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I spent my career in tech, but wasn’t prepared for its effect on my kids (washingtonpost.com)
406 points by ALee on Aug 24, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 372 comments

'One of my favorite things you can do is plan a “device-free dinner.”'

_A_ device free dinner? Why aren't all of them? These weird little "small gestures" make me feel like people have lost control of their homes.

We have a landline expressly to give out to emergency contacts. And dinner is tech free. Every night.

I think the main problem is tech has made everything _else_ easier, but parenting harder, and parents just aren't prepared to fight the battles / put in the work. A parent who is staring at Instagram when they're at the park shouldn't be surprised that their kids wants screens, too.

I think this is the one thing about technology I'm old fashioned about (I roll my eyes hard when people say stuff like "You should delete your Facebook account, you'll be better off."). If I'm eating food with someone else the phone goes away. The only exception is if in the course of conversation an easily googleable question is asked and both the other person/people and I are actually interested in the answer instead of just guessing. But after that the phone goes right back in my pocket. It's not a hard rule, but it's one I do make a conscious effort to follow.

I've noticed that others are a lot less likely to pull out their phones and stare while at the table if I don't do it myself. There's just something kinda sad to me when I see couples at a niceish restaurant and neither person is talking and both are looking at Facebook or Twitter and there's still food on their plates. I know you can't extrapolate that to a person's entire relationship, but it just seems kinda... unfortunate I guess.

When my wife and I first started dating, I had to nudge her out of the habit. She wouldn't sit through a whole meal staring at her phone, but if she looked something up that had to do with our conversation, she'd then end up swiping through her various addictions and end up getting caught up (as I certainly do when on my own)†.

It wasn't a big deal to politely point it out and in time it almost never happened, or she would at least excuse herself to handle something quickly.

I think there can be a balance. After seven years, we will sometimes go out to eat and not really have much to say. Sometimes we'll sit in silence and watch the world around us or simply enjoy our meals and quiet company. Sometimes we'll eavesdrop on our neighbors.

Sometimes we'll whip our our phones and read whatever it is we read, even showing each other what we see... "Did you see so-and-so's new dog? What a cutie! Here, look" or "Take a look next time you're on Instagram". This might spark conversation about said dog, or our cat, or our workdays, or some other completely unrelated subject, or it may continue in silence.

And then there are plenty of other times when neither of us can shut up for hours, carrying on, barely eating, and forgetting we even have phones.

Our devices can obviously be unhealthy, especially the more addictive parts. But I think they can also be a healthy portion of our lives and relationships, provided our interactions are managed.

We don't have kids yet, but I definitely think it will be an interesting challenge to help them find that right balance.

† At our wedding, I urged my wife against writing her vows on her phone so she wouldn't end up swiping to buzzfeed in the middle of it.

So the question that I don't know the answer to: would those couples have engaged each other in meaningful conversation (meaningful to them) had cellphones not existed? Or does the presence of cellphones reveal that a large number of people were never particularly interested in engaging meaningfully with others but would only feign interest when the alibi of the cellphone isn't available?

Or a more optimistic view: it takes some effort to get to interesting conversation; you have to go through some fakeish small talk to find a topic worth discussing. Phones don't require that effort, they're the path of least resistance.

Smalltalk is ideally about finding a hook, a more interesting shared topic which can support a more fulfilling conversation. Otherwise, it's just killing time, and I daresay most here have more intellectually stimulating ways to kill time.

The complexity is when people regard a lack of smalltalk as a chilly isolation. I personally have been called stuck-up because I didn't engage in smalltalk at school. Some cultures are more oriented to this than others.

Your least resistance point is crucial. I suspect that social media likes/karma will act as a low-effort faux-earning that waylays young people. It's a sense of achievement, but one that doesn't pay the bills unless you're one of the few able to derive an income from your broadcast.

Sometimes conversation may occur that otherwise would have been avoided thanks to cellphones, other times you get calming silence instead. Its a definite risk, but the whole equation is ignored usually.

> other times you get calming silence instead

I always like that Pulp Fiction line: "That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut the fuck up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence."

I don't think a moment of silence is any excuse to pull out the cellphone. In fact, I think this highlights part of the problem we have with cellphones. We expect constant entertainment, action, and info. It's really rare anymore to just sit for a minute and do nothing -- and it could be that doing nothing is pretty important.

Phones have indeed allowed people to both need and satisfy that need for constant stimulation. It's pretty sad.

I'm the kind of guy in a coffee shop, waiting room, etc. who just stares into space glad that I owe my thoughts to myself and not my phone. But when everyone else has their phones out except for me, people probably think I'm a weirdo.

And it's not just phones, mind you. It's televisions, also. I used to go to a nice, quiet, and remote barbershop. Affordable haircuts and no noise. What's not to love? As soon as he started attracting more customers, boom: television in the waiting room. Gotta keep people constantly distracted I guess :\

I saw a guy today in a coffee shop. He had no smartphone, tablet or laptop. He just sat there drinking his coffee. Like a psychopath. (https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/-5j54a0AOYfg/VqbpdyKMA8I/A...)

> Phones have indeed allowed people to both need and satisfy that need for constant stimulation. It's pretty sad.

Why is it sad? I think it's fantastic. It's the elimination of boredom and the ability to be interested, productive or entertained at any moment. It's not like anyone is forcing you to look at your phone. I'm quite capable of putting my phone away and staring into space if the mood takes me. Your communal TV example is rather more intrusive by comparison.

It's a matter of opinion, and I agree to some extent that phones can allow people to be productive or feed a curiosity.

At the end of the day, though, I think the greatest thing that gets to me is its impulsiveness and form of instant gratification.

It's gotten so bad that people can't even put their phones down while driving. I've seen enough drivers texting, even if they are just stopped at a red light. Why we permit people to continue driving when they can't respect the notion of operating a several-thousand pound, gasoline-filled vehicle that can kill dozens of those around them is beyond me.

On a less extreme spectrum, sometimes when eating dinner with friends a question will be posed and someone will whip out their phone to look it up. Sure, having answers instantaneously is a benefit, but the drawback is also the loss in ability to take a moment to ponder the question... to come up with your one's own thoughts and exercise the mind, so to speak.

I have to take a moment to thank you for this comment and that image. It demonstrates the point so well, without a lengthy read.

This morning I was in the elevator with three other people. All three of them were looking at their phones. Strangely, I felt weird just standing there waiting.

I feel like the world transformed so quickly.

I remember when I was the only one carrying a laptop. And then a cellphone. And then a smartphone. Then I zoned out on privacy and anonymity zealotry. And the next thing I knew, everyone and their little yellow dog had their face in a smartphone 24/7. WTF? Seriously, WTF?

>would those couples have engaged each other in meaningful conversation (meaningful to them) had cellphones not existed?

certainly some would

>Or does the presence of cellphones reveal that a large number of people were never particularly interested in engaging meaningfully with others but would only feign interest when the alibi of the cellphone isn't available?

I think that people are addicted or at least oblivious at how attached to their phones they are. And they see plenty of other people engaging in the same behavior, which makes it a social norm and validates that behavior. Everyone does it, so it's OK.

Although I can't help but chuckle, because the same sorts of people who wanted to look down on me back in the day for spending hours in front of a computer, building a website, learning how to program, or playing games, are glued to their phones nearly every second they can manage to find. When it came time to practice the sort of etiquette that they preached, they failed miserably.

> So the question that I don't know the answer to: would those couples have engaged each other in meaningful conversation (meaningful to them) had cellphones not existed? Or does the presence of cellphones reveal that a large number of people were never particularly interested in engaging meaningfully with others but would only feign interest when the alibi of the cellphone isn't available?

I would add a followup to that. Would this also mean that more people are together now that otherwise wouldn't, without that crutch?

Not sure I want anything said with that, but I couldn't help but draw the conclusion.

This is a really good question and one I think about often. Either possibility is pretty depressing to me.

For me it's not even a conscious effort, as it feels rude to be on your phone, when you are having a meal with someone. Is it not rude to start reading a book while you are having a lunch with someone, why is the phone any different.

When there is a need to look at your phone (Important message, a call, or even to look up something), I think the polite thing is to excuse yourself, do the thing really quickly, and get back to your meal.

>Is it not rude to start reading a book while you are having a lunch with someone

In my world it is though.

I'm sorry, I'm not a native English speaker, and sometimes I fall into these mistakes. I think what threw you off is my incorrect punctuation, as I should've wrote it as

> Is it not rude to start reading a book while you are having a lunch with someone? Why is the phone any different?

You're agreeing

You're right ! I kept reading it inverting the two first words. I even double-checked when posting because that seemed illogical. Funny how I somehow needed someone to point it out to be able to read it right.

English grammar is pretty crazy.

Does this happen in other languages, too? As often?

It happened to me in French a couple of months ago. I read the sentence 5 to 6 times to be sure, I even quoted it in my reply, to express how illogical the proposition was.

And then the guy replied that I misunderstood. I was like: " impossible, I double-triple-quadruple-checked and quoted the relevant part". And then, blast! I saw that I got lost in the position of the negative part (it wasn't even a very complex case where negations are chained, as it happens sometimes). Worst thing is that the way I understood it, it didn't have much grammatical sense, whereas the real sentence was correct.

And the fact that I had quoted the sentence proved that he hadn't edited in between. Else I would certainly have blamed him for that: I was so sure of my cautious multiple checks...

I was ashamed of myself.

(I had troubles with "is it"/"it is" in the present case too, I had to re-read the sentence 3 times to be sure. What confuses me in English is not really the grammar, it is the abundance of very short words, they scramble the structure of the sentence, for they are less recognizable and distinguishable from each other.)

You seem to be assuming that the function of the multi-person dinner is always to engage each other. Have you considered that, for some couples at least, it's simply not the case, and there are other times when they talk?

Personally, I would rarely bother with anything other than random social chit chat in a place as public as a restaurant. More involved conversations take place somewhere else more private. But why would I do random social chit chat with my spouse? It's the kind of stuff reserved for strangers and casual acquaintances.

I consider the assumption correct in most circumstances, and almost always when visiting a restaurant.

Otherwise, why bother with the logistics of getting people all in the same place at the same time?

I would only agree that engagement is irrelevant when leaving the table with one's food is acceptable. Otherwise there's the implication that you're there for some purpose, other than getting yourself some nutrition.

> Otherwise, why bother with the logistics of getting people all in the same place at the same time?

It's hardly a logistical problem to get two people who live together (and therefore already have largely intertwined schedules) to a restaurant.

And the reason is fairly obvious: to enjoy the food.

It's true. I was having hot pot with my wife the other day. Sitting near us was a couple, both on their phones the whole time and not looking at each other.

When I first played with smartphone, it was before most people had phones with Internet (it was pre-iPhone). Someone commented on how I was on the phone all the time and the lesson stuck with me ever since. Now I don't do that to people.

Don't be too quick to judge people in all of these situations. Not saying it was likely in your example, but I've had meals where I've just spent days out of range with someone, talking endlessly in the car and on hiking trails, and then got to a restaurant with wi-fi and used that as the best chance to communicate with other people for the first time in a while, or deal with work emails.

Look around in any restaurant these days and you'll easily see half of the adults in the room engaged with their phones at some part of the evening, if not most of it.

Be sure to judge them for that, too. This forum exists because of money spent by people on their phones all day.

It was an observation of a trend. Nothing more.

If are going to discuss how to instill values in our children regarding smartphones, we need to look at ourselves first.

The judging is for his/her own benefit and doesn't really have anything to do with the object.

"I'm a little bit better than that person because I can take an elevator ride without looking at my phone"

"Our relationship is better than theirs because we can get through dinner without looking at our phones"

On and on it goes... it's comforting, isn't it?

The occasional check of your phone is very different than staring at your glowing rectangle through the entire dinner, ignoring those you are with entirely.

Like literally every human quality and habit, it's a spectrum, and people arbitrarily stake out a line on that spectrum (as we do with all the other spectrums).

Not intended as a judgement, just an observation.

Hey, imagine when that "glowing rectangle" exists privately in the visual cortex ;)

That's odd, one of the reasons I love hot pot is that it's really hard to have your phone out, since cooking the meat/fish requires focus and at least one hand.

But also a timer, which ironically, often turns out to be a phone.

Your assuming this is some kind special lunch. For all you know it could be a work lunch, trying to fire off some emails.

> sad to me when I see couples at a niceish restaurant and neither person is talking and both are looking at Facebook or Twitter

Is that like a Bay Area thing? Sounds really terrible to me (I live in Europe)

I live in Europe and I wouldn't say that it is much "better" here - it depends on the places and the subcultures obviously, but for sure you will also see lots of people staring at their phones (and I admit to do it myself from time to time).

Nobody would say s(he) is a bad driver, but so many people complain about the driving of other people.


I live in Texas. I've seen it all over here and pretty much every other state I've visited in the last few years. Maybe it's an American thing?

You see it all around Europe as well. I live in a touristy area and Germans, English, French and Spanish are guilty of this as well.

Right now I'm working from a restaurant and would say 1/4 of the people are looking at a phone (give or take, didn't count!)

I'd venture to guess you'd see it wherever data is cheap.

For me (in Europe as well) I get the impression that it is shallow, pretty people that engage in that sort of behavior. Nice clothes, they look pretty but not much personality.

It's definitely an affluent US city thing. When I was in Spain for three weeks this summer zero of the locals had their phones out in a restaurant.

Come visit Scandinavia: we're predicting lots of back and neck problems for this generation later in life based on constant hunched-over phone swiping :)

For realsies though: it's all about the connectivity of the area you are in combined with local social norms. Sweden, Denmark, and Finland are filled with phones, 4G connections, and quiet dining tables as people read the news.

I deleted my Facebook account two years ago, and I am much happier as a result.

I haven't logged on to Facebook since March, and frankly I don't miss it. I'm not happier since I've instead filled that time with vapid alternatives such as HN.

Much easier to trade one vice for another, than to remove the vice altogether.

I've deleted my Facebook and Instagram apps from my phone since last Tuesday.

Much happier.

I like the potentiality of being able to log into it with the Browser, but giving myself just enough resistance to not go through with it. I feel like it gives me more power to my decisions.

Also, I have lots of good friends and family who user Messenger frequently and I'd hate to miss their messages on that.

Also, related, I've removed notifications from nearly all my apps. That's nearly the same effect as removing the app altogether from my phone.

> I know you can't extrapolate that to a person's entire relationship, but it just seems kinda... unfortunate I guess.

It's important to remember this fact. Too many people judge others based on their own ideologies. It's their life; not your own. I'm just as guilty as everyone else to judge, but I'm working on it.

I make a difference between a date or other explicitly agreed "dinner as a shared experience" and a random meal. At a date or family dinner, the phone stays away. But meals can be purely functional too, and then I may sit there with my whole laptop for that matter.

What's important to me is that there is sufficient device free time whether over a meal or otherwise. Then it's fine if some meals aren't amongst those times.

But eating out at anything above a fast food place certainly are amongst the device-free times... And often fast food meals are too.

My friends and I will often play this game where everyone puts their phone face down in the middle of the table. If you touch your phone before the check comes you get to pay the bill.

I'd say 9 out of 10 of those couples you see on their screens in a restaurant are on a first date.

I regularly go out for dinner with my partner, and sometimes we sit and talk for 3 hours, not noticing where the time goes. Other times, we sit in silence, enjoy our food, and head home together. And other times, we will sit, chat, and maybe take our phones out for a little while. Don't judge a relationship based on a single observation.

Would that not be the one time you have your phone off, with you paying full attention?

Or are you describing a first and last date situation?

>(I roll my eyes hard when people say stuff like "You should delete your Facebook account, you'll be better off.")

Your mortgage might be more expensive than it should be because of your facebook account.


If the cost of your home increases by $10,000 in extra interest over the lifespan of the mortgage due to things your friends post on your facebook wall and you use facebook for 80 years of your life, will you still be happy with your $125 per year facebook subscription?

So set your account to friends-only. It's easy and you should be doing it anyway.

Dude, Facebook is the one exporting the data. The friends only flag doesn't do shit.

Hah, if only that were true. That scandal would be so big that it would likely threaten Facebook's entire business as it would lead to lawsuits and Justice Department investigations. Facebook has a privacy policy and is required to abide by it. No manager would ever greenlight a program that actively violates that as they would get canned on the spot and there's very little benefit to them.

Don't get caught up in conspiracy theories. Facebook is actually really constrained in how much "evil" stuff they can do without you knowing.

Doesn't it follow that it might be cheaper as well? Especially for this audience

>Doesn't it follow that it might be cheaper as well? Especially for this audience

That's not up to you, credit score systems based on your social media profile examine your friends as much as they do you. Job prospects are also affected by how your friends post and present on facebook: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/facebook-friends-matter/

Remember: How your friends express themselves affects your financial future, so work hard to keep them in line citizen!

> _A_ device free dinner? Why aren't all of them? These weird little "small gestures" make me feel like people have lost control of their homes.

Why should all dinners be distraction[1] free? I understand dinner is a social event for many cultures/families, but not every person wants this nor am I convinced it must be this way. I'm efficient with my eating and when the family wants to socialize we play Catan or sit around the couch and talk. Besides that, when the dinner conversation reaches an impasse, Alexa has occasionally been helpful in resolving it.

It's fine if people enjoy socializing over dinner, but let's not arbitrarily assume it's morally superior. Nor should we mistakenly compare it to our own childhoods, when devices weren't as ubiquitous. We should question old habits/traditions especially when the environment has changed.

[1] I'm subbing in "distraction" for "device", my kids have brought non-powered distractions to the table before.

You're right. If you have other frequent means of socializing and dinner is just a time for food in mouths, then devices at the table aren't the end of the world.

But there is a reason many people like to use dinner as a mandatory point of family social contact: it keeps you on a daily schedule. You can multitask: listening to stories while you chew. And it provides some resilience to changes.

Like marriage, there is some value to committing to something like this "in sickness and in health". It's nice that you all want to play Catan now, but what happens when your teenager decides they don't like games anymore? Or what happens if your spouse isn't loving your approach to competition these days? Or if someone just doesn't feel like socializing? Everyone needs to eat, so in that way it's resilient to these shifting winds. If nothing else, you can sit and chew and listen to your family's voices.

So I'm not disagreeing with you: there are other ways to achieve the same ends that might be more efficient or more comfortable for your family. But there are also good reasons to sacrifice a little of that in order to fix a ritual that can pay off in unpredictable ways.

When I don't feel like socializing, I wouldn't want to have a dinner where I can't use my phone.

Do you not think that easily available distraction is a cause of and not a solution to this problem?

Reading this thread is frightening.

> [1] I'm subbing in "distraction" for "device", my kids have brought non-powered distractions to the table before.

This is a good point. I remember my mom getting mad when I'd bring a book to the table (c. 1995). If it's not a phone, it's something else.

Same for me, a book or a gameboy at the dinner table would result in a clip around the ears. My parents weren't strict in the slightest, but dinner time was the 10-20 minutes where we all sat down together as a family and put up with mums political views.

My elder child frequently tries to bring a novel to the dinner table, as I'm sure I did at their age. But we don't allow it.

Of course, the image of the paterfamilias at the breakfast table with his nose in the newspaper, ignoring his family, was a constant in the 19th and 20th centuries.

I do think you might talk to me, Charles. I've had a very exhausting day! Take me out of myself!

> Why should all dinners be distraction[1] free?

Sure, fine. I was mostly critiquing the notion that a "distraction" free dinner was an event that needed to be planned, as opposed to something approaching a default.

Well - maybe some people like sugar b/c it's so sweat - why not then eat it as much as you like?

> I'm subbing in "distraction" for "device", my kids have brought non-powered distractions to the table before.

A distraction is not the same as a device. A screen's distraction area is just the one person using it. A general distraction can be shared by everyone at the table, making it a social thing again.

That would explain why people who value the social aspect of dinners hate screens.

> We should question old habits/traditions especially when the environment has changed.

I strongly agree. I'm always surprised how much resistance to this idea I encounter, though.

As a parent I should make whatever arbitrary rules I consider appropriate. Be that "no screens at the table" or "Don't eat with your mouth open" or "How can you have any pudd'n if you don't eat your meat?".

Whether they'll make your family happier or "more perfect " according to someone elses yardstick is irrelevant. You set the boundaries, and live with the environment that they create. So set the ones that make you happier and stick with them. They may be just what your parents did, or they may be the opposite.

> Why should all dinners be distraction[1] free?

Well, one reason is mindfulness: being present to really just eating.

My kids watch TV or play with iPads during dinner. They are perfectly fine if not well above-average. I think it can possibly exacerbate certain bad behaviors, but it won't make good kids turn bad.

> It's fine if people enjoy socializing over dinner, but let's not arbitrarily assume it's morally superior.

Why mischaracterise as an arbitrary moral thing to latch on to the current zeitgeist and make it seem somehow worse? It's a bit like saying getting kids to eat less junk food is an arbitrary moral imposition. Adds nothing.

I agree but some of these things sound like moral panics about black rectangles. I don't remember people shaking their heads at parents reading a paperback book at the park, or commuters reading broadsheet newspapers on the train.

But cellphones and these endless scrolling social apps that get our attention aren't really the same thing as books or even newspapers. They just seem to suck your ability to focus out of you and don't really give you back anything.

Sorry, that's not true at all. My phone provides the same services to me digitally that the analog world provided. It just does it more efficiently. I can read a book, keep in touch, learn a new skill, or research a topic all from the same device. That's an insane amount of value and I won't panic over using it because we didn't in the old days.

This is not completely unlike saying "drugs can help me focus and boost my creativity". Sure, it can, and a diminishing and statistically insignificant minority use it exclusively for that. As to the rest of us... we're just junkies.

I don't think it's fair to blame phones for most people being near average.

90% of what 90% of people say just doesn't matter. So it doesn't matter if they're staring at their phones instead of talking about their weekend plans or their cousin's weddings, or any other tidbit of nothing that occupies their public vocalizations.

Nobody blames phones for most people being average. Phones are not the problem at all.

The problem is the companies that shape their services provided through the phone to be optimized towards abusing well-documented behavioral characteristics of 'average people'.

I for one read books on my phone at the park. How’s that any different from reading a paperback book at the park?

There's no real difference in that situation, but people don't generally read paperback books when out to dinner with friends, while driving on the highway, while walking on a crowded sidewalk, during a movie at the theater, during class at school or in a meeting at work... which are all common situations where I regularly see people glued to their phones.

Why do you assume that people are wasting their time when they’re on their phones?

I wasn't necessarily implying that what people are doing on their phones in those various situations is a waste of time, but trying to showcase the sheer distractive power of smartphones vs traditional media.

I have to admit to two of those :)

Four. >.>

But then, when I was in college, I'd read paperbacks while riding a bike to class.

That's nonsense. My wife is always glued to her phone checking twitter/facebook/etc. and is way more informed than back in the bad old days when you had to get all your information from a handful of biased corporate newspapers.

He didn't say it gives you less information. He said they suck your ability to focus. That's not nonsense. I can see this happening with myself.

Twitter sound bites have slowly weakened my attention span for more long form articles. You can easily see this by looking at what sites are popular (Buzzfeed) and which are struggling to stay alive (rip Grantland)

Books and papers are passive - they don't have an agenda (beyond what's in the printed content anyway, but you'd generally have an idea about that beforehand).

Digital devices on the other hand push their own agenda - driving engagement, registering ad impressions, and are designed to keep you hooked and coming back - because that's what's profitable.

Being in control (with passive reading material) vs not being in control (with digital devices, unless you're extraordinarily focussed) is the point of contention, at least the way I see it.

Depends what you're using the device for? You are assuming that they're being used for social media, and perhaps for most people that's a reasonable assumption. But ebooks and long-form web magazine articles are also perfectly good use-cases for digital devices.

Books and papers don't have an agenda?

The agenda of the book/paper writer is to sell you the book/paper. The agenda of the services rendered on the phone is to keep you glued to the service as long as possible so the relatively constant % of your time that they sell to advertisers is increased for the purpose of increased profits.

The written word is quite a bit older, but there was some concern about reading a while back [0]:

> "[...] [the written word] will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves." - Socrates

[0] http://www.units.miamioh.edu/technologyandhumanities/plato.h...

> I don't remember people shaking their heads at parents reading a paperback book at the park, or commuters reading broadsheet newspapers on the train.

That's because you're not old enough. Some people did complain. (I can't find the actual quote, but I'll wager you've seen the photo that usually accompanies it - a train full of people reading the newspaper.)

You're definitely not old enough to remember Socrates bitching about kids learning to read and write.

And I suppose you're lucky enough that your parents didn't complain about you reading books, like some of my friends' did.

When cheap fiction novels became popular, there was a similar concern that young people were staying inside and reading instead of going outside.

There has never been an era where parents failed to find fault in young people's behavior.

There was also a moral panic about "penny dreadfuls" and pornographic literature and similar.

As a transhumanist, I see the recent advertisement campaign for device-free dinners as an implicit accusation that devices necessarily inhibit interpersonal engagement rather than enhance it.

A device-free social event makes as much sense to me as having an equipment-free sporting event. Imagine playing baseball without bats, balls, or gloves. Imagine soccer without balls or goals.

The family dinner with meaningful conversation is a cultural construct that is yanked directly from a Normal Rockwell cover on the Saturday Evening Post--a myth of Americana. There is nothing inherently good or virtuous about it. It's fine if that's what your family does, but it's also fine if your family plays poker for chore chits, or if it eats in perfect silence, with no one acknowledging anyone else for the entire duration.

With devices, once my kids are moved out of my house, I will still be able to have conversations with them during dinner, or at any other time of the day. And those conversations will include images with lame pun captions.

"I pretend I'm one of those hikikomori. That way I don't have to have any goddamn stupid useless voice conversations with anybody. If anybody wants to tell me something, they can write it in a text or direct message. They never get bored with their phones, and so I'd get to have asynchronous conversations with proper sentence structure, punctuation, and grammar for the rest of my life. Everybody thinks I'm just a poor hermit bastard, dependent on technology, and no one even cares." --Holden Logfromblammofield

>As a transhumanist, I see the recent advertisement campaign for device-free dinners as an implicit accusation that devices necessarily inhibit interpersonal engagement rather than enhance it.

They do inhibit it.

I think it's funny that we live in this amazing world of sights, smells, movement, filled with other animals and humans with all sorts of physical and social activities to choose from, but instead we choose to take the blue pill so we can look at a tiny glass square displaying mostly advertising and trivialities, with a horrible user interface.

The only explanation I can think of is that phones are addictive. Smartphones set up a reward system that displaces more enjoyable and useful behaviours.

It's like we've become those people tethered to slot machines at a casino continuously swiping at these devices. They don't even 'pay out' most of the time. It's sad.

I'd prefer to just be a human, thanks.

"Normal" social interactions establish a negative reward for certain people, myself included. If you have never been fat, ugly, some form of minority, or female, you might not have a good frame of reference for asymmetric social encounters. Perhaps people around you treat you with a higher default level of courtesy. I'm sure your games are more fun when you aren't always picked last for teams, and are not abandoned the instant you start winning.

Most of the time, in the US, a "normal" conversation consists of one or more people employing impolite tactics such as interruption, overtalking, and non sequitur to crowd me out of the conversation entirely. In short, most people have no interest in what I have to say, but somehow expect me to listen to them anyway.

While on a device, I can at least finish my paragraph without being interrupted. It doesn't matter so much if no one bothers to read it, so long as I am not prevented from saying it in the first place, which is the modal situation for a synchronous voice conversation. I eagerly anticipate a world where it is no longer possible to take one look at me and dismissively decide that I am not worthy to add to a conversation. Unattractive and unpopular people can have interesting ideas, too.

Sometimes I'm the schlemiel, but mostly I'm the schlimazel. I'm the type of person that gets insulted out in public, for no particular reason, and no one bothers to call out the bad behavior. Because I guess that person is just cooler than I am, and that's the way of the world. If you want to run with a casino metaphor, imagine a slot machine that not only never pays out, but also punches you in the face every time you push the play button. That's me whenever I step out of my bubble. That little black rectangle doesn't make the slot machine actually pay out, but it does stop me from getting punched in the face, which is nice, comparatively speaking.

Regular humans can be pretty awful. I try not to be bitter about it, but it's difficult whenever people declaim how great and fun their life is, because it just reinforces that the terrible people are often selectively rude--to me, specifically--and not uniformly horrible to everyone.

Well I for one make it a point to call out people being rude to others when I see it. We are out there.

Don't let people get you down.

>>A device-free social event makes as much sense to me as having an equipment-free sporting event. Imagine playing baseball without bats, balls, or gloves.

You need bats, balls and gloves to play baseball. You don't need devices for social events. Social events by definition are about interacting with other event attendees. Devices often - in fact almost always - detract from that.

In theory, devices can enhance social engagement. In actuality, they more commonly put up barriers. You name my nightly meal a myth. I'll name yours an unrealistic fantasy.

When trying to play catch, it's nice to have a partner who throws the ball back. Whatever the medium.

> A device-free social event makes as much sense to me as having an equipment-free sporting event.

A bad analogy is like an equipment-free sporting event: it has no objectively measurable goals.

All my family's meals are device-free. My kids don't even question it: they turn the TV off themselves when we call them. We have one TV in the house and it can't be turned on in the morning. The kids don't seem to suffer at all.

My house is the same way, but I think you have to realize that we're in the vast minority though. Whenever I'm visiting with family in the US, their TV is usually on. It's constantly on. The kids run around with devices with very little oversight or limits. It's absolutely terrible, but's also super common. Sigh.

My sister does that.

She just keeps the TV on at all times.

Watching a show on Netflix on her tablet? TV on.

Takes a shower and is in the bathroom for 30-45 minutes? TV on.

Leaves the house and someone is there, though not watching TV? Let's TV on. I have to shut it down myself.

I have absolutely no idea how she picked up that habit. No one in the (immediate) family does it.

My impression is that people generally leave the television or radio on the entire day because they struggle with silence and being alone with their thoughts.

The same is true with social media and internet addictions, although there's also the dopamine kick to contend with, which makes them a bit different.

Practicing meditation, general mindfulness and taking long (more than a week) holidays without internet or even electricity helps me a lot to avoid getting addicted to distractions.

Some people like background noise, not a fan myself.

If pure background noise is the goal, a radio would waste a lot less electricity.

You're of course true, but nowadays the consumption of a TV isn't that tragic.

not so many people have dedicated radio these days compared to TV and listening radio through mobile and BT speaker is kinda PITA

It's such a slippery slope. My brother in law's twin boys (now 7) started with their own iPads at age 4. You cannot pry them out of their hands. They go everywhere with them.

I often see kids as young as 2 or 3 with iPhones in their hands while being pushed in their stroller on a walk, or at a restaurant at dinner.

We allow our 3 year old boy a small amount of screen time each day, as he spends the whole day (9-6) at day care and it helps him unwind a bit to watch Sesame Street, and gives us a chance to prepare dinner uninterrupted. But it's always under our control, we do not hand him the remote or device. Nor do we use it when we go out to eat.

What makes it "absolutely terrible?"

Considering your other comment on this thread, it's good news if you don't consider it "absolutely terrible", your life would be quite unbearable otherwise.

I hate these environments too. I have yet to meet someone who is glued to some screen or watches tons of TV and would still attract me enough (in a purely intellectual way) to make me want to know them more, and try and pursue a relationship with them/have engaging conversations.

Doing the same task most of the time doesn't bring the best out of people (realistically, if you look at your phone during family dinners, when do you give yourself enough time to do something else without distraction ? can anything meaningful happen when you're sucked out of your own life constantly ?). Yes, you can read on your phone, yet people will more likely show you cat gifs and not interesting articles.

It's amazing how well kids adapt when expectations are set and they know them.

We used to let the kids watch an iPad in the car and there was always fighting because everyone wanted to watch different shows. So we took the iPad out of the car and now the kids only have books to read in the car. Since we did that car rides have been so much better.

Do they not get car sick from reading books while driving? I remember as a kid on long car trips I would try and read but I'd always feel sick from it, however I was fine watching movies on a portable DVD player.

Dunno why you're being downvoted - as a kid I was an avid reader. I could not read on our long car trips to visit relatives - instant nausea.

Speculation, but I suspect the down vote is due to the first sentence "Do they not get car sick from reading books while driving?" It assumes that that everyone gets sick as they do, and doesn't give their parent the benefit of the doubt that what they commented was wholly accurate.

That's a bit ridiculous, if people are that sensitive they have different problems. I was simply asking a question about whether they get car sick or not from reading while in the car. It does not assume anything, that is exactly why I asked the question. Based on my experience that is what would happen to me, so I was curious to hear their account.

It may be ridiculous, but language use can affect how it's interpreted. And given on a forum like this the text is the only channel of information. It's communication bereft of body language and intonation, which makes it even more of a challenge. For example, do you discern a difference between the following?

> "Do they not get car sick from reading books while driving?"

> "Do they get car sick from reading books while driving?"

If so, what is it? Why would a person choose one over the other?

I hope this is coming across as useful. How communication is understood on the web is interesting to me, and understanding how to communicate effectively means also learning how we come across and how that squares with what we intend, and I fear I may not be doing a good job here. Without a response from the people who actually down voted, all we can do is try to look at how people might interpret what was written.

In my opinion they both should have the same reaction. If someone asked me that in person or by text I see no reason why I'd be upset by that. It's a simple question and nothing else I said in the comment would suggest I was trying to be rude, so why take it that way? Why be offended when you don't need to be. Seems a bit silly to me.

I'll sign off after this. Your response puts everything on the reader rather than the writer. Yes, the reader should do as you say, but the writer also needs to take into account how the reader could interpret what's been written, not just how you think they should, and try to write in such a way as to minimize misunderstanding. Of course, all of this assumes that karma matters, the writer cares enough to put in the effort (and it's not always worth it), and that even the best crafted message will be read by every reader as good.

Is English not your first language?

It's pretty clear that Fogest was asking if the kids get carsick and there was no implication that anyone was lying.

Yeah, there was absolutely nothing wrong - the writer had already done what could be reasonably be expected, and the remainder is now for the reader to not mess up their interpretation of a very simple question.

'Fogest was down voted (or so I assume, given 'bashinator's comment). 'bashinator commented "Dunno why you're being downvoted". I speculated as to why. You apparently disagree with the reasons I proposed, which is fine. Do you have an alternative explanation? In the case the down voting was irrational or unreasonable, something caused them to choose to down vote the comment. What was it?

In my experience, questions posed as 'Fogest did ("Do they not get car sick...?") or you did ("Is English not your first language?") carry with them additional information. The neutral, default versions of these are "Do they get carsick?" and "Is English your first language?"

To me, 'Fogest's comment reads differently with only that change:

> Do they get car sick from reading books while driving? I remember as a kid on long car trips I would try and read but I'd always feel sick from it, however I was fine watching movies on a portable DVD player.

Another example is your choosing to interpret "not wholly accurate" as an "implication that [someone] was lying". If I'm misunderstanding where you got that, please do let me know, as it's not my intent to misrepresent you. What I meant by that was the implication that 'soccerdave had left out relevant information, that their kids get sick when they read in the car. As you read it as you did, is it my fault for how I phrased it? Yours for how you interpreted it? I certainly didn't use the word "lying" and "not wholly accurate" is not equivalent to "lying" Both of ours?

I'm purposefully not answering your question whether English is my first language as it's mostly irrelevant. There are people who are able to express themselves in written form in a foreign tongue much better than the vast majority of native speakers (Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Conrad come to mind), and plenty of native speakers who aren't aware of how they come across or take particular care when they write. And English in one area is not the same as English in others. (Water fountain or bubbler? Soda? Pop? Coke?)

This is getting very far off from the original comment. I often hesitate to chime in when someone comments some variant of "I don't know why you were down voted". I think it's useful to explore possible reasons as it provides an opportunity to look at how we may come across, particularly to those who disagree with us. That said, it's a difficult place to comment because it's almost by definition a place where there's at best a misunderstanding and at worst trolling or otherwise uncharitable interpretations occurring.

Whether or not someone cares about this is another thing. People may not think that it's worth taking the time to think about or that people should always interpret what's being written in the best light possible. For constructive conversation I think this is crucial. At the same time, I think it's important to understand and take into account the context of where it's being said when commenting on an internet forum stripped of every nuance except the words themselves (perhaps tempered by the reputation of the commenter). Regardless of whether they should, not everyone is going interpret comments in a neutral way, giving the commenter the benefit of the doubt. If I want to be be effective and constructive (and avoid down votes, as that's often used as a proxy for effective and constructive), I think I should take these into account and take care in how I express myself in comments. (Thinking about it, one could posit it's an application of Postel's law to human communication.)

This is the last I'm going to comment on this here, as I don't think I've added anything that wasn't already in the thread, and it's not clear to me that your comment was made in the interest of honest, constructive conversation and giving me the benefit of the doubt.

Kids (0-8) do better when there are (predictable) boundaries. They feel more content and secure.

From 9 to 12, just have fun together.

From 13 to 25, just keep them alive.


> ... it can't be turned on in the morning.

How are you doing this? I have been for a solution to this for the last few months but nothing really came up. TIA.

You make a rule. This isn't a technology problem.

My kids are the kind with the attitude that "rules are made to be broken", which I like. It's like the hacker's ethos almost.

Why bother having a rule if you're not going to enforce it? I agree that questioning authority is healthy, but people also are required to follow rules on occasion and it's your job to teach them how to do that. Using a technological solution to a discipline issue is a short term bandaid for a long time problem.

"Don't turn on the TV or <punishment>."

Even if our kids turned on the TV, there would be nothing to watch on it except the Chromecast homescreen. No cable, no antenna. Elder child's phone has no video apps on it except the built-in one they can play their own home videos on (maybe they could cast those to the TV?).

yeah, that's my definition of "TV" nowadays, it's just external display for content I push there, though I have smart TV with apps, so there is sort of way to display something, but not the traditional passive TV channels

When you eat with someone multiple times a day, every single day, for decades, sometimes eating is just a utilitarian task you are performing to fuel your body and to not be hungry. Why does it always have to be social? When I was a kid in the 80s, we often would just get plates of food and go back to whereever we had been doing whatever we had been doing.

I am someone who grew up to hate notifications: my phone is on silent; and when I am present with you having an actual meal, you have my 100% attention in a way no one else I know does anymore. I say this to make it clear that I didn't grow up to dislike social dinners: if anything, I grew up to love them as they were never forced on me.

Do you have kids? Dinner might be the only 30-60 minute block of the day when you have the entire family in the same place, enjoying each other's company. Almost certainly so on weekdays.

Built into that statement is the assumption that the members of the family want to spend time with each other. That's often not true, especially with teenagers.

I dunno, having family I would actually prefer to have my own time for at least 30-60 minutes per day without disturbing.

You nailed it. The problem is not "kids with Tech". The problem is parents giving away their attention to "a device" instead of "a child". And make no mistakes - it is instead of.

We have a landline expressly to give out to emergency contacts.

So the calls you get on that line are 98% telemarketers?

"I think the main problem is tech has made everything _else_ easier, but parenting harder, and parents just aren't prepared to fight the battles / put in the work. A parent who is staring at Instagram when they're at the park shouldn't be surprised that their kids wants screens, too."

As a technologist who is in their early career, I love this sentiment. Too often do I see people blaming younger generations for an addiction to screens. The reality exists that parenting with the intention for balance will be what ultimate keeps children away from screens not blaming the industry as a whole.

well I can tell them I was not staring at display when I was young so they can wait until same age as I started to stare to be on par

Eh.. I still remember growing up, friends would call during dinner and you'd go answer it (landline). And at a certain age, my parents realized how important social stuff was they'd let me talk to them

Also for the longest time we weren't allowed to watch TV, however in later years of my childhood this rule was relaxed. Of course it was never in the room we ate in, that would be terrible although I know many families are in front of the TV).

It seemed pretty clear from the context that she was referring not to a solitary instance, but a dinnertime prohibition on electronics.

And if not, it's a good place to start.

Go to any Millennial or iGen feeding space and you'll see a bunch of zombies lost in their screens and rarely interacting with each other. Very sad.

One thing I've noticed is that when I'm distracted (e.g. using a device) and not mindfully eating I fail to fully taste and appreciate the food. It's as if most of my conscious focus is shifted elsewhere than my mouth and tongue. It's like you probably weren't aware of the feeling of your left elbow before reading this sentence. Because of this I try to eat at least some of my meals, especially breakfast, without doing anything else.

My brother uses an app to restrict what time his kids can use their devices. During dinner every night they are only allowed to call (and there is a no phone policy for everyone else, even guests). They complained and complained for more than a year. Now they complain about their friends never getting off their phones.

Irresponsibility with tech is a new danger that we have to teach our kids about.

Tech has made real interactions hard, not just parenting. How many times have we sat for dinners or lunches with friends staring at our phones. I say we because I am guilty of this behaviour. It is not hard to fathom a future dystopian world in which most human interaction is through a tech medium.

Isn't the problem the same but with different technology? I remember families that had a no TV policy while other spent diner watching soap operas. I was surprised the first time I had diner at a friends place with his parents and there only was music in the background.

That is mind-boggling. When I grew up in the 80s (before mobile devices), the rule was "don't read at the table." Generally, no TV during meals either. Life is short -- meals with devices seem like a waste of prime time together.

Yeah, the dinner table at our house is always device-free (and book-free). Breakfast and lunch usually are, too, with the caveat that if there are only two people at the table and both of them want to read, then fine.

> tech has made everything _else_ easier, but parenting harder,

Nicely put.

I'm copy-pasting my own comment that I wrote 1087 days ago. Seems relevant even today.

* Begin paste *

The common factor in all these time-sinks is not the phone, but it's the internet. I have a smartphone and although I could definitely live without it, the only thing I've done is disable data. Rather, I'm too cheap to pay for data. What difference does that make, you ask?

One, on messaging, people would use text to contact me or each other if they notice that WhatsApp/Talk message hasn't reached for a couple of minutes. And a call is very helpful to transmit high density info in short time.

Two, I can still use my very nice phone with a large screen to watch videos, read ebooks on the go like if I'm in a bus or something. The difference here is that these things are not infinity-sinks in my experience - I can go 1 hour or so reading a book on a cellphone but then need to take a break which is when you look up and around. Also, subconsciously, the permanence of the book/video prioritizes real world interrupts (in an embedded programming context) rather than blocking them.

Then, you always have music that you can copy to the phone and listen to if you don't want to put your face to the screen. This enables you to move your head around everywhere and still not be all that bored because you still have that music going on.

If I absolutely want, which is almost never, I play games but I find that mobile games are not something that I like so it never comes up at all.

But a lot of time, I've just noticed myself looking around, just absorbing the world around me and being in my own thoughts rather than a forced stimulus and I find that relaxing unless I'm stuck in a very noisy environment in which case the earphone doubles up as a noise blocker.

And the general trend I've heard here is that you need to be on email. But work already has wifi and if you're at work your computer is right in front of you. Secondly, aren't you making a big mistake by configuring work email on your phone?

Maybe I'm the second coming of RMS but I do not install Facebook and Twitter apps on my phone for privacy reasons. Checking at most once everyday seems to be enough for me but I know that's not the case with everyone. It seems a lot of plans are made over fb for you guys, which is understandable - we use hangouts and whatsapp over here, but primarily whatsapp. But more importantly, for immediate plans we generally use SMS and phone calls which might be why we're not as reliant on facebook. FB is considered more of a public 'show-off' billboard than a private friend group.

So yeah, maybe this was worthy of its own blog-post but my gist here is that turning off the data does wonders. You still get to retain those handy unit converters, two factor authenticators, password wallets and other things that are yours without the Skinner box annoyances of the infinity-sinks.

Of course, before someone rants "You don't know how important it is to have internet on my phone", I'd say you're obviously right. However, maybe after reading my post, you realize that it isn't all that important then kudos to you. You should atleast try it once before knocking it right? A lot of times we think "It's impossible to get through without X" but humans are surprisingly adaptive and can cope without X just fine.

I'm just sharing my experience, hoping that it's useful to you.

* End paste

> Why aren't all of them? These weird little "small gestures" make me feel like people have lost control of their homes.

Fairly judgemental on how people should live their lives no?

How is this judgemental or, to be more concise, how is this inappropriately judgemental?

The parent comment is explicitly talking about how they "feel" about people using their phones and then continues to explain their situation. It is not forcing it's opinion on anyone and not ruling out other ways to handle phone usage.

I'm not sure how the comment should have presented the opinion in a different way so that it wouldn't be "judgemental" but I'd be interested in your viewpoint.

This doesn't invalidate the article, but I feel the need to point out that the author lives in a $63 million house with $80,000 worth of TV screens lining the walls. "Anyone in the house can change the screens’ displays to their favorite painting or photograph, in effect personalizing the room (via lighting, temperature, and even decor) to the guest’s own flavor." [0]

They certainly didn't do themselves any favors when they built their house.

[0] http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/the-biggest/12-unbelieva...

Yes, a "career in tech" and a tech-lifestyle are different things and you can keep them separated. Based on the article and your comment it seems they have more of a problem with the latter.

This is big. I used to work for a manager who didn't even have a computer at home (and no smartphone in 2013). She definitely excelled at keeping tech out of her daily life.

> She definitely excelled at keeping tech out of her daily life.

I'm curious -- what was she managing? Did she excel in her role?

I'm a retired geek but I do tractor work, I just pulled a 14 hour day and I'm having some wine so salt heavily.

In my opinion, the best thing you can do with kids is create boredom. If they have access to a shop, or some lumber, they will start to build stuff. If kids are bored and they turn that into building, that's the first step towards getting into a good undergrad school. Building stuff is good.

The hard part, as parents, is creating that boredom. It's so easy to give them the video game babysitter. I haven't done well at that. I wish I had some magic statement that made that part easy but that part is super super hard.

The other thing I'd say about kids, and I hate this, really hate this, is private school. It's better. My kids went and were on track to go to Los Gatos High School which is a pretty decent school. For various reasons we found kirby.org and both of my kids go there and it's a shit ton better. I hate private schools, I think kids should experience the full range of people, not just the rich kids that get into private schools, but wow, the private school was so much better. So much better. Hugely better. My younger son who hates that school, it's a nerd school and he's a jock, came to me and said "yeah, I want to go there, it's better than Los Gatos". My older kid is applying to schools and he has a shot at the ivys, that's all the private school.

I'm ashamed to admit that I like private schools, but wow, have they been good for my kids.

Taken literally (I think I can see what you mean), creating boredom will not work on all kids. Rather, providing a creative child with various tools/means/ways to amuse oneself might actually make him/her spend more and more time to use them, instead of going for the usual.

One thing my father did for me was to install a small workshop (in our 2-bedroom apartment with 5 persons living, I'll let you imagine the reaction of my mother, but we held strong), equip it with various tools, subscribe me to a DYI magazine, and teaching me some first gestures, to make sure I am reasonably safe being alone (I was 7 at the time). Later, I have never heard a "no" from him when asking to buy this or that new tool.

That was a very unusual thing in that place and time of overcrowded small apartments and low resources. When my schoolmates saw that, some of them started to do the same, and their parents gave in, I was good at school so an example to follow ;-)

Suffering the same problems with technology with my 7 year old as so many other parents. I am inspired by your story to do the same for him. I too am in a 2 bedroom apartment. I would really appreciate if you can give some pointers on how one could go about creating such a workshop and any DYI magazine recommendations.

Hard to give you an immediately applicable advice, it was very, very long time ago. Some points though:

-- try to observe him and determine what his interests are, at least on a very high level. Is he attracted by mechanisms? electronics? architecture? sewing? something else? In my case, it was easy, I started to break toys since I started having them, my parents reprimanded me until they noticed that I don't actually break them but dismount properly. (For that, obviously the toys had to be of the kind allowing that, not all in one piece.)

-- the workshop doesn't have to be big, but

a) it should allow instant access to any tool of the collection, any time. Storing them in a locked box hidden away and taking out for the occasion won't work.

b) you need to have a full set of tools allowing to start and complete a simple operation (and safely at that), i.e., to be able to saw the piece, it needs to be firmly attached, etc. To control the investment, optimize on the number and type of of operations -- think of making something very simple, make sure the child shares your interests, and equip for that, but from as to z. (To illustrate -- a bird's house requires a saw, a hammer and couple of nails, but make sure the child cares about birds getting it.)

c) tools don't have to be expensive and complicated, but they need to be above junk quality. If you yourself have the experience, you should be able to determine the required minimum. If not, ask a friend who has. Some of them simply cannot be of "kid version" (drills, for example), don't buy that. In my case, it was the time when tools were inherited from father to son, and none of them were electrical, but all of them were good, I just had to learn to use them -- at the beginning, this will test the kid's patience, so dose carefully. (At the same time, this is where the bulk of the skill development lies, and the age is right too, so...)

d) try to teach your kid to clean up the mess after they finished for the day, but don't set out with high expectations ... sometimes, they will be just too tired after having fully invested themselves in the process fro several hours.

e) help him to always reach the end of each project, not just drop it because they lost interest. But do not insist. This is the hardest, much harder than d).

Thanks a lot for putting time into coming up with the suggestions. Its helpful and I really appreciate it!

> I'm ashamed to admit that I like private schools, but wow, have they been good for my kids.

Nothing to be ashamed about. You want the best for your children and private schools get more money.

The problem is not that private schools are better, but that public schools are so much worse. The people feeling shame should be the politicians who have worked and continue to work to dismantle the public education system (in large part motivated by religious fundamentalists seeking to replace public education with voucher-based religious schools), and the people that vote for them.

>in large part motivated by religious fundamentalists seeking to replace public education with voucher-based religious schools

This can't possibly be the reason. Otherwise the bay area would have the best schools in the nation because religion here is borderline illegal.

What is the relationship between proportion of non religious people and quality of schools? There a few factors of bad schools, and along with it a less than ideal group to classmates. Wealth seems to be the primary problem, as it creates unstructured homes and poorly funded schools. Another problem is religious parents who want to teach children that lack of evidence is a good thing. The fact that the latter want to divert taxpayer funds for their own agenda is also a cause for bad schools, as it diverts funds from public schools.

FWIW Bay Area public high schools are ranked some of the best in the nation.

> in large part motivated by religious fundamentalists seeking to replace public education with voucher-based religious schools

This is preposterous.

Public schools have been neutered by deep budget cuts by politicians of all parties who, along with their boosters, can afford to send their children to private schools. School budgets rely heavily on taxes (which politicians cut for political gain), state/federal grants, and programs like state lotteries.

The wealthy alumni of private schools, denomination be damned, bankroll candidates and in return the politicians push programs to force kids out of public school. They also fill the curriculum with inferior text books based on handshake agreements with publishers and drop standards to maximize the number of "successes".

TL;DR - adults fail to value the education system, watching those who can afford it send their kids to private schools, so people want more money in their pocket (less taxes) to pay for private school or demand "options" - like vouchers.

> This is preposterous.

There is overwhelming evidence that this is exactly what the current United States Secretary of Education DeVos' motivations are:


I think the difference is not that public school systems are being dismantled but that a higher percentage of private school parents value education and are engaged in their childrens' learning.

> a higher percentage of private school parents value education and are engaged in their childrens' learning

It's just not true.

Higher income families can afford to take more time off, especially salaried workers, and are often two-parent households. This gives those parents time that hourly-based workers, poor, or single-parent households literally can not afford to spare.

They don't love or "value" their children's education any less, but they are in a situation where being as involved as those more fortunate than them is so much more difficult.

Malcolm Gladwell has written about this - https://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Kimberly-McCreight/dp/006235...

Wrong link, you're partially agreeing with the parent (they ARE less engaged), and I don't really buy that all parents at all socioeconomic levels believe in the power of education equally. I came from lower to middle socioeconomic levels and most of my peers came from families that DEFINITELY did not value education highly.

California public schools seem to be, on average, much worse off than non-california schools.

One obvious reason is that, relative to cost-of-living, the per-student funding is incredibly low in costal Revenue Limit[1] districts (this distinction applies to 95% of districts statewide, but only ~65% bay area).

This makes it hard to retain teachers. It is made even worse off by the fact that the wealthy school districts tend to be so small. Where I live, there is a school district with ~15 K-6 schools in it that is funded as a Revenue limit district. Less than a mile away from there are two separate districts each with only one elementary school each, and no secondary schools. Both of those schools, of course, are Basic Aid; one has per-student funding of double the larger district and the other has per-student funding of more than triple.

This doesn't explain all of it, of course. California has had to deal with more ESL students, for longer, than most other states and those students are very uneavenly distributed as well (Aforementioned school district with 15 schools has only one neighborhood school with less than 80% either hispanic or non-hispanic).

1: In california there are two ways that schools are funded. The state has a limit of around $6k per student that it will guarantee each district gets, if the property taxes cannot cover that amount. This does not include Federal funding, or state funding that is earmarked for specific purposes, so districts budgets are a bit higher than the $6k.

If school district has revenue in excess if the ~$6k limit they only get the special-purpose state funding, but can keep the excess. Thus small wealthy neighborhoods have a strong incentive to have as small a school district as possible, to increase the per-student funding there.

Wow - this blew up. Sorry, just got back from another 14 hour day of tractor work (it's 8-9 hours on the job but then there is prep like sharpen all the chainsaws and after prep of you have to grease the excavator. It's almost 9pm and I need to take a shower to get the dirt out and go to bed).

I would love to go through all this and reply, there are a lot of thoughtful comments here, some I agree with and some I don't. I'll try and get to them on Sunday, I know that's an eternity in internet time, it is what it is.

I love that this has generated a discussion, in the US we are so screwed because you can't talk about anything without in devolving into my team versus your team. We are so stupid. We should discuss stuff. As in look at a thing, see what is good, see what is bad, be engineers and make it more good. In the US right now, that is simply not a thing. We suck.

On the plus side, I'm making close to as much as I made as a successful CEO doing tractor work. Who knew that was a thing? It's hard work but I'm liking it.

> In my opinion, the best thing you can do with kids is create boredom. If they have access to a shop, or some lumber, they will start to build stuff.

As a kid I was constantly bored, this strategy was deeply ineffective on me. I did grow into it as an adult, but it took a long time.

In short, YMMV.

Did you have have available creative outlets though, like a workshop?

Yes, my point was that I had preconditions and yet didn't reach the expected outcome. Interestingly enough, my twin brother did.

Kids are complicated and non-deterministic.

You are confusing the negative stimulus of boredom with the positive stimulus of the satisfaction one gets from having done something challenging like crafting an object.

Delayed reward can be taught and boredom is far from a good teacher.

"As its use has proliferated, so has its effects...

...the interviewer, apparently, asks young people (age 18 to 22 years old) the following: whether men with the (device hidden) are human or not; whether they are losing contact with reality; whether the relation between eyes and ears is changing radically, whether they are psychotic or schizophrenic; whether they are worried about the fate of humanity."

Can you guess the device? It's the Sony Walkman, and the time is the 1980s.


The arguments aren't new or novel. Hosoda was saying similar in the 1980s, and the Walkman just as easily isolated people in the 1980s as phones do now. yet somehow humanity survived.

Remember pagers? They were the device of choice in the 1990s for kids, and they were pilloried just as bad, and even linked to drugs. There's a pretty decent history of people panicking morally about new technologies and their dehumanizing effects, and generally people have adapted more or less fine.

But maybe we have lost something also. As a truly social species, do we not lose as a society when barriers are erected to sociability? The literature certainly points to increased social isolation among adults and children. It also makes the point that loneliness is a risk factor in things like dementia, being overweight and a litany of other ailments. I reject the notion that anything new is automatically better and has only net positive effects.

I don't think that's the exact argument the parent was making. We've lost just as much from the car, suburbs, and plane travel but you can't do much about them - they're there so we have to adjust.

If anything, most of the addictive internet stimuli are social to some degree. I do think there's an interesting analysis to be made of how social connectedness got redistributed though. Both in terms of absolute connectedness and who we're connected to.

I would argue that these "social" parts of the internet are social in the shallowest sense of the world. E.g., telling people how your life is without actually talking to them. I would agree with above that these devices are adding to (creating?) our social isolation.

I don't know the numbers. But if my intuition isn't completely wrong, and I'm not a total outlier, most seem to spend a lot of time on Messenger (/other IM) talking. Usually talking about content that is social in nature.

And quite frankly, most "real-life" interactions seem to be pretty much the same. Just sitting around with phones talking about things you saw on the [social] Internet.

> And quite frankly, most "real-life" interactions seem to be pretty much the same. Just sitting around with phones talking about things you saw on the [social] Internet

This is a bit of a sad statement. What about conversation in a group, or debate in a meeting at work, or communicating with your children, or any other kind of relationship? Not everything can be showing each other videos, as YouTube can already recommend better than humans can.

I'd imagine pre-Internet conversations were just as "sad". The main difference was you couldn't "show" what you were talking about. Nowadays instead of verbally describing a conversation with a friend, you'll just do a screenshot dump.

Given how much social life basically migrated to the Internet, there aren't that many happenings without a digital trace.

I mean you can't even discuss politics without talking about Trump's twitter...[0]

Just yesterday grandma was showing me pics my aunt sent her. Pics she found on cousin's Facebook profile.

[0] We already have political scandals that involve just email dumps, think how cool things are going to get when we get dumps of facebook/slack/whatever convos!

> people have adapted more or less fine

No, we have just moved on to the next device, which ends up absorbing even more time. It's not more of the same, it's an increase at every step.

>> generally people have adapted more or less fine

I don't think that such adaptation is a "done deal". We're very much a work in progress as far as the latest social media stuff goes, meaning from about Facebook onwards. And without being all scaremongery, I really wonder if we _are_ fine.

There seems a growing number of studies and anecdotes to at least give the suggestion that ever heavier immersion in the virtual world correlates broadly with increased dissatisfaction and distress, especially for younger people. There were never any such indications for Walkmen, or pagers, so I do think already it's different.

Let's not chuck all our tech in the bin - but let's be cautious and observant about what's happening around us.

>yet somehow humanity survived.

A very convincing and cogent argument can be made to the contrary.

That is funny because I distinctly remember my grandmother getting mad at me as a teenager because I wore my walkman when we went to the grocery store. She said it was rude.

moral panic gets the attention the author craves. it amazes how THAT is such a constant. even on this site, the comments are rife with people forgetting their sense of perspective, history, and human nature and tying themselves in anxious knots over the threat of from this frankenstein technology.

Reading the thread, my impression is that no one thinks that tech is a Frankenstein. Most are calling for a more balanced use, especially for children. There is strong research showing how getting "sucked" into the internet can have detrimental effects on social skills and child development.

Yes, a much more predictable response to a reasonable article is laughter at nonexistent moral panic. It's part of a crude, mimicked categorisation system that less analytical people sometimes subscribe to.

The hardest thing for me has been young children begging, just begging, for screen time. It's heartbreaking and I know very few parents who have managed to make no mean no. I grew up watching TV but then, TV was mostly for adults and I only paid attention those few hours it was child-friendly. I spent almost the entire decade of the 90s without a television, only going to the movies or the occasional VHS. Even today, while I'm on my computer for 8 hours/5 days a week, I read books when I stop work or cook or just sit and talk. I turn off the screen, close the laptop and turn off wifi on my phone. I worry for the attention span our kids won't have.

When was the last time you let a child just get bored, so they might entertain themselves with their imagination?

On the other side, when we go out for walks or camping or away from tech, it really doesn't take long for the kids to adjust.

I spent a lot of the decade of the 90s having the best times of my life immersing myself in video games and the Internet, and looking back it seems to me like I'm the better for it. I think it should rightfully be heartbreaking to deny that to a kid who would have it.

> I think it should rightfully be heartbreaking to deny that to a kid who would have it.

I'm going to assume you haven't seen the steaming piles that are today's kid's shows and apps. There's no way that crap is as mentally stimulating as content from the 90s (or before). It's optimized for addiction.

And I'm not saying to cut it off entirely. I'm just saying the new stuff is universally terrible.

There's something really sinister about watching a toddler utterly engrossed in someone unwrapping Kinder eggs, for hours. In the 90's, the internet involved more than just slapping your palm against a screen and not blinking for the rest of the afternoon, and TV was in limited supply. Today, you never have to take a break if someone isn't there to teach you how, or even that you should.

In the 90s we watched crap literally engineered to sell toys.


The difference I see is the addictiveness of on-demand. It's a constant drip of endorphins not unlike chain smoking or a morphine line.

When we were children we had to wait till weekends to watch those special weekend shows. We had to wake up early to watch all of them. Hell we even had to pee or make a snack in the 3 minutes of commercials lest we miss the next segment!

Nowadays you see kids watching all that crap all the time. Morning, noon, and night. Parents justify it as "educational content" or they just want some quiet time. But you have children literally sitting on the shitter for an hour watching an iPhone.

I'm not expert on raising kids and I'm not saying my generation was perfect (far from it!), but that can't be good.

That's why when I read literature on how to hook users more, I always get very cynical by the usual footnote on ethics. Please don't pretend, the principle of addiction itself is an extremely grey area and for more vulnerable audiences such as children, it's plain unethical.

This is just nostalgia talking. Most of 80's and 90's kid programming was trash, too.

Speaking as someone who grew up without cable in the 90s, there was a ton of great content in that era and the quality took a huge hit in the 2000s and later.

We had shows like X-Men which tackled issues like racism and prejudice, Captain Planet which tackled pollution and environmental stewardship, shows like Gargoyles that introduced mythology and Shakespeare and treated kids like intelligent human beings, Animaniacs which introduced a generation to the Vaudeville tradition of humor, The Magic School Bus which taught children all sorts of facts about the world, etc.

I could honestly go on and on but there was just a ton of great content for kids in the 90s (on network television alone!).

And kids today have shows like Daniel Tiger, Wild Kratts, SciGirls, Octonauts, Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, new Sesame Street, Word Girl, and access to the entire catalog of many of the shows you mentioned. They also have far greater access to educational content about science etc via YouTube than most kids had in the 80's/90's.

Good content is still being made, the parents just have to choose to consume it!

To be fair, those are mostly (entirely?) PBS shows, and PBS has always been a haven for great educational content.

Good point. Octonauts is Disney but the rest are PBS.

That type of content has never been more accessible (the PBS kids app is great).

Reminder that at least Animaniacs and Magic Schoolbus are on Netflix (I watch them with my kids, in small doses). Haven't checked for the others.

I'm kind of sad that BtAS is not on Netflix, though.

Just with less sophisticated algorithms for maximizeing "engagement", whatever that's worth.

OTOH, with less sophisticated tools available for parental control f consumption, and less convenient access to what quality content exists than there is now. Net? I think it's different now, but not worse or better, overall.

I'm sorry but I can't let this one slide. Yes, children have been subjected to a slew of execrable sitcoms but at least in the realm of cartoons children's there is much that is of high quality. Adventure Time, Gravity Falls and Steven Universe roundly refute "universally terrible". Even the 2000s had Avatar, Samurai Jack, early Spongebob and Fairly Odd Parents. Other than nostalgia and smugness, I can't find any justification for claiming that none of it was as "mentally stimulating" as the 90s given how equally rife with garbage the 90s were.

I believe the focus of the ire is on todder-youtube entertainment designed for blatant stimulation (sometimes disturbingly so) and 'games' that reflect the similar emotional highs of gambling.

> There's no way that crap is as mentally stimulating as content from the 90s (or before). It's optimized for addiction.

Commercial children's content has been optimized to be an addictive tool to sell toys since well before the 1990s; OTOH, there's plenty of quality content now, too, it's just that, as an adult, you are more likely to seethe difficulty of separating he wheat from the chaff.

Plus, people have been decrying the moral decline of society compared to their own childhood for, based on historical evidence, as far back as we have historical evidence. And it's probably much older.

I have young relatives who could watch minecraft videos on YouTube all day and it makes me want to throw up. To me that's much worse than anything on TV, because it's meaningless and endless.

"Meaningless and endless" would be how I would've described cable TV ~20 years ago, ~10 years ago, ~5 years ago, and today. Go back further than that and it's just, "meaningless" because it wasn't as "endless" back then.

Youtube at least has some interesting/useful content and lets the creator and the viewer engage each other in various ways.

When I was 10 I watched hours upon hours of television and played NES games until I ran out of content. Now my 10 year old son gets about 2-4 hours of personal screen time each day (depending on the day) and in that time he plays loads of games, watches loads of game-specific videos, and a fair share of pointless videos (e.g. "top ten ugliest dogs", "most satisfying video", etc). Contrast, "top ten ugliest dogs" with say, 1990s Transformers cartoons and you'll probably come back realizing the the ugliest dog video is both more interesting and entertaining.

> 1990s Transformers cartoons and you'll probably come back realizing the the ugliest dog video is both more interesting and entertaining

I don't know about that. At least a bad cartoon is an original creative work. So many YouTube videos are just recycled low-effort garbage. Not that there isn't great content on YouTube, it just seems like their algorithm promotes some pretty bad stuff. If you visit it in an incognito window it looks like the front of a tabloid.

"Meaningless and endless" is a curious objection. Are you sure that this is what you find objectionable about it? Most of what we adults entertain ourselves with is pretty meaningless too.

Pbskids and nickjr have shows with good content. I've learned a lot of recent science about dinosaurs by watching Dinosaur Train. There are also a lot of great videos on you tube about wildlife and about making things. We've probably watched the lego great ball contraption video (e.g [1]) 100 times and now my 6 yr old is making conveyer belts and machines for moving marbles.

You just have to look for it.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxMMtIxDrGk

I sympathize. The new kid-targeted stuff is strange and I would be pretty weirded out to see my kid obsessed with it, that's for sure.

I think geeks forgot how weirded out their parents were by their culture. People thought Dungeons and Dragons was satanic, for example. There were complaints about comic books and video games virtually every generation they existed.

One of the most annoying things is how quickly each generation forgets the past or looks at it uncritically.

I disagree here. Modern kids shows are much more sophisticated than the rubbish we watched in the 80's and 90's. Take something with a remake like voltron or thundercats to eliminate the nostalgia factor and watch them back to back, the difference is vast.

My anecdote from spending ages immersed in video games and the internet has precisely the opposite sentiment. I find it heartbreaking how many youths replace socialization with social media and endless digital distraction.

Same here. Unfortunately I think a lot of the applications and games that kids use these days aren't very enriching.

For 90s kids there was a lot more exploring and learning involved with computers/technology. Now it's just mindless tapping.

It'd be really cool to setup an old 486 at home for the kids and let them play with the same technology we used as kids. No internet, just stacks of disks, maybe even setup some sort of SSH tunnel to mock dialing up to BBSes.

Disclaimer: Not a parent! Immediately disqualified from the discussion.

My siblings have eight kids. I can't speak for how they act everyday, just what I observe during our frequent family gatherings. Here's what happens. The adults hang out and do boring things (OK on a good day, we play cards or board games or sit around a fire!) while the kids run around doing things. Only in the past year or two have electronics really been a part of this at all. The youngest is eight, the oldest 14. They play tag, climb things, play board games, play cards, sit around fires (hmm...) and they don't beg for electronics or even ask for them. I'm sure it's different at times, at home. But I know that most of them didn't have a tablet until maybe two years ago. And my siblings didn't either. Lately, sometimes they play video games or tablet games, but only sometimes.

It's not actually a requirement of life to own and use a tablet. (Or smart phone.) And certainly not a requirement of childhood. Rather than have those things around and in use, the opposite was the norm. They were rare. Eventually the kids get to be 9 or 10 or 11 and say "hey, Everyone owns one, maybe I can have one?" and then they got one, finally, but with some rules in place, and times that it could be taken away, because the parents are making the rules. And it doesn't seem to have become an addiction for them, because it's just one thing added to an already interesting and abundant life.

But I've seen other kids/parents where tablets and TV and phones are central to living and entertainment. And you don't want to be around for the war that erupts when the parent tries to pry the electronic device away from their child. It's a third arm, and it's not going anywhere.

We do adapt to what we're around, how we behave, what's acceptable. If it's "normal" then anything else is change, with all the resistance that comes with it.

Well, if kids really want anything be sweets, a toy or more screen time they will beg. That's kid's nature ;)

It's the parents job to be firm and establish some limits, making sure they are respected.

I think OP meant to say just like kids beg for chocolates which they crave for, they also beg for Screen time (which seems to be a bad addiction for someone who's a kid) that also shows how much screen time as an addiction or interest has penetration through that age group.

Can't wait to raise my kids in a small village away from all this city/tech/social garbage.

When my daughter wants to start watching videos and she's had plenty I come up with something we can do together. Abandoning my own plans is hard but youtube gets forgotten quickly.

Thats what happens when you put all their social validation on a small device.

So I guess you posted this from work then?

The irony is that the kids seem to focus on the screen for a very long time, while we worry about their attention span.

I think a lot also depends on the content.

I got Internet access in 1990 when I was 12 years old. Completely unfettered, unmonitored, unlimited in any way. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. Certainly many, if not most, kids would end up obsessing over social status and gossip and similar things. That has nothing to do with technology and absolutely everything to do with how they deal with their life in general. They're encouraged to avoid taking an intellectual approach to life, to never question or doubt their emotional impulses (indeed taught that those impulses are more trustworthy and 'pure' than conclusions reached intellectually). They're the kids that have always been popular, the bullies and the kids that get DUIs before out of high school. You can't protect them from themselves through any means if you're not willing to address their way of living.

And for the kids that aren't destined to live an adolescence of bickering and strife, they will flourish with access to the whole of human knowledge and ability to interact with online communities as an equal, without anyone knowing their age unless they choose to reveal it.

> That has nothing to do with technology and absolutely everything to do with how they deal with their life in general.

With all due respect, accessing the internet today is nothing like what it was in 1990. It's like comparing apples to oranges. There's a huge difference between accessing a BBS with a modem and pulling an iPhone out your pocket and pulling up Facebook's newsfeed with a couple taps of your finger. These applications are designed to be addictive, and people's unfettered ability to access them anywhere enables their addictions. The physical and technical barriers that limited your access in 1990 are long gone.

You are right, it is certainly quite a bit different. I'm not sure how material the differences are though. For what it's worth, I had access to BBS' prior to that and had already enjoyed discussing things with adults as an equal before getting a dialup account on a local university mainframe. Everything was done through a shell account, telnet and gopher and similar. I mean, I was still able to quite easily find myself to alt.binaries.tasteless and find extreme porn and all that sort of stuff.

Those things like Facebook and such that are designed to be addictive are only addictive to the types of people who find that kind of thing alluring. People who seek social validation whether than evaluating themselves for themselves can not be protected from that tendency. And that is, whether we like it or not, the foundation of modern society. It is an inevitable consequence that such people will spend their lives drowned in neurotic worry. It's not particularly new, and the systems that make engaging in it so easy also make leaving that sort of thinking behind if a person wishes to do so.

Ultimately, though, consider the kid. If the kid is a social butterfly, what effect is withholding tech from them going to have? They're going to be made bitter, probably be significantly sidelined in their social circles - the exact place they derive every ounce of their self worth. It wouldn't exactly be a pretty alternative.

I understand what you're saying and agree for the most part. I guess the big question here is whether or not parents can or should teach their children self-control. As a parent, should I just give my child access to everything and hope for the best? Or should I restrict access and hope they don't become bitter hermits? :)

I guess the real answer is probably somewhere in between - restrict at first and loosen restrictions as you see fit. Are there a lot of examples of how to do this effectively? It's a question I wonder about.

As opposed to the internet in 1990, which was not designed to be but emerged as extremely addictive to me at least

since when is BBS internet? from what I remembered I dialed long distance number where the other computer/modem picked up my call and established connection, nothing to do with internet

What? The only kids for whom addictive technology could pose a problem, or be a negative influence, are the "bullies" and "kids that have always been popular"?

This is obviously wrong (there are plenty of young people who don't fit that description who are addicted to tech--for example the hikikomori [0] in Japan) and a massive generalization based on your own person experience.

[0] http://fusion.net/video/568756/hikikomori-japans-lost-genera...

I really like to believe what you have written, but it sounds way too elitist.

Elitist is not a real criticism here - no one needs to be elite to access "not giving your kids so much time on addictive electronics".

Have two kids, 14/12. They've grown up as fully connected kids, have always had access to their own devices, never more than a year or two behind the Big Now. We have never imposed "limits for the sake of limits" on their screen time. I find the idea preposterous, frankly.

We have no issue connecting with them, or doing family things together, or etc etc etc. If you can't connect with your kids when they have iPhone in hand, you're not going to be able to connect with your kids even if you're a million miles from the nearest wireless cloud.

A lot of discussion around this issue is just tired rehashing of the same complaints every generation over the past 150 years has said about the incoming generation. Some of y'all in here already sound like grandparents, lol.

> I find the idea preposterous, frankly.

This seems extreme. The idea generally talked about is "we're not yet sure about the effects of prolonged phone use on development of social skills and mental health, and related impacts on physical development. What's more, we know that adults are finding themselves with hard-to-break negative habits surrounding their phone use. And we know that app companies are A/B testing to the nth degree in an attempt to drive engagement ever higher. So caution is indicated here, even if we don't yet know precisely how much is warranted"

That doesn't seem in the least "preposterous" to me. And your sample size is tiny, and you don't have a control group: who knows what your family dynamic would be like if your kids had boundaries around their usage of devices?

As others have said, this is fundamentally different to the moral panics of the past. Back then, it was "kids are doing X, which I didn't do, and X is therefore bad." Now it is vastly more "I am realising that Y is bad for me, and I'm a full-grown adult. Perhaps I shouldn't let my kids run free with Y either".

This isn't "novels are corrupting our girls", it's much closer to "hang on, this smoking business may not actually be improving our health and vitality, and we might consider only letting little Jimmy have 20 a day. Yes, yes, even though we have no issue running in the park with him, or doing family things together, or etc etc etc"

>We have no issue connecting with them, or //

It's good that all people are exactly the same as you and your kids and that this will therefore work for everyone, isn't it. /s

As I read it, you missed the point. Here's my reading: Are the digital devices just current rationalization for connective breaks that happen in family settings? Yes, some families have trouble connecting. No one is arguing that. But would they have trouble connecting even without the presence of these devices?

My opinion is that disconnects are typically about joint values, interests, and expectations. Or, more appropriately, lack thereof. Yes, there's the possibility that the parents don't understand digital devices and therefore are limited in joining the party. But, again my opinion, if it wasn't digital devices, it would be some other thing that was new or foreign to the parents. And so perhaps the real failure is the willingness of the parents to engage at the children's level. It also might represent a lack of shared values and expectations in connecting in the first place.

I didn't make any such claim. If you'd like to respond to what was actually written, feel free. :)

Sorry if the pith obscured the substantive point: You said you had no problems with connecting with your children, the point is that there are varying characters and that other children may have problems with connecting that are exacerbated by device usage. I know I have those sorts of problems as an adult and suspect at least one of my kids has similar issues.

Your comment seemed dismissive of the possibility of a problem, and of the possibility of that problem being exacerbated by screentime/phone use/tablet use. Ergo my interjection.

As an analogy, that I think is apposite, some people can smoke tobacco and not get addicted, for others it becomes a consuming need; I think electronic interactions can be like this for many people. I get tetchy (irritable) when I don't have a drink for a few days, a similar tetchiness takes me when I don't get my fix of phone time. Screens can provide a very easy way to avoid social interaction, something which is a challenge for me. Stick this all together and you have problems connecting with people that are exacerbated by increased screentime; I do have the agency to avoid getting completely absorbed by devices but I also exercise that agency on behalf of my kids as I believe they have not (as pre-teens) developed the ability for themselves.

> If you can't connect with your kids when they have iPhone in hand, you're not going to be able to connect with your kids even if you're a million miles from the nearest wireless cloud.

It seems to me, you did make that claim.

They were obviously implying that, yes. Then just backpedalling for some strange reason.

> the Big Now

I've tried looking this up and received a quite diverse collection of results. What is this?

When your 8 year old plays Candy Crush on his Samsung S8 he lives the Big Now. I guess.

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