Project 366 / 323 — Kids, blue screens and YouTube

In our house we’re in a constant battle with the kids, especially the oldest — our 9 year old. And the battle revolves around 2 things: YouTube and the iPad.

Now we’ve showered our children with toys and copious amounts of Lego (in fact enough to sink a ship). The long and the short of it that eventually they’ve gotten everything that they have asked for, whether it’s at Christmas, birthday or reward and from us, our friends or our family. But you get the distinct impression that they’d trade it all in for a single electronic device.

There’s no disguising it, technology is the future. What marvelled me is the norm for them. What has been groundbreaking in my lifetime is an antique for them. My childhood was one of toys and games, the modern equivalent is gadgets and gizmos. I understand that. I get it. But what I find strange is the draw.

You’re told to avoid screen time up to an hour before bed — is the same blue screen a drug to our children eyes and brains? Is there something embedded, something deep and invisible that is stimulatingly addictive? I think there is.

And then there’s Minecraft. On the surface a fun game of building within a virtual world. But wait; why do the kids suffer debilitating tantrums when pulled off the game? It’s like it’s a drug. And then there’s Stampy, some 25 year old dweeb from Havant who, for some strange reason, get’s 30 million YouTube hits per week and all he’s doing is posting videos of him playing the game. Of course he’s now monetised his activity with advertisers and has been labelled as a “Minecraft Entrepreneur”.

I don’t want to stop my children playing on the iPad, I need them to be able to converse with technology seamlessly as they grow up. After all it’ll be part of their everyday life. But I can’t stand the abandon-all-else attitude to it. We’ve avoided the X-Box / Playstation consoles thus far but we all know that we can’t realistically avoid it forever.

The problem is that I see the effects of people who have not evolved with technology all the time at work. The sheer volume of 20, 30, 40 and 50 year olds who are literally clueless is staggering. They don’t know even the basics of IT, they can’t type, they can’t navigate — they’re lost in a world that is leaving them behind.

It’s all a fine balance between education and entertainment. In the future will there be a real world? Will we physically own anything or will everything be virtual? Are these the last few generations where the children play with physical toys?

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