Are we the lone holdouts from the Nintendo generation?

The more we travel and the more I interact with kids of other families, the more I wonder whether we have a pocket of quasi-Luddites, veritable Amish families who are actually hurting their children by turning our collective backs on the marvels of modern technology and electronic gizmos.
From restaurants to hiking trails, us parents seem to be moving into our own bubbles with our cellphones, PDAs, portable Internet devices (read “iPhone”) and other gadgets. I do it too, I admit, with my Blackberry Pearl sitting on the table so I can keep an eye on my incoming email and, of course, chat with friends and colleagues if calls arrive. I try to step outside for any lengthy conversation and don’t talk on the phone if I’m with someone else, though.
But kids. We have always tried to keep them away from the lure, the digital siren song of modern gizmos. We have no video games, heck, we don’t even have a TV in the house any more. I am starting to wonder, however, whether we’re swimming upstream against an extraordinarily strong current…

As much as us adults enjoy our cellphones (does anyone nowadays drive without being on their cellphone?) seems like we’re breeding a generation of children who are just as into their own isolating gadgets, their Nintendo Gameboys and Sony PSPs and the like. With the convergence of electronics, in a decade a children’s handheld device will have GPS mapping, cellphone capabilities, always-on IM, MySpace (or its progenitors) and as many games as they can license for $0.05/play anytime and anywhere.
I don’t like them, even though I readily acknowledge that there are amazing games out there that let you immerse yourself in fantasy worlds that are fully realized and quite compelling, from the massively multiplayer worlds of World of Warcraft to the interconnected, pint-sized Pokemon villages to even the clunky lands of Second Life. If they had immersive “live like the pioneers” or “back to the medieval ages” or even “you’re an artist during the Italian Renaissance!” I might like them more, but maybe that’s my hangup.
Meanwhile, though, I can absolutely see how these gadgets are so darn compelling. Give any of my kids a Gameboy and they’ll be sucked in as quickly as any other modern children, able to bury their nose and unplug from the world around them for hours on end. And these games are brilliantly designed to be fun for even children who have no reading skill and are just poking at the screen and figuring everything out.
Which leads to my question: are we the lone holdouts from this brave new world of electronic childhood, of letting kids play video games, computer games, watch movies and DVDs on their own TV, of playing handheld games wherever and whenever they choose? Are we fighting this vaguely Sisyphean battle for naught?

7 comments on “Are we the lone holdouts from the Nintendo generation?

  1. I think you’re fooling yourself. You _think_ you’re a hold out. Like a “casual” alcoholic.. Just ’cause you dumped the TV doesn’t mean the kids aren’t seeing the techno light.
    As a matter of fact many of us have cell phones only for emergencies and they are actually turned off until then..
    Just watch the entrance to a grocery store. Nobody says, “Hi” unless it’s to someone on a phone.. not to the human in front of them.
    What does that create?? A generation that can’t handle trouble.. they don’t interviene.. they stop and watch and tell someone about trouble.. but don’t do anything to help or prevent… we’re creating kids that don’t understand what a social contract is..
    Who cares if you can’t be reached for an hour.. will that e-mail really rot before you open it??
    It’s not the technology.. it’s lazy parenting.. It’s not computers, games, phones.. it’s parents that think they’ll address whatever problem they’re seeing tomorrow.. As Janis said.. Tomorrow never comes.
    Look people in the eye. Say, “Hello.”.. tune back into reality folks.

  2. My husband, who is 28, spent a great amount of time in his childhood playing video games. I play them more now than I did as a child, but my parents never resisted letting me play on the computer, watch tv, or use other technological gadgets. And you know what? I watched way less tv than most people my age did when I was a kid (I’m 23, for reference).
    I think American culture and the media has it wrong. We don’t need to be keeping kids away from technology and video games. It doesn’t teach them violence; they learn plenty of that and have plenty of it in their biology anyhow. In fact, for my husband’s brother, who is particularly aggressive and grew up in the Bronx, a place where his aggression could have easily turned to violence on the streets, it was the video games that kept him in check and gave him an outlet for his aggression that didn’t hurt anyone.
    I definitely don’t think you are alone. You are not the lone holdouts. But I don’t think you need to hold out. There are lots of things to learn from games and even modern television. You can read articles about how tv shows are getting more complex and it takes cerebral involvement to follow the many characters and plots. You can read articles about the most intelligent games – two of my favorites are world of warcraft and the Sims, and of course who could forget Sid Meier’s Civilization! They may be fantasy worlds without the obvious educational benefit of being set in ancient Rome or the Revolutionary War, but there are lots of useful skills to be honed by playing these games.

  3. Well I have mixed feelings about this topic. On one hand I think it’s great that you can make the commitment to get that boob tube out of your house. Most of the time it is just an annoyance for me. BUT my kids like TV, they like movies, they like games.
    I have one TV, a dvd player, and a SPS. I can’t even remember the last time the SPS was used. As much as I hate it, I don’t think it is hurting them much either. I believe in exposing kids to the world and teaching them how to cope with it. When they leave the nest they need to know moderation. They need to learn self-control with these devices so they don’t end up adults sucked into these zoombie machines for hours on end.
    I think parents are shifting the blame. I do think the problem is lazy parenting. It is really easy to stick your kids in front of the tube or game for hours. You can get so much done(or do nothing) with the kids sucked in to their zombie state. I think it would be better to teach kids how to entertain themselves for a while so mum can get something done.
    For my family, I don’t think eliminating it is the answer – as much as I would love to at times. But then again this may be my rationalization since I can’t make the commitment to toss the tv.

  4. I have the same concerns as you, particularly how technology now serves to disconnect us from one another. When TV was invented families used to watch the same show together. They may not have been conversing, but at least they were together and could, if they chose, discuss what they watched. Now TV has switched from collective to personal entertainment. Ditto video games- when they were large people played them together. Now the handheld devices are too small for that; people play by themselves. The Internet allows people to interact with people they’ll never meet, and ignore their family and friends who are physically present. The answer- don’t have one, but I try to have activities where our family is doing something together every day.

  5. I tend to think that the content of what the kids see and play on these games is potentially more damaging than the idea of the games themselves. We have a Playstation in our home, and whilst I monitor the games that my children have and the time spent on it, it worries me that my son tells me of the shooting and killing games that his friends talk about playing. Call me a fuddy duddy if you like, but I think kids have enough negative stuff in their world to deal with, without having to face it on the small game screen as well. We could blame the manufacturers of these games, but really, they wouldn’t produce them if there wasn’t a market for them. I think parents need to be more responsible with technology. Whilst I’m not a hold out from the Nintendo, I’m a hold out from much of the content – and proud of it! I’d love to share more thoughts on my blog.

  6. In our household we do not have a television, video games, or cell phones!
    I do not think it is an upstream battle. We have chosen our lifestyle for many reasons and here are a few:
    I would like my children to be able to entertain themselves. I find that many children who are used to being constantly, passively entertained have a hard time finding creative ways to entertain themselves. My children draw or read/look at books, and play creative ‘role play’ games a good portion of the day.
    Another reason is, I find that anything that triggers an addictive behavior should generally be avoided. (I should take my own advice, somehow I just can’t seem to give up COFFEE!)
    The content is another issue that causes me great concern. I believe this society embellishes violence and has few examples or role models that teach children how to express anger appropriately. There are commonly ‘zero’ tolerance policies in schools etc..for children who act out violently or are bullying others. Often children are suspended or expelled from school for such behavior. On the other hand I have not heard of any programs that are dedicated to teaching children how to express their anger appropriately. It is possible that such programs exist, but they are definitely not the norm!
    Other issues with the content on T.V. and video games is somehow, it seems to have become ‘cool’ to be rude (sponge bob etc..). Also I often do not like how girls or women tend to be portrayed (Bratz).
    On the other hand I do not believe in ‘sheltering’ my children (within reason of course!). I believe variety is the spice of life. If my children are visiting other people’s houses they may watch T.V. or play video games long as the content is age appropriate and decent. By doing so I am trying to teach them that people live different lifestyles but it is important to make your own decisions about what is best for you regardless of what others are doing.
    I believe for our family our choices are working well for us as our children NEVER say ‘I’m bored’!
    When my children become adults they may very well choose to own a T.V., video games etc…but they will also know how to live without them!

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