Friday, June 15, 2007

Club Penguin...??

Was anyone else alarmed by two recent articles in the New York Times: one on the proliferation of websites for little kids and the other on the eight-year-old (I think that's his age) video game master. I found that image of the diminutive video game master, sitting atop a desk or some such thing in his dark basement, a bit depressing. The photo in the story about kids' websites (e.g. Club Penguin) also made me sad -- that little girl sitting on the couch with a laptop. Don't get me wrong: I like technology -- hence the blog! but I don't know that kids need it in their lives that much when they're so young. Somehow this topic makes me think of Pokemon. Matt and I both are unimpressed by Pokemon. As Matt said, "What kind of strategy is there in a game where the more you spend on the cards, the more valuable they are?" Yeah, what's the strategy there for kids? I get what it is for the guys who produce the game. And, while I know that there's math involved in playing with Pokemon cards, I think there are other fun, more interesting ways to get kids excited about and playing with math concepts. When all of this gets to be too much, then I start thinking that it would be nice to live in a cottage in Half Moon Bay and send my kids to a Waldorf school.


Sarah Morrow said...

I saw an ad the other day that had a photo of a child with a laptop and the slogan said "I found focus at 3." Something like that. I think the ad was for a toy. I just looked at it and shook my head. That's not focus or childhood, to me.

The ad was on the wall at the health club I took the girls to so I could get in a run when Andrew was out of town. I took the girls to the "children's center." The TV in the kids room was enormous and dominating in the space--it took up a whole wall. Another attached room was a computer lab with children plugged in in rows. I put stickers on my girls that read "No TV/No Comps" (a practice at the club started by other Waldorf mothers). The idea being that the adults could just direct them into the sunshine to play if they get captivated by the incessant Dora songs demanding their attention to the giant screen. A friend of mine once pointed out how inconsistent it is that at a "health" club, the children are sitting at screens. Why not have spaces for the children to run and jump and play! I felt really sad for the kids in the room. (And bummed that I have to figure out another way to work out when Andrew's gone.)

I am drawn so strongly these days to the movement of greening, simplifying, and opening our eyes to the unhealthy influences imbedded in our lifestyle. Messages that are really absurd when I stop to really think about them--like computers and commercial tv are good for children. Like it's ok that we serve our children food with hormones and medicines in them. Like young children should be driven to so many self-improvement activities day-in and day-out. What?

I am finding some blogs (like noimpactman, soulemama, Michael Pollan on and others) can be pretty inspiring. I am savoring Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about food, and slowing it all down. Going to our roots, where daily rhythm and patience to wait a bit reveal profound lessons.

The sped up lifestyle all around us is way too much. I relate to your picture of Half Moon Bay. The other evening, all five of us paddled out into the neighborhood lake in a borrowed peddle boat. The giant clouds sprawled lazily against the blue sky. Thick and green the trees lined the shore. Georgia stood tall dripping on a floating dock, shouting with joy as she jumped in the water with an enormous splash. We all shrieked in the spray and floated around on our backs looking up at the endless sky.

Actually, that's where they are right now--swimming (while I work on a book of children photographed at computers). We have found ourselves in Minnesota--It's a little random how we came to live here, but we smile that it seems to suit the path we are on. The health is in the grass and trees, and deep lakes, the farmers markets--we just stay clear of the "health" clubs, big-chain supermarkets . . .

We all find our slices of joy and truth--whether we live in the cities or country. It can be in a crowded neighborhood corner or a dirt path in the woods. Andrew and I are finding more and more that the true joy and growth for our children is so much simpler than all that other stuff.

(I can't wait to swim in the north woods this summer with you, Matt, Alex and b-aaaa-byyy Maa-at-e-oooo!!) And I really hope it's ok to write so much on your blog. :)

Sarah Morrow said...

sorry my comment is so darn long. It didn't look so long in the typing window. ugh.

Rebekah said...

I didn't read the New York Times articles (because the NYT only comes into our house electronically these days, and I spend too much time at the computer doing work e-mail to want/be able to read articles at it) but I did read -- and highly recommend -- Caitlin Flanagan's article in the most recent Atlantic on social networking sites for kids. She is particularly cogent on the scariness of Club Penguin and on the particularly dangerous power of e-socializing for middle-school aged girls. Read her article. You may be more depressed, but you'll also be grateful for her insights.