekly trip to the library.

Second, just because a child doesnt experience "Your" childhood, doesnt mean that they are not a child. Play may be different now, it is always changing. Just because a child now at age 7 has the knowledge of a 15 year old isnt a bad thing. We are starting to see people in their 20s, and even in their teens with more knowledge than people in their 50-90s. This, I think, is a good trend. The accellerated intellect will allow us to advance our civilization quicker and better than ever in history. Just check out the last 50 years, even the last 15. It is quite impressive. However it is causing a lot of stife in workplaces and life in general as we have intellect vs wisdom everywhere. Give it another 30 years and we will see an amazing culture as long as we dont stifle it.

Not because of the toys (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089151)

Are kid growing up too fast nowadays because of them new-fangled technologies?

No, they're growing up too fast (and often in unhealthy ways) because of poor parenting and poor education systems.

It is not rocket science that a child left unsupervised with an unrestricted TV, Internet-enabled computer and PlayStation n in their bedroom is likely to spend an unhealthy amount of time in front of a screen, and come into contact with less than suitable material for someone their age. The also-not-rocket-science solution to this problem is... not to give kids all the toys and the chance to use them unsupervised all the time.

Likewise, it's easy to let the kids buy junk food on the way to and from school, and to eat school meals with poor nutritional value and drink soda, and then to throw a quick microwave meal or frozen pizza in for dinner. And then we wonder why more of our kids are seriously overweight and developing health problems than any time in recent history. The revolutionary solution to this is... giving kids real food and drink at meal times.

Of course, it's much easier for parents to leave little Jonny and Suzy to play with their hi-tech toys and then cook them frozen pizza for dinner than it is to take an active part in their upbringing by, I dunno, talking to them, reading to them, having dinner with them, and taking them to see and do interetsing things. The work-life balance in many western countries is now so far left of stupid that many parents see the easy option as the only option, however.

Similarly, one has to wonder at "education" systems that spend more time worrying about whether 7-year-olds can pass formal examinations than worrying about 7-year-olds learning to interact with other 7-year-olds, make friends, and play together. And yet, this is exactly where we're headed.

Society needs a wake-up call, particularly if it thinks it's worked this one out. Hi-tech toys are just the symptom, not the cause of the problem.

Ridiculous! (1)

autophile (640621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089155)

Culture isn't static. It changes, sometimes not in the way you'd like it. Tough. I'd be surprised if culture didn't change when the world around changed. This is just another "get off my lawn" guy. Now get off my lawn and let me put my overalls and straw hat on, sweep the barn floor and then harvest some corn.


Who's 'they'? (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089157)

first-hand experience of the world they live in
Why should children care about the world that the old codgers who form the British Government live in? They may still use quill and ink and have pageboys deliver their messages, but the rest of the country have moved on, and that's the world children need to gain experience of.

RPM (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089160)

I think these writers are a bunch of stupidheads. I've been using consumer electronics for 30 years, and my friends are still telling me to grow up.

Fitting Slashdot QOTD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16089182)

A city is a large community where people are lonesome together -- Herbert Prochnow

Can't just blame technology... (2, Interesting)

NMThor (949485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089184)

We can't just blame technology for the trends. There are many factors that, IMHO, seem to be going into this.

Growing up in my hometown 5-10 years ago, I remember kids being outside all the time, playing whatever, chasing each other around. I loved playing street hockey with my friends, for example. However, you go back now, and even on the most beautiful spring day the neighborhood is practically devoid of kids just playing outside (organized sports are still popular, or course, but I mean jusy *play*). Instead, most of them are inside watching TV, playing video games, or, as is more and more the case these days, they are simply trying to do everything and anything to get into a good college (that's put simply of course, but that seems to be the gist of it). Kids aren't allowed to be kids anymore, due to pressure to do everything, due to media influence, etc. "Playing" seems to be considered a waste of time.

Another thing I've noticed is fear in the parents. I used to play outside and get hurt, dig around, get sick, etc. My parents would keep an eye on me but they didn't stop me from playing.

Anyway, just my 2 cents...

yes, completely (1)

deltacephei (842219) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089185)

Two overworked and uninspired parents I know have knowingly and willingly embraced electronic entertainment for their children so as have that built in babysitter handy. One child, years into this sad experiment, is a complete failure at school, cannot concentrate on anything, cannot work for himself and has poor social skills. The other has missed the magic of reading and is impatient with schoolwork. It's almost an act of protest to reduce exposure to gameboys, tv, computers, and videos, especially knowing that when a child is in school classmates will occasionally look at him or her strangely if he or she is deprived of an xbox at home.

Balance (2, Insightful)

MightyMait (787428) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089199)

The key is balance, isn't it? My 6-year old son has an old PII Sony Vaio (running SuSE Linux 8.1, of course), a digital camera (old Sony Mavica (writes to a floppy disk)), and an old videogame console (original PlayStation). He enjoys playing with them quite a bit.

However, I also try to get him and his sister up into the woods each weekend to play in the dirt, eat wild clover and look at the banana slugs. We try to get some time in at the park every day after school. We draw frequently with pencil, crayon and paper.

We watch movies and videos on DVD, but we don't have cable or satelite TV at home. We also try to read each night.

Both my children have very fertile and active imaginations--my son is working on writing and illustrating his first book and, last week started a "math book". The problem isn't the electronics, it's relying on them too much.

I probably spent too much time as a child reading books. I'd probably be better adjusted socially if I'd have been out playing with other kids more instead.

As a complete and utter first-generation geek (1)

porkchop_d_clown (39923) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089203)


I mean, come on, when I went to school I stood out because I was the fat, unathletic, geek who would rather screw around with an electronics kit than a football. When I went with my son for his orientation to 9th grade, I discovered that 2/3rds of the incoming kids looked like I did then.

Oh, did I mention that at my worst I broke 310 pounds? And that I've spent the last 12 years of my life trying to make up for my utter lack of physical activity as a kid?

This is ridiculous (1)

americamatrix (658742) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089206)

Statements like that - actually really grind my gears.

First off this is his view and if he feels this way he can raise his children however he pleases.

Second, parents can raise their children however they please.

Third, I dont feel a government could/should enforce a 'law' to govern such things, mostly because it has NOTHING to do with the government. I wouldn't want some stranger to make parenting decision for me.

This can also be called, bad parenting.

Remember, (mostly) anything is OK in moderation.

One word. (1)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089212)


It's an important time to be a good parent. (1)

hodet (620484) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089214)

Parents who give their kids plenty of time and attention don't have to worry about "new-fangled" technologies hurting their kids. It's all about balance. If you let your kid play video games endlessly because you are too lazy as a parent to get involved then yes it's bad. If you are unwilling to bolster you kids self-esteem without the help of $300 running shoes then you suck as a parent and the kid loses out. I would say none of that other stuff is to blame as much as detached, indifferent parenting.

Yeah! Back to the old ways! (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089215)

Let's go back to the old ways! We'll have school in little churches with 1 teacher and only 5 kids per school, and we'll use the same textbooks for 20 years. And after school, they'll have to milk the cows (if you're one of the rich people that can afford their own) and move the pig crap to the field for fertilizer.

Kids shouldn't even have TIME for games, they should be busy doing manual labor and learning how to be respectable. Playing games and goofing off in the yard will just lead to end of the world and they'll be no-good losers for the rest of their lives.

Seriously folks. Is that what you really think? Progress = bad, automatically?

Fun has evolved. Playtime has evolved. Kids don't have to play with tinkertoys and LEGO until they 16 now. They can play with those when they are young (you know, like the package says... 8 yrs old) and then play with more complicated, more thought-provoking things later. Like Second Life and MySpace.

(I just heard a collective scream, didn't I?) As much as I hate it also, and avoid it like the plague, MySpace actually does introduce kids to the concept that they can have an area that is THEIRS and they can decorate it how they want. Hopefully enough of their friends will tell them exactly how ugly it is and they will improve or give up and find something they are actually good at.

YouTube is also good for this. I watched an amazingly horrid music video (That 'Does you chain hang low song') with some 10-14 yr old kids 'dancing'. It was positively the worst music video I've ever seen. But you know what? When I was a kid, I was the ONLY ONE that could use a video editting machine (in fact, I could also cam-to-vcr edit) to do the morning news in school. I eventually managed to teach some others. These kids just did it. They didn't complain that they couldn't, or anything like that. They just took some vid cam (probably digital, better than a cell phone) and shot video. Tada. Imagination and creation.

It is NOT DEAD. It is merely different now. Kids just work with the toys they are given.

Oh, and lecture time... If you restrict your kids unnecessarily, they will turn this imagination towards thwarting your rules to have fun, instead of having fun.

no (1)

beta-guy (715984) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089232)

technology isn't making us grow up too fast, it's how we are using it that is making it grow fast, the spin on technology if you will, it's just like saying is technology evil, well of course not. take guns for example, they are dangerous, they are used in wars and people kill using them but they are also used in hunting and self-defense. I remember back in the day when Super Mario bros. 1 was the big thing, and you know what if the gaming industry made safe friendly games like that they wouldn't grow up so quickly but another problem facing this issue is human social interaction for instance say an 8 year old kid see's his older brother playing Doom 3 he might want to play it simply because that what the big kids play. It's silly to make a vague statement like technology is making us grow up too quickly the real problem is we haven't invested enough time into understanding human limits and how to progress technologically without pushing those limits.

Childhood is a modern invention (1)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089233)

Only in the last couple of centuries have we had a protected childhood where children lived in a seperate world from the adults. If kids grow up faster today, and I think it might be the case that increased access to information about the world adults live in might do that, it is just a return to more natural state of affairs. I'm not worried.

I'm much more worried about people who want to turn back time and decrease our freedom under the under the motto "Will someone please think of the children!".

Programming At It's Worst (1)

robotsrule (805458) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089234)

As humans that dominate that earth, except for war and crime, we forget that survival is at the heart of it all. The developing human mind, a child's, is desperately and rapidly trying to absorb as much social knowledge as it can. Not because it's fun. It's only fun because our brains are programmed to give us pleasure for practicing necessary survival skills. For social animals like us, social skills aren't just a good or bad mark on a report card; at one time it was life or death.

What does that preamble have to do with the topic? Simple. Kids are developing "too fast" because they are directly absorbing social skills from TV and movies, frequently in an unmoderated manner. Their poor minds are trying to integrate and internalize media, that for the most part, is poorly written or is only there to entertain using unrealistic situations and far-fetched personal interactions. But their minds are trying to use that knowledge as real data on how they should interface with others in the real world.

I await eagerly the second renaissance of mankind when we stop pretending that TV and video, at least for young minds that are not fully developerd, aren't *programming* of the truest and most far reaching kind. You and I know that the silly or dangerous manner with which one or more actors are interacting is only a joke or a cheap thrill, but to a 5 year it's real data. Then we wonder why we have adults trying to react to so many unimportant and irrelevant media created pressures, that they can't find happiness or make good decisions. We're still asleep it seems.

Product of their environment (1)

caffeinatedOnline (926067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089247)

I truely believe that a child will grow up to be a product of their environment. My two year old, who spent the first 8 months of his life sitting on my wifes lap/breast feeding while she was at work in front of a computer. He then spent the next year sitting on my lap or playing in the computer room as I was working. He has been exposed to computers his whole life. It should have come as no surprise to me when I came home the other day, and he has turned on the computer, clicked the login button, opened up IE and clicked the 'favorite' icon and opened He had seen me do it a thousand times while growing up to keep him entertained while I was off on the other monitor doing something else.

While I agree that children need more stimulation then what they can gather from digital means, it doens't mean that we should remove it until they are a certian age. We are in the digital age, when more and more information is coming down the 'intertubes'. Nothing is going to replace real life experience, but I think that by exposing a child to the information that is out there, be it through the computer or other digital means, is a way to expand their horizons beyond what I, and many others, were exposed to growing up.

Unfortunately, this has lead my son to start guzzling Mountain Dew, saying 'woot!' when he successfully makes it in the toilet instead of his pants, and saying 'I for one welcome my daddy overlord' when I get home.... /joke

Chicken or Egg (1)

Deinhard (644412) | more than 7 years ago | (#16089252)

The question is: are video games and consumer electronics the result or cause of a sedentary lifestyle?

When I was a kid in the early 70s, all we had to do was play outside (other than "rainy day" boardgames). Then, I got a little older and found, gasp, D&D. You can bet that I started staying in more often.

This was a case of the game causing the lifestyle. However, that was the 70s. Because of the vagaries of "modern" times, with children required to spend more time indoors, have we just adjusted to the location of play?

The idea of cocooning has been well discussed over the last 15 or so years. It was only inevitable that it apply to children as well.
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