Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Using your kids as evidence

There are probably few things more annoying to non-parents (or really anyone) than listening to a parent talk about what he's learned from his kids. Especially when the parent is a client. We've all been subject to the deadly, "I showed it to my kids" or "My kids were talking about it and they said..." usually followed by a suggestion to change our strategy or ad or idea. Gee thanks, Dad! I'm sympathetic, and work hard not to use stories about my kids as evidence for anything except their well-recognized brilliance, charm and beauty.

But what's interesting about this whole parenting project from a cultural analysis standpoint is that it forces you to commit. For instance, you can have all kinds of interesting conversations about whether video games are good or bad for you. And there is evidence on both sides of the question. I certainly know ver7 successful people who attribute their skills of one kinds or another to their early mastery of everything from Donkey Kong to Halo. On the other hand, there's a growing body of evidence that a heavy diet of video games can have an impact on cognitive development and noticeably shorten attention spans.

So from a theoretical perspective, you can say, well, who cares? My little darling is undoubtedly training him or herself for a future where high-speed reflexes (and other heretofore unrecognized video-game-honed skills) are more important than long-attention spans. Long attention spans? That's what they needed back in the 20th century! But it's kind of a big bet, and a hard one to make, especially when you are a parent that spent most of their youth reading very long novels.

My solution: moderation in all things is, like all parenting advice, obvious and boring. What's maybe more interesting is the fact that the decisions parents make about their kids tend to reveal the depth of their commitments. And it's not simply because we love our little darlings so much, but because we have to live with the consequences. After all, you can always quit an annoying job.

1 comment:

Kathryn Markham said...

I agree there might be a theoretical argument for leaving the kids to play video games...but I suspect in the end it amounts to less of an argument than a post-hoc rationalization; I bet there aren't many parents who opt for that path after careful consideration. I'm inclined to side with arguments like the ones you link to, not to mention fuzzy recollections of Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death as very on-target.

The point about commitments is well-taken, though. I'm always interested in where people come down on the big question in that debate in child-rearing, public vs. private education. I can't imagine it's likely to become any less fraught as the income divide continues to widen...