My three-year-old son learned to say, “iPhone,” before “daddy”. He was swiping through apps and snapping photos before he could utter a coherent sentence. When we’re not paying attention, he takes the iPad to the bedroom, locks the door and plays SpongeBob Dash or Angry Bird. He thinks, and expects, all monitors and TVs to be touch-screen and gets annoyed when they aren’t. I thought he was a genius, but it turns out my son is typical of his generation, and makes me wonder how we’re going to keep up with him.
A recent NPR blog discusses the existence of evil marketing and research big brothers who monitor and study kids’ gaming activities. They use the information to devise schemes to squeeze more money out of their parents. The parents and the kids are victims. The blog, titled, “How Video Games are Getting Inside Your Head – And Wallet,” portrays the video game industry as voyeurs hiding behind the mirror, watching for a way to exploit the weak and young.
My first instinct is to blame the “blame-everyone-but-me” culture we live in. There is some inept parenting showcased in the blog. One mother allows her teenage son to play Xbox for 12 hours straight. Another parent, whose son blew lots of cash on in-game purchases, asks, “Do you really want to be spending everything on this?” That’s like asking, “Do you really want to be eating so much chocolate?” Don’t ask. You are a parent. You make a decision. Finally, a parent at the end of the blog finally makes the right call and takes away her 10-year-old’s gaming rights.
I look at this and the first thought is, I’m not going to be like these amateurs. I’m a good father. But then, I think about those times when I take away the iPad from my son mid-game, and the tantrum he throws. There are also evenings when my wife is away and I want some R&R after work. I’m tempted to give the kid fifteen minutes of iPad, which sometimes turns into an hour. I think about those times, and I’m not so sure how different I will be from these parents in the blog.
I’ve always loved video games. As a kid, I’d find ways to play as often as I could. My mom would lock the PC and hide the key (there was a physical key back then), but I would always find it, and play games when she was not home. I still find time to play now, even though I have a full-time job and married with a young son. I wouldn’t mind if my son enjoys playing games, but like any sensible parent, I don’t want him to be addicted to it. I don’t want him to be addicted to anything.
Then there will be new technology, things I would never have even dreamed of, that my son would take for granted. He will see and do things I will never be able to learn. In Antiquity and the Renaissance, cities on the Mediterranean flourished because of their access to the world. The entire world is now the Mediterranean, so how quickly will technology advance? How much quicker will my son adapt to it than me? How will I keep up with him?
If I asked for advice, the response would be that some things never change. Technology may jump a light year ahead, but the fundamentals of parenting – love – is still the same. That is true, I’m sure, but it would be nice if someone would write a guide on parenting in the high-tech era.