Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A New Era

Yesterday, Finn, Lucy and I went to the western end of 14th Street to (cue the dramatic music) the Apple Store.

My oh my. I am just a simple person from across the brook across the bay. I know not of this sleek techno-lovefest. Young people everywhere, some in purple t-shirts. The ones in purple t-shirts were the ones that could help you. Be they man or woman, black, brown or white, they were all the same. We called out to one of these purple t-shirts, beckoning him hither. He came and within moments, Finn and Lucy each had in their hot little hands an i-pod touch. Another purple t-shirt helped them set it up and, with that, we entered a whole new world.

Why? Why did I do it?

Achh. We have struggled with this question - how much technology? - for a few years now. Gone are the days when Finnian would come home from a friend's house and describe to me, with the sincerest of sincerity, a commercial that he saw on television and how it looked like that vacuum would really be helpful to me. An age of innocence. How can you not feel a sadness at its passing? But it is gone as surely as Finnian's interest in his Thomas the Tank Engine train set is gone.

Until recently, I have set very specific time limits on computer access. The result of my top-down, heavy-handedness has been to elevate computer time to the #1 slot. It has become the primary occupation around which all other activities are shaped. This was not exactly the desired affect.

So, I have been looking closely at what my goals truly are in regard to this policy. Ultimately, my goal is to encourage them to be able to recognize and set some limits for screen time so that most of their lives are lived among real people and places, not just virtual ones. When I established that as my goal, I realized that my policy was actually all wrong. I had to let go of my limits and let them find their own. I took off the time limits on their accounts on my computer and they were free to spend as much time on it as they wished (after certain necessities of life were taken care of - it wasn't total Liberty Hall around here).

Of course, the first few days, they spent a lot of time on there, although much to my surprise, Finnian was the first to declare that he had had enough. Slowly, ever so slowly, I do see that they the thrill of unlimited screen time is growing dimmer.

Somewhere in among all that, their Flip cameras broke. I bought them each a Flip camera before we started our Knitting Sprawl travels with the idea that they would make films as we traveled across Canada. And they did. Not the films I imagined them making, but they have made many short films together and with friends: some amazing, some funny, some terrible. They have learned a huge amount about filmmaking, natch, but also about all aspects of storytelling and all sorts of other things. Safe to say, the Flip cameras have been a worthy investment.

They used those Flip cameras until they gave out from exhaustion. We were thinking of replacing them when I noticed an article in the New York Times about how Flip cameras had already become obsolete. Apparently, i-pods and cellphones now have the same HD video technology as Flip cameras and since no one wants a gadget that does only one thing anymore, their time was over.

And that, my friends, is how we came to be in the Apple Store yesterday afternoon.

PS. When I took that photograph yesterday, Finnian was watching some Jerry Seinfeld stand-up routines on youtube and Lucy was watching the movie, Babies. So, it's not all bad, right?


OfTroy said...

a long time ago, (in a distant gallaxy) We got our first computer
It didn't even have a hard drive--but it drew my son in!

My limit was--50% of the time on the computer has to be spent learning to touch type--(we bought a touch typing game program)

DS still is a computer geek--and types a reasonable 30 to 35 WPM--
DD is less of a computer geek--but she spent enough time on the computer to get basic typing skills.
A computer is a tool--and kids can learn to use it so many ways.
(gee, my birthday is coming up--can you buy me an i-pod too?)

Newfoundland Fibre Artist said...

I confess I don't know what I would do without my blackberry!! I do get things done in the weirdest locations that acutally frees up my time at home for HOOKING :-) all the emails that I can get done in car (hubby driving) waiting in lines...BB messenger keeps me off the phone..frees up time...who says you can't do two things at the one time... I embrace the techno world :-)

Jennifer de Mello e Souza said...

I have the same concerns for my 12 year old son and my 6 year old daughter. I limit their time with all things electronic, except music. I am thinking about an ipod touch for my son for his 13th birthday...I can't keep it all at bay any longer!