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Parents Who Pay to Be Watched (thecut.com)
147 points by runesoerensen 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments



I didn't realize how screwed up things have become with parenting until my son went into school recently. It's a different universe from the 80s and 90s.

I recently almost lost my drink when I had to sit through some power-mom yak on about her 12 yo daughter's crappy behavior and inability to focus -- she now has an ADHD diagnosis and medication.

Her daughter is a successful competitive swimmer who trains 4 days a week, is a talented musician in two different regional orchestras, has a B+ average and runs cross country.

People are nuts. That kid needs sleep, not amphetamine derivatives. There are many like her. My son has kindergarten classmates in 3-5 structured activities.


This. I have 2 kids who are barely 5 and I already see my wife and family and everyone around us sending their kids to 3-4 activities EVERY WEEK. I have resisted successfully so far. Doesn't mean I don't want my kids to be great at many things but take a chill pill all. It is not end of the world and kids will get to do things.

My order of priority for my kids:

1. Get Enough Sleep

2. Eat good food. We don't do Juice or Soda at all. Chips etc. are ok once in a while.

3. No devices. My daughter started getting hooked on to Ipad and one day, we went cold turkey and put it away. She only gets to watch TV now. No more eyes stuck in an Ipad.

4. Dinner ON THE TABLE. Yes, this is so hard these days. We get lazy. But we have tried to enforce this and it has done wonders.

5. Talk to them. Teach them a few things while you interact with them. Give them chores to teach them the value of work. I have a simple one for mine: Turn on the porch lights in the evening. She loves it as "this is my job". Sense of ownership and responsibility.

6. Teach them to have empathy and how to treat others. This is so important. Don't overly reward them for good behavior but always say "You did a great job. I am proud of you" and that's it. Don't glorify it.

7. One activity. For us, it is Swimming. But you could choose any really.

After this (already a lot, isn't it) , it is mostly "let kids be kids". Depending on their mood, our availability and the day, we can do outdoor activities, biking, playing in backyard or go for a drive. No pressure of planned activities. That's it for me. My wife doesn't quite agree but I have been able to keep it like this for a while.


> After this (already a lot, isn't it) , it is mostly "let kids be kids".

Some of your list is just basic quality of life. Sleeping? Eating at the table? Talking to them? This is all general parenting.

> My daughter started getting hooked on to Ipad and one day, we went cold turkey and put it away. She only gets to watch TV now. No more eyes stuck in an Ipad.

How is TV better than an iPad? I mean, seriously? At least with an iPad there's a plethora of different apps, and a good percentage of them will be more enlightening than watching the ever diminishing quality of TV these days.

How much of this is just paranoia about "too much screen time" but reframed for a 21st century approach?

> My wife doesn't quite agree but I have been able to keep it like this for a while.

Parenting is a two person effort. Don't shut out the mother's thoughts on it just because you disagree.


>How is TV better than an iPad? I mean, seriously? At least with an iPad there's a plethora of different apps, and a good percentage of them will be more enlightening than watching the ever diminishing quality of TV these days.

One thing I notice is with TV the kid will sit and watch a program for 20 minutes. On an iPad they open YouTube, they will switch every 30 seconds to a new video, often just showing a random mish-mash of super hero characters with an annoying song in the background. The videos are all derivative, mixing a number of popular things / characters / songs trying to just get clicks from kids. Search for "daddy finger" on YouTube and start clicking through videos to get an idea of the quality of programming kids will watch if you let them.

It seems that constantly being able to pick something new every 30 seconds would lend itself to shortened attention spans worse than watching a kids show with at least some semblance of a narrative arc.

This more applies to toddlers, not older children.


I'd that were my main concern, I'd put the device on a pipe with too little bandwidth to handle video... All the text you can eat, but no moving pictures.


> How much of this is just paranoia about "too much screen time" but reframed for a 21st century approach?

All of it. An entire generation raised glued to the TV is now flipping out about screen time. It would be funny if I didn’t have to deal with other parents all the time.


Educational TV has come so far too! Daniel Tiger is amazing at teaching social skills compared to any show available in the 90s.

From research it seems the biggest issue with kids watching TV is just that it takes time away from other forms of learning. Which means limit it but no need to get rid of it.


I can't say enough good things about the SciShow Kids YouTube channel. My four year old calls Jessie (the presenter), her "science teacher", and routinely surprises me with information she has learned there. They're a great length (usually 3-5 minutes), so you can 'tune' the time.

https://www.youtube.com/user/scishowkids

As far as PBS shows go, Nature Cat is a favorite (and well written enough to be enjoyable for parents as well).


Completely agree. In our house, TV === PBS stations. Daniel Tiger, et al., on PBS Kids are phenomenal. I would also point out that, at least in the case of my son, he is much more socially and temporally present when watching TV than when using his mother's phone (I do not share my devices with him). There's the additional annoyance that when using the phone, he wants to watch one of us play. He doesn't want to play the game himself or with us, he wants to spectate. So, TV is usually my preferred option for screen time.


> How is TV better than an iPad? I mean, seriously? At least with an iPad there's a plethora of different apps, and a good percentage of them will be more enlightening than watching the ever diminishing quality of TV these days.

Kids are all.. different? What he describes was surprisingly the same for my 6 year old. Tablets cause focus and aggression issues with him. Taking away tablet access has done wonders for our household.

Your mileage may vary.


Interesting. My five-year old has exhibited some aggression/anger occasionally. I have attributed it to him being tired or going through natural childhood phases. He does use electronic devices a lot. I never would have related the two behaviors, though.


I wonder if this is due to the instant gratification that devices provide, which creates an expectation that the real world should function this way, too, and anger when that turns out not to be the case.


From the reading I've done on the subject and observing our almost 3 year old, the ipad gives a dopamine rush to the brain. Taking it away causes the dopamine to stop and anger/frustration ensues...

At most he's allowed 1 hour a day, half hour after breakfast and a half hour before dinner. Both times he's given a 5 minute warning to turn it off, then he has to turn it off himself. We learned this the hard way, plus a lot if reading to figure out why he got so angry and frustrated when we turned it off.

Nowadays, either we play with him and his toys or he gets bored with that and wants the iPad again. We tell him the times he can watch it and he goes off bored again and starts getting creative with play on his own. The dopamine thing (self made opiate) really opened our eyes to his behaviour when the iPad was taken away.


>How is TV better than an iPad?

The iPad IS more dangerous than the T.V. BECAUSE it is so much more engaging. Unless you have super-cable-satellite T.V. with more channels than you could possible ever watch - and sometime still even then - TV watching becomes boring, and people are drawn to do other things. iPad often does not do this - which makes is simultaneously less dangerous (because it is more engaging and therefore educational in some sense) and more dangerous (because the impetus to leave and go away can express itself by loading up a different app or even popping onto the app store for a new free one, or by going on the internet or even youtube with their incredible variety).

I still use and iPad with my little boy, but I always try to be using to together - we talk about what he sees and hears, we watch Daniel Tiger and I sing the songs and ask about specific things he sees on the screen, etc. I feel like this is a good compromise, even if it ruins the otherwise potent ability of the iPad to engage him so I can do other things - I'm willing to sacrifice the other things in most cases. :D (I am somewhat horrified at how simple it is for us both to just get absorbed in one thing or another and spend too much time NOT doing all those talking/playing/interacting things with stuff on the iPad, though! So simple, takes effort and energy to refuse to fall into that trap! :) )


>Some of your list is just basic quality of life. Sleeping? Eating at the table? Talking to them? This is all general parenting.

That can't be taken for granted anymore.


It was never "taken for granted", but it's still basic quality of life.


Indeed, but considering some of the comments from other parents on this thread--and accounting for my own experience--spending time with one's children, just being present in the world together, exploring and fostering experiential learning, is not as simple as it would at first appear. Parents' lives are beset by demands and obligations outside those of parenting and managing a household, so it can be incredibly difficult to balance these disparate tasks and still make time to be present in the lives of their children on a timetable that does not begin to negatively impact the children's development.

Quality time is important and possibly one of the scarcest commodities in our economy. The importance of experiential learning (eg, dining together at the table), wherein a child learns about the world firsthand, including how to comport oneself in various situations, cannot be understated.


>> How is TV better than an iPad? I mean, seriously?

You can only watch TV in one room. Kids can carry a tablet around 24/7, everywhere they go.


So, don't let them carry the tablet everywhere they go?


> Parenting is a two person effort. Don't shut out the mother's thoughts on it just because you disagree

Sometimes one or the other is flat out wrong and it's ok to be firm in that case. For example, it's taken my wife about 6 years (and a small fortune in family therapy) to realize that backsliding on boundaries and discipline undermines all boundaries and discipline, including mine. Thankfully she has finally heard me when I've explained why DD took me seriously, while ignoring and walking all over my DW.


>How is TV better than an iPad?

One of the few compelling arguments for TV is that it's excellent for teaching language to first learners. My wife and I have a bilingual family, English and Japanese, but we live where there are no Japanese speakers my children's age to socialize with. A subscription to a few Japanese TV channels has been instrumental in passively supplementing language acquisition. It's the only reason we have a TV in the house at all.


I don't think that works though. You need a real life human for language transfer to occur. It does't work via tv/video. http://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/why-your-kid-cant-l...

Maybe it's different for keeping/improving a language you already know...


Can you not set up the iPad to be in Japanese or otherwise make sure to include the language in your life other ways?


>Can you not set up the iPad to be in Japanese

It's complicated for a few reasons. First, my daughter is too young to read, and she won't be ready to read Japanese for a very long time since it's much more work to achieve literacy than for English.

Second, with iOS and the Apple ecosystem generally, you have to contend with arbitrary and draconian region lockout. It's not as simple as just switching the phone to a different language, you have to maintain a separate Apple ID to get content from Japanese stores, and in many cases, a Japanese credit card and/or bank account, and sometimes even a Japanese IP address!! Frustrating!

Third, I can't trust unsupervised use of the iPad the way I can with a TV set to the kid's channel, having seen the kind of filth that e.g. Youtube's autoplay will serve up.

>otherwise make sure to include the language in your life other ways?

"""Supplement"""


>Some of your list is just basic quality of life. Sleeping? Eating at the table? Talking to them? This is all general parenting.

Unfortunately, there are still many children whose only meals are served at school.


I generally agree except re: screentime... I think managed screentime without overbearing expectations from the parents is way better than obsessing over the time spent. I worked with kids for 10+ years pre tech and the kids who had strict "no tv" guidelines were generally _obsessed_ with tv, whereas the kids who had parents with a more relaxed approach were pretty indifferent to tv.. Anecdotes, sure, and some kids had zero tv and were incredible kids, and vice versa... but this is just my observation over many years.


I wasn't allowed any TV when I was a child and I definitely had a similar experience, any time I was near to a TV my eyes were glued on it and my attention was completely held. When I was a little older (highschool) I got my hands on as much media as I could and subsequently desensitized myself to it and now don't have the same effect, but I'm not quite convinced that was the "better" option. It lets me operate in the world a little better (I'm not entranced by TV's in restaurants like when I was 12) but is desensitization and normalization of that much stimulus a "good" thing?


If you plan to live in a world with that much stimulus, it probably is a good thing to learn to filer it.


I know some people strongly disagree but my toddler learns tons from her tablet.

She has Amazon Freetime and can pick and choose whatever apps she wants to play (we can remove apps and control what age range is available). The apps on it have taught her about animals, letters, words, problem solving, and tons of other things she otherwise would've had less exposure to.

We also play together with her on the tablet and of course do lots of playing/learning without electronic devices at all. Books, blocks, play figures, the usual stuff.

But tablets are an extremely powerful tool for learning so it seems silly to me when people completely cut them out for the "good" of a child.


> 3. No devices. My daughter started getting hooked on to Ipad and one day, we went cold turkey and put it away. She only gets to watch TV now. No more eyes stuck in an Ipad.

Why exactly is TV (passive) better than an iPad (interactive)?


The passive TV can be less psychologically powerful than the interactive iPad.

Sure, kids can still sit slack-jawed staring at some cartoons. The TV producers have learned how to maintain attention with rapid cuts, bright colors, loud sounds, and all the rest extremely well. And that's some pretty scary super-stimulation.

But it's still less addictive than the iPad app that can use all the same outputs and adds interactive, Pavlovian feedback. Push button, get some meaningless numbers to increase: maybe you'll get lucky and they'll increase a lot this time! Keep trying! Check back in 30 seconds when that unlocks again! Some interaction can be educational, but there's more to the decision than the educational value, it's also somewhat about the addictive potential.

My 11-month old likes to hold a phone when he can get one. He turns it over with impressive dexterity in his little hands. He enjoys his reflection, and the weight and shape of the things. I'm sure he's observed that Mom and Dad pick up and use these things frequently, as much as we try to limit it around him. Each time he gets a phone, we take it away, and trivially redirect his attention on something else.

It's terrifying to me that in perhaps 5 years, the attention capture industry will be aided by virtual-reality devices, and my little kindergartner will need to develop the willpower to someday control his use of these future addiction machines.

(And now, I'll ironically push "reply" in hopes that I'll see my HN karma increase a few points due to this comment.)


> The TV producers have learned

Not to detract from your point, but to reinforce it: TV producers didn't "learn" as if through trial and error, but something far more sinister. They, and commercial producers, employ actual child psychologists to study the underlying mechanisms of attention in actual children to maximize the impact of their "product".


Not all apps are like that.

For instance Sago Mini makes amazing apps that do not use addiction techniques to hook you. They are just fun and let your explore however you want.

https://sagomini.com/apps/

I completely agree that some apps are inappropriate for various ages though. Pretty much anything that purposely tries to addict the user should only be played by people who can handle the it. Some adults can't.


> (And now, I'll ironically push "reply" in hopes that I'll see my HN karma increase a few points due to this comment.)

Have my upvote! ;)

(And now, I'll push "reply" with fear that my HN karma will decrease due to a meta-comment about up/downvoting)


Karma +1


TV is less of a dopamine rush kind of thing.

You need to be very careful with modern mobile games. I'll let my son play minecraft, do the "endless learning" games, Dr Seuss, movies, and a few other selected games. You need to avoid the skinner box games.

Generally speaking, if it has a franchise endorsement (Star Wars, etc) it's garbage.


> do the "endless learning" games, Dr Seuss, movies, and a few other selected games. You need to avoid the skinner box games.

I'd be glad if you could share some of the games you approve of as my child is recently more interested.

And what are 'skinner box' games?


In general, any game that has a manufactured annoyance that can be bypassed immediately by paying money/watching an ad.

Usually achieved by a stamina system (You can play up to 5 levels in 30 minutes, or play another immediately by paying), balancing play so playing without "Premium" items feels sluggish and uncompetitive (but not so sluggish that the game is unfun), and having a lot of gambling style elements to overcome the first two (No gems? You can spin the prize wheel once a day! Also, you logged in 3 days in a row! Have some gems!)


Generally speaking, anything that requires you to gather funny money to play, and tempts you with the ability to buy credits. Free is usually crap.

A recent one was "Star Wars Force Arena". You really need to shell out to play, but you get these virtual "cards", sort of like electronic Pokémon cards that have characters and weapons. Usually they give you junk characters, but once in awhile you get something good. Your have to connect in specific time intervals to get more cards, and we discovered that my son was actually waking up early to claim his cards.

Other nice games come from Toca Boca. My son and his cousin like to play with "Hair Salon 3", where you basically cut and style hair -- they have little contests to make wacky looking people.

The physical Apple Store is actually a good place to discover new games. They change it demos every few weeks and the staff is often very knowledgeable.


Take a look at this video [1] for explanation, and possibly other Extra Credits videos if you're interested in game design.

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


Skinner box essentially means slot machine.

A tremendous amount of games on phones are either glorified slot machines, or a normal game with some kind of slot machine tacked on, such as a loot system.

Some even produce loot that can be traded for real money...

You have to vet every game now.


Personally, I prefer TV because we get to see what they are watching. Second, I am a bit concerned with a device like Ipad so close to their body (this could be just me but I am not sure about long term effects of this to a child who is barely 5). Not to mention that TV has limited options (kids pretty much watch cartoons) but with Ipad, the possibilites are endless. My daughter already knows how to unlock the ipad, start different apps and play youtube on the ipad etc.

I am not against restricting anything honestly but when I saw that my daughter started telling us "leave me alone. I am watching ipad", that was the signal that she is getting addicted. Mind you, she is not even 5. With TV, it is not that bad as they watch it while doing other things like roaming around the living room etc. Much less addictive in our specific case at least. YMMV.


  "leave me alone. I am watching ipad"
Imagine you lived in a house with no doors. People could come and go as they please, and they did. There wasn't any corner or closet where you were guaranteed solitude. Moreover, you were _stuck_ in that house, as you had no means to leave of your own accord, even just to walk down the block alone.

I think my son first barked, "stop talking", to us before he was 2. That first time he was just tired of being peppered with questions and wanted to be let alone. No devices were involved. Sometimes he says that or something like it when he's being reprimanded, which is of course not acceptable. But in any event I've always tried to appreciate the sentiment. I appreciate (and require) solitude more than my wife, so perhaps I more sensitive to that need, or at least more credulous.


That's awesome. Get your kid to do that with blocks, pen and paper or a toy.


Our household got vastly easier, and our kids happier, when we did the opposite: got rid of the TV, and only watch shows on the iPad. The big TV screen was a constant suggestion looming over the living room.

It's easier still when the iPad runs out of batteries; we just haven't managed to get rid of it entirely yet.


I don't have any kids, but I still got rid of the TV. Passive, environmental entertainment is problematic. If you had a bowl of chocolate on your desk, it's easier to snack on them during the day - the same with media distractions.

Now, anything I watch is something I specifically seek out - pull, not push.

I do the same with video games, and I choose games that are more exiting, as opposed to long slogs - fixed-level/single-player FPS, or fixed length multiplayer sessions, as opposed to "stat-building" games, or candy-crunch "physiological manipulators".


But it's better to stretch your caloric intake over the day than have huge meals.

I'm trying to do a schedule of snack bars over the afternoon and a small lunch now, over wanting to eat enough at noon to last until 9-10 PM.


It's not better (nor worse). For some people it makes it easer to eat less overall, for others it's the opposite.


TV is social. Everyone is seeing it, which creates a whole world that can be talked about. As it is the world has too many +4 sigma cognitive skills (which will be partly IQ but also learned throughout life) with below-median social skills. It would be much, much more useful to have then be +3 sigma for cognitive skills and +1 sigma social skills.

Useful for them and useful for society.


I don't think it's the case with TV today. Not anymore. There are too many channels, and also significant amount of people decided not to have TV.

Watching Game of Thrones is social, whether you do it on TV or on-line. Watching a random TV program on a random TV channel is about as social as watching a random YouTube video.


We needed to go cold turkey off the ipad too. Its different from computers or television. The apps they choose to play are like literal drugs, constant events and things to tap on.

Anyways after the cold turkey we now have 40m of video games per day, if they talk kind to one another and listen quickly. They can choose what they play.

They always choose the damn "addictive" tablet apps.


i personally feel 40min/day is too much. I have 2 young kids (7 and 5) and used to do similar to you. The problem with allowing some amount per day means that's all they can think about, because before "media time" (tv, tablet, or computer) they anticipate it, and after "media time" they miss it.

I switched my kids to "no media during weekdays" and after about 3 or 4 days of withdraw, it's much, much better. now they have time to play, do homework, and practice piano during the week without the constant complaining that they used to exhibit.


Well, I personally feel 40min/day for a 7yo is bordering on too little. Personally I had mostly unsupervised and not strongly limited access to a computer since about 9, and I definitely owe at least my career and my English skills to that. I mean - how can one expect a kid to learn to do anything creative/productive with technology, if one gives them so little time that learning and creating isn't a viable option?


It's tricky to strike a balance. I'm on the computer for literally like 14 hours a day so I'm def not a good example. As a kid I had a lot of access too. I'll keep in mind your thoughts.


Sounds like a great plan. Surprised you are being down voted.


I never understand the 'no devices' thing. It seems wrongheaded. Not just from the 'an inability to be a sophisticated user of technology will be a gigantic deficit to them in a multitude of ways' standpoint, but it seems like it's trying to take away a solution the child has found to a problem their parents created in the first place. Many parents complain that their child doesn't want to go outside and play, that they just stay inside on their tablet or in front of a videogame console. Most of those parents, if you ask them, fully intend to go WITH their child if they DO decide to go outside and "play". They intend to watch over their child, make sure they don't do anything too risky, make sure they don't use 'dirty words', and stand on hand to judge their every move.

Kids gravitate to devices because they give the kid power. They are the only outlet in our society where THEY get to make things happen, THEY get to decide what to do next. In every single other arena of their life, those choices are taken away from them by people who think they know better (and people who do not consider control itself to be inherently harmful, which it is).

I would imagine that if you give them other situations in which they are unobserved, unregulated, and empowered, the device use would fall off of its own accord. It's like the 'rat park' studies that upended addiction research in the past. Sure rats hit a bar to get cocaine until they die - if they're in a cage. But put them in an outdoor area with other rats with lots of things to do and they'll never get addicted in the first place. And if you put a rat that IS addicted in that environment, they wean themselves off of the drug naturally.


Current rule is 1 activity at a time. Little one spends 30 minutes a week in Gymnastics. Maybe someday it will turn to ballet. Who knows.

You have to set some kind of limit, or you get activity creep. Oh you need a sport. And something musical. And something social. Blah!!!

Maybe 1 isn't the perfect number, but 5 seems a bit unhealthy for almost anyone (unless the kid is really thriving in it I guess)


5 of those a week is only 30 minutes a weekday. What's the problem with that? Hidden hours in preparation and transportation? 30 minutes is not even a tenth of a school day.


When they are 5, it's the lost time in transit and gaps of wasted time.

When they get older there's a 4:1 prep:activity ratio. If your kid is going to play majors or minors in little league, you're doing multiple leagues, workshops and practicing. When he isn't doing that, you're dealing with little league politics.

Multiple activities means you never eat dinner at home, may not see siblings for days as well. You also never see your spouse. If your 7 year old is at dance until 7, you're stopping at chipotle and not getting home until 8. Your spouse is tucking in the 5 year old, who needs to go to bed at 7:30 to wake up at 6 to get to before school care.


7. One activity. For us, it is Swimming. But you could choose any really.

I think it’s good to have 2 activities, one for the mind (eg chess, chinese lessons, painting, etc) and one for the body (eg swimming, soccer, a martial art, etc)


The quality of TV is atonishingly terrible these days.

Back when I was a kid I would watch countless documentaries on Animal Planet, Discovery, History, Science, and TLC. Now literally all they show are reality shows.


> Give them chores to teach them the value of work

How does this teach the value of work?


Not the OP, but I'll reframe that as "teach them the value of accomplishment" because I've always had an issue with the concept of work being its own reward.

One of my 7 year-old's chores is refilling the bird feeders. He really likes doing it and is excited when new birds come to visit. There's a clear work->reward path there.


> He really likes doing it and is excited when new birds come to visit

But will he feel the same about flipping burgers? I agree - it's a dangerous thing to teach work is it's own reward. Work can be enjoyable, but not always.


Teach them that it takes work to run a house. Dinner doesn't just magically appear, dishes don't wash themselves, your socks don't pair up on their own. Makes them more grateful and also capable of taking care of themselves.


If it's incentivized by their receiving something of value to them after the completion of the chores.


What do they receive in this case?


Depends on the age. For an older kid, maybe extra spending money. For a younger kid, maybe a special outing, or a special treat like a frosted cupcake.


My wife's a teacher. Parents are insane. Schools/admin don't push back much.

If you're lucky they're just up your ass—"Why does my kid still have a 0 for this assignment in the online gradebook? They turned in their late paper at 10am and it's 3pm now and you should have gotten to it in your 1 hour plan time, and you should have returned my stupid call that I never should have made, nevermind you have literally 100 other kids to worry about and you send weekly updates on all kinds of stuff that I don't read". That kind of crap.

If you're not lucky they're the sort that loudly accuses every teacher their kid has of racism every year within the first month of school.


My SO is a HS teacher and has been in very good (publicly funded) charter schools (100% admit rate to 4 years Unis) and the bottom of the barrel public schools (50%+ non HS degree completion), so there is a breadth of experience.

We've seen the super-moms and the slacker-moms and at the end of the day, it really just comes down to the kid. Most of the time, whatever drive or interests they have are going to run haywire over the parent's best/worst laid plans. Valedictorians at the best schools still get abortions and go on to meth-out, and slackers in the worst school still go on to be fighter pilots. It's the kid's life, mostly. And, like most people, their life will be average. That's not a bad thing.

Problem is, admin is nuts, typically. Not the unions (at least in this state), just the regular state admin. They are under a LOT of pressure to make sure that they 'improve' and send kids to college (nothing else counts in the metrics). As such, you sometimes see 'non-traditional' grading systems where a 25% is a D and you can only give out 4 question multiple choice tests. Yes, by random guessing, the average student should pass, and they do, if you can get the 14 years olds to knock off the vodka and pot long enough to take a test. The lawyer-based teaching approach is obviously crazy, but here we are.

Strong caveats apply for instability/abuse in the home-life and drug use during pregnancy, of course. Unfortunately, you see that a lot more in the 'poorer' schools. At the last public HS, 90% of the teachers 'dropped out' after 1 year, my SO included. Sometimes it can get that bad, yes.


All of this rings true, but I would also add that there are still places in 2017 where the parenting culture hasn't devolved into a "success"-at -any-cost scenario. You don't necessarily need to go far afield to find these communities, but you are less likely to find them within the crucible of i.e. Silicon Valley or other similarly configured places.

A few factors which I think might give rise to these less "insane" environments:

- A community whose population is employed in a diverse set of occupations.

- A community with welcoming shared public outdoor spaces where unplanned joint activities can occur. This can be in an urban environment, no forest needed.

There will certainly be trade-offs with these places (maybe older school facilities, lower average SAT scores) but for some that might be worth a childhood and parenthood without the additional anxiety that the environment you describe creates.


I have a kid that age too (just entering K) and I concur. It's shocking and disgusting. In 20 years, those nutter parents will brag on Facebook: "Well, my kid is suicidal but at least he went to Stanford!" So sad. Kids need exploration and playtime, not medication and Structured Enrichment Activities™.


Based on conversations with people who work in mental health professions in SV, we're already there with the kids who have been pushed close to the edge.

The news only reports on these situations when it is too late, but there are plenty of kids in bad straits short of that.



I blame facebook, or at least the idea of facebook. Having kids has always been surprisingly competitive, and social media exacerbates the problem.


I blame college. The fact that many more people go to college nowadays has benefits, but the cost is that it massively increases competitiveness early in life.

The admiration of their Facebook friends is nothing compared to the approval of college admission committees. They are the ones who like B+ students who practice sports and play in orchestras.


College is just a link in the chain of our win-lose society.


That's true, but after college you are an adult who can choose how to deal with that based on your own talents and goals.

It's not like the children submit themselves to a life of hard work and surveillance because they really want to go to college. Their parents are the ones who force them to do it.


You just have to keep in mind that you see the highligts of your friends lives, but the average of your own.


I don't think most people look beyond their own immediate vicinity. They never step back and consider the more abstract picture. They see what the neighbors are doing and parrot. They don't bother to notice "Hey... my child is going to reach 18 years of age never having once been involved in an activity which was not regimented, regulated, and immediately overseen by an adult authority figure." How, exactly, are they meant to learn to solve their own problems? How are they meant to learn how to interact with people with vastly different levels of experience to themselves as equals? They're great at acting subservient to their seniors. That's useless in many cases, dangerous in most. And they're great at acting superior to their juniors. That's useless in all cases, dangerous as well in most.


The problem is, that the parents kill the most valuable thing. Iniative, the ablity to have a adeventure, to take a orthogonal way to the throdden road and find something new.

This style of parenting kills the most valuable skill a kid could develop.


Thank you for pointing this out. I did K-12 in the US and it is indeed a different world now. I now have two children, in KG and PK, and I see the same thing with 3-5 structured activities. Part of it is an arms race of getting kids into top colleges, which now starts earlier and earlier. People realize the right college is a way to potentially hockeystick your future.

We have swimming, soccer, and language #3 for the kids. We're hoping the whole college mess gets figured out by society so we can live a more normal life.


Woah woah woah. ADHD is a real thing. Denigrating people with ADHD and parents of children with ADHD isn't helpful.


Yeah, its a purely western disease, unknown in countrys where kids are allowed to be active and act out there energys.

Glad we protected the problem production from the discussion.


How in the actual fuck is that not classified as child abuse?


    > In Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, social scientist Robert D.
    > Putnam describes how, beginning in the 1980s, “the dominant ideas and
    > social norms about good parenting have shifted from Spock’s ‘permissive
    > parenting’ to a new model of ‘intensive parenting.’ ”
I wonder how much of this is a consequence of increasing economic disparity in the US. In the 70s, there were middle class jobs a-plenty. As long as your kid wasn't a total degenerate, they could probably find a decent job to sustain a happy middle-class lifestyle when they got out of high school.

Now, there is an increasing arms race where more and more over-educated and over-training young people are competing for fewer jobs that pay less. The slope of the income distribution is getting steeper and steeper. Your kid is going to enter a job market with fewer opportunities and less pay, meanwhile they will be surrounded by tons of other kids all feverishly competing for the same jobs.

If your kid doesn't have the right grades to get into the right school to get the right degree and thus the right internship, it's very easy to slip into poverty (and the crippling student debt on top doesn't help).

The anxiety around parenting in some ways reflects a rational observation that the world we are preparing our children for is not as welcoming as the one we grew up in.


We're on to the second generation, in my opinion, of a very destructive self-sustaining cycle. In the 80s, parents were taught 'latch-key kids' were neglect and they were 'growing up too fast' (a nonsensical idea). So they overparented. This was accepted by them gladly because when they were raised, things were very permissive and they remembered being those long-haired hippies that they had turned their backs on when they became stock brokers. They wanted to make sure their kids didn't get similar rebellious ideas.

So those children got over-parented. As a result of the degree of control they suffered, particularly during adolescence, they never developed a full adult maturity. Now they're having kids. And they're not mature enough to handle it.

Parenting is the hardest, but most rewarding, thing a person can do in their life. Your job (and most parents today would be shocked to hear this) is to take a child and turn it into an adult. Not a larger child. Mere aging does NOT cause a child to develop. Experience is the exclusive means through which new neural connections are formed. Intense and novel experience in particular is the most useful for development. In their absence, development does NOT occur. So as a parent, you have to expose your child to these things that will change them. The child you love more than your own life will be turned into an individual who wants to leave you and has no need for you. How mature do you have to be to put your own feelings aside and accept that this inevitable heartbreak on your part is in the best interest of your child and therefore you will pursue it actively? Very, I'd say.

The next time you hear a parent remark that their child is "not ready" for something, whether its watching a scary movie or dating or whatever, ask them what they are doing, as a parent, to MAKE their child ready for it. You will typically get a blank stare.


This is why we spend our money on Disney World and other experiences for the kids instead of saving for college. That might be a controversial idea, but we'd rather have them grow up with a fun childhood instead of just making it to a university, feeling empty and hollow inside, and have it all just be some lotto ticket anyway.


I think you underestimate the cost of college or overestimate the cost of Disney park tickets.


If I'm underestimating the cost of college then all the more reason to spend the money on something else.

For all I know a 4 year degree will cost $500k in the next 10-20 years. I have 4 kids. Do the math.


It already costs nearly that at some 'elite' universities. And it's not worth the money if you purely consider it as a financial investment in most cases.


The tickets are a drop in the bucket of the total cost for a traveling family vacation. And it IS hard to save and spend at the same time.


Yup. The airfare, hotels, restaurants, and souvenirs cost an absolute fortune. You can do alright with their budget friendly resorts but still. It's so much fun though.


We did that - and our kids were sick of Disney and amusement parks by the time they were teenagers. They'd much rather do beach, national parks, etc.

Big win, in my book!


I'm going to relish my first parent-teacher meeting in elementary school. I think that homework at that level of schooling is absurd, and there are studies to back it up. That age should be about exploring the world and its relationships. Locking children away for 6+ hours at school with the minimal recess they're permitted now-a-days, and then tack on an hour or more of homework at home? Sorry, I'm reserving that time for my child to have healthy play time.


Same, though it's my step-son not my son (he's 7), his mum gets stressed about his reading level and math proficiency (both of which he's in the higher level for anyway) while I find the whole thing ludicrous, I was explaining probability to him the other day while we where playing cards and he grokked it.

I grew up in the 80's in the North of England (not a time our schools shone) and but for a single good teacher I'd have ended up in the equivalent of the remedial group (likely for the rest of my school career), she understood that the reason I wasn't learning wasn't because I wasn't capable but because I wasn't interested, she realised I liked science and computers so she binned the assigned books and got me reading about those instead.

30 years later I have a solid career as a programmer and I still love science.

This "teach the test, pass the test, teach the next test" style of schooling is fucking absurd, Daniel had to study for SAT's for FFS.

Standardised testing at 7 is insane, just the way school years are broken up means you have kids nearly a year apart in age at that age so the variance from that is huge.


One might be tempted to think that our schooling systems which were designed and optimized to provide workers for the manufacturing world might need some retooling for an age in which the world has little use for rule-following folks content to stand on a line pulling a lever all day...


One might, One might also wonder how the government feels about teaching children to be creative (a skill required in current and future economies) without breaking the rule following.

Most governments are happy with rule-following drones who do as they are told and pay their taxes.


Because Disney world fills up all emotional unhappy holes...

Rather give them a secure and happy family than materialism.


> Rather give them a secure and happy family than materialism.

GP's comment sounds like that's precisely what they're doing. They're using the money to give their kids a fun and memorable childhood.


This is extremely uncharitable. What makes you assume my children do not have a happy home life? Do you honestly believe having money to do interesting and fun things growing up can only be a negative?

I'm choosing to not sacrifice all sorts of opportunities so that they can grow up with an austere existence and get a probably worthless loan-free college education.

You do you though!


You're right, I misread and commented too quickly. My reply was a lot more generic than your comment warranted.

I'm sorry about that.


That's cruel. His only problem with being back in America was:

“There, I could always take a walk to my friends’ houses. Here we have to drive. The only really social time is at school or on my phone or video games or Xbox. That’s where I talk to my friends the most. Back there, I could see them every day, but here I can’t.”

And instead of trying to solve that problem (make a concerted effort to drive him to his friends every day, or give him a bike, or give him money for a taxi, or…) they punished him with Pavlov training.


And there's things like this too: 'The kids had mixed reactions. Shep told his Mom the family architects made him nervous but his 12-year-old brother was probably the least accepting of the project.

One afternoon, not long after the family architects arrived, he grabbed a footstool and put his face right up to one of the Nest Cams.

“Hey, buttholes!” he said. “Why don’t you leave us alone?”

At first, nothing happened. Then there was a crackle of static, followed by a voice on the other end. “That’s a strike,” it said.'


> At first, nothing happened. Then there was a crackle of static, followed by a voice on the other end. “That’s a strike,” it said.'

This line could be straight from '1984'.


I think had a book been written where the parents paid to have this level of monitoring and treatment of their family, it would've been seen as too implausible.


This whole article felt weird, when I read:

> She discovered her son in his closet, playing on an old, broken Xbox he’d restored himself

I'd personally want to congratulate the kid.

My mother thought she could confiscate the power cord to my computer to stop me using it in the middle of the night. Obviously power cords are cheap and plentiful.


Heh, my dad took the whole computer away from me and put it in his room. This did not stop me from removing the motherboard, hard drive, video and sound card, and taking them to my friends house in my backpack for a LAN party. Spare monitor and power supply I borrowed from my friend got me up and running.


I especially liked the shot they took at the kids about being "negotiators," as though the ability to compromise rationally with authority figures is some sort of behavioral issue and not, you know, life.

When I wanted toys, I did chores. Later when I wanted spending money, I did chores, helped out around the house, mowed lawns, and eventually got a job. That is not negotiating, that's just being a productive member of a society.

Seems like this company is specializing in creating the same authority-fearing, tough-as-nails people who are being put out of work in the coal mines and have an uphill battle learning to do creative and intellectual work because they had all of their brains beat out of them by an education and parenting system designed to create drones, not problem solvers. Fucking tragic.


I was thinking the same thing, "Oh no! My child is learning how to negotiate instead of blindly following authority, the horror!"

What's even sadder to me though, is that blindly following authority does work extremely well for following academic paths, and probably most corporate paths. While negotiating and actual critical thinking (questioning authority) will only get you into trouble / derailed.

So this program does work to help these kids academically. Because academic success is almost entirely based on submission to authority and doing structured tasks without questioning much.


I think you have extrapolated too much about this, they were being overly polite I think when they called it negotiation.

When you are being issued a traffic ticket for parking in a way that is clearly indicated as wrong then you don't "negotiate" with the traffic warden; it is not their call and in fact you are just bitching at them and causing a scene. That traffic warden works for all of us to manage parking and traffic flow and is doing their job as directed. If you don't believe that the rule you have broken is correct then you should challenge the rule, in a forum where the rule was created (the city council, the local media, or whatever) or if you don't think you have broken it then challenge the penalty in court please and let the traffic warden get on with their job.

What this article is saying, is that this argumentative behaviour is undesirable. There was a lot they didn't mention, such as what a "strike" was, or whether there was any opportunity to have discussions about the rules which were broken. This kind of behaviour modification will not work unless there is though, and I understand that that should be in a separate context, away from the situation which caused the strike to be issued.


You can negotiate politely in that scenario and the warden does have discretion. I have gotten out of tickets that way when there were mitigating circumstances, but I was clear to say that I understood if they still had to give me a ticket.

People yelling at traffic cops aren't really negotiating, they are just releasing anger.


    > I especially liked the shot they took at the kids about being
    > "negotiators," as though the ability to compromise rationally with
    > authority figures is some sort of behavioral issue and not, you know,
    > life.
One of my kids is a born haggler. She will try to maximize her personal benefit in every interaction with every human, even at that human's expense. Conversations with her like this are typical:

Her: Can I have some tablet time before bed?

Me: It's getting late, but fine. I have stuff I need to get done after you go to bed. Five minutes.

<Five minutes later.>

Me: Alright, it's bedtime.

Her: Five more minutes?

Me: No, now.

Her: That's not fair!

Me: You agreed to five minutes. That was five minutes ago.

<She gets off tablet.>

Her: I want some time to read now.

Adversarial negotiation is one way that humans interact, but it's not a particularly common one, and is rarely the best way to work together with someone else. Most interactions in life not zero-sum, and most people should not be treated like resources to maximize your exploitation of. Only in some sort of Randian libertarian hellhole would an interaction like this be acceptable:

Husband: Could you please pass the butter, dear?

Wife: Sure thing honey. That'll be $0.57 for the butter and $0.13 for the labor.

With a kid like mine that naturally goes into zero-sum mode, it is very important for me and my wife to train her to not treat people like that. Part of that is encouraging her to use empathy, but also a big part of it is knowing when to recognize when negotiation is not appropriate. Interacting with an authority is a bad time to start haggling, and authority figures are a part of life. If you get pulled over for a ticket, things usually don't go well if you tell the cop, "No, $200 is too much for the fine. I'll accept $50."


And the initial, tone-deaf response of parading him around in front of therapist's for "internet addiction". Seriously?


Not a rare kind of doctor shopping among those who can afford it.

But that's the whole problem, isn't it? The parents enjoy a lifestyle and a tax bracket where inconvenience is impermissible and unacceptable. The child has become inconvenient.

ETA: I had to stop reading before I finished the article, because it put me back in a place where I do not want to be. Still sort of there at the moment, but so it goes; I'm sure I'll be fine again tomorrow. Anyway, looking again just now to see how the author chose to conclude, I happened across this, a few paragraphs from the end, which I excerpt here without further comment:

At their son’s moment of crisis, why not start there, changing the environment rather than the kid?

She and Jason exchanged a look. “That’s just not possible,” Elizabeth said.


> But that's the whole problem, isn't it? The parents enjoy a lifestyle and a tax bracket where inconvenience is impermissible and unacceptable. The child has become inconvenient.

You know the sick part of this is that the wife and I discussed kids and we both decided that we were too involved with ourselves and our hobbies to properly devote time to a child. Yeah, we like our video games and our space, and we enjoy our time together so a kid really doesn't work well for us. You can call it superficial if you want, I wouldn't really disagree.

To say that these people just went and had kids, likely because that's what they were told by society what to do, means that these kids have now been sentenced to a life where they are an inconvenience and a burden, and there is no way they're not aware of this, which to me is way more fucking sick than not having kids because you don't want to share your XBox.


There's nothing "sick" or bad about not having kids if you don't want to have kids. There's a really awful way of thinking that having children is the default option, and not having them is something you need to explain.

Your explanation is the perfect reasoning, even though lots of people won't accept it. Having children when you don't want to have children dooms everyone to a singular outcome: you will resent your children. If you don't want something, and then you force it on yourself, you won't be able to interact with it in any way other than "I wish this didn't happen".


Oh no I wasn't saying our reasoning was sick, I meant the fact that they wouldn't/couldn't be honest with themselves and just say "we really don't want to have kids" and then put said kids in this situation where their "bad behavior" is "inconvenient" is sick.

Sorry if I mixed you up.


ah, makes sense.


As a father of three, I applaud your decision. I'm sure you don't need my validation, but too often I feel like people with kids pressure others to have them so I'm giving it anyway. I very much wanted kids and there are still times I had to tell myself it will be worth it. Just to be clear, I have no regrets.

In my eyes anyone who figures out that they aren't ready for or just don't want kids before they have them is very wise.


I don't need it, but I do appreciate it. :) And yeah, we're still kids ourselves, I can't picture myself a dad, heh. But who knows what life will bring down the track a few years.


>You can call it superficial if you want, I wouldn't really disagree.

No. Please disagree, and strenuously. This might help others realize that it should be an informed choice, if only for the kid's sake. Nearly half the pregnancies in the US are unplanned. [1]

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/02/health/unintended-pregnancy-ra...


And their approach is: "Well, let's just throw more money at the problem, so long as you don't expect me to change the lifestyle to which I've grown accustomed."


It's not impossible that that cause only became clear to him and everyone around him over the course of therapy.

[playing devils advocate]


I thought that little quote was the most important part of the article, it's really a shame it's buried at the bottom. Especially with all the activities outlined in this kid's life. Is it any wonder he started acting out?

Very important reading: https://www.amazon.com/Price-Privilege-Advantage-Generation-...


>And instead of trying to solve that problem (make a concerted effort to drive him to his friends every day, or give him a bike, or give him money for a taxi, or…) they punished him with Pavlov training.

Or how about letting him do what he wanted in the first place... stay in England. That country is (in)famous for its boarding schools. If they could afford the 6-figure-invoice to have strangers discipline their children via webcam, they could afford to let Shep stay at a top-quality boarding school in London.


When I was a kid, when you behaved like that, you got a beating or you got confined to your room (without entertainment/X-box/etc.) for a few days, and it was over. You didn't pay tens of thousands for surveillance.

Good for this company though. They identified a niche group with more money than brains, and are exploiting it. From life coaches and French Horn lessons to artisanal coffee and mobile pet washing, finding ways to separate upper-middle class nitwits from their large disposable income is a tried and true formula.

Also, this article is an obvious and unconcealed submarine advertisement for Cognition Builders, whose name is mentioned over 30 times.


> When I was a kid, when you behaved like that, you got a beating or you got confined to your room (without entertainment/X-box/etc.) for a few days, and it was over.

Unless, of course, the beatings failed to address the underlying issue and instead saddled you with problems that persist well into adulthood, and possibly affect the way you raise your own children, merely perpetuating a cycle of an Old Testament approach to problemsolving.

But hey, I'm not a doctor.


> When I was a kid, when you behaved like that, you got a beating or you got confined to your room (without entertainment/X-box/etc.) for a few days, and it was over.

When I was a kid, people tried all kinds of punishments to "correct" me - but this only convinced me even more in my principles that authorities are malicious and should never be trusted, but be deeply hated. And I got an even deeper hate on people who tolerate or even obey authorities instead of actively fighting them (the only sensible reason for the former behavior that I can conceive is that acting this way can be a helpful tactic in the fight against authorities with the goal to cause even more damage).


> Good for this company though. They identified a niche group with more money than brains, and are exploiting it.

This is a bizarre stance even on HN. They're aiding and abetting psychological abuse of children.


Don't get me wrong--I feel for the kid(s) who are ultimately the victims of their parents' narcissism and callousness. But is this any worse than drugging their kid because he won't sit still and focus, or abdicating their parental duties to a full-time nanny (both of which are, these days, not considered shocking or taboo)?


Whether it's worse or not doesn't bear on the moral weight of whether or not one involves oneself in it.

Yes, parents who are going to abuse their children are going to abuse their children. It's another thing entirely to say "good on these people for helping those parents abuse their children, it's a great way to make bank!"


These rich parents are going to spend their money on something. Better it go to these guys rather than something even worse. I agree with you, though: Ideally it would be better to make money by being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


I mean I'm not going to pretend I can't contemplate without judgment someone who would be willing even to seriously consider engaging in this sort of activity, regardless of motivation.

I get that someone might imagine they're helping people this way - using methods designed to help people far out on the autism spectrum, and not entirely without controversy even in that application, on people for whom they are not only ineffective but harshly abusive. But that person, in so thinking, errs. While I'm not entirely without sympathy for the error, the extent of that sympathy is strictly circumscribed by the fact of the harm that they're doing. There comes a point beyond which "I didn't know" no longer gets you a pass. That others have further trespassed in that direction than these doesn't change the fact of their trespass.


Hiring a nanny may be buying a way out of the problem, but at least is a decision you make. "Parents who pay to be watched" bothers me for the same reason life coaches bother me: it would seem to be a way of buying your wait out of having to "do you".

An adult should first be their own person. Of course it's not a good thing if they're bad parents (although even naming a boy Sue may be a way of exerting parenthood), but they're not going to be good for anyone if they're not their own people.

Here's an analogy: I understand prostitution -- it sells a service to people who are very ugly/deformed, the mentally ill, people who have very high sex drives or, in the limit, even people who don't want to deal with dating and Tinder and want to just get their sexual needs met in an uncomplicated fashion. The last case may be even societally deplorable (I'm not making value calls here) but at least is something one does.

I have slightly more trouble understanding the idea of escorts, who sell "arm candy" service to narcissistic people . I mean, I understand the appeal: I used to have share a desk with a very attractive woman and just the everyday banter and occasional flirty smile gave me a huge "ego boost".

What I don't get is hiring someone to pretend to be your girlfriend. The article tells us about a service that lets you pretend to be a parent.


I'd say comparable in harm to drugging the kid but far more harmful than using a nanny. I don't see an issue with a nanny, especially one who is long term, bonds emotionally with the kid(s), and who is compensated fairly.


We are pro business here, but I took that comment as sarcasm.


This is the most interesting article I've read on Hacker News in a long time.

These Cognition Builders people are following every single rule of technology startups:

- Charge more / move upmarket

- Target a niche and own it. Don't do spray'n'pray marketing, but make sure your niche can find you.

- Do things that don't scale (initially)

- Use technology to your advantage, but not as a gimmick.

Given how much they charge, I imagine they are profitable. And given how their customers' houses are covered with cameras and microphones, I imagine they are collecting some amazing datasets about human nature.

The folks at Cognition Builders are absolute geniuses, and I wish I was able to come up with a business like that.


You forgot:

- Skirt round or ignore existing regulations and call it disruption.

And, without oversights in place to keep the company accountable, like state requirements for clinical supervision...


“My experience is the self-consciousness goes away very quickly,” she said. “People live their lives and forget we’re there.”

That is probably the core lesson, the rest was all known. That line however, tells you everything that you need to know about the future of privacy.


You left out a rule:

- Ignore the human cost


This is horrifying. This constitutes psychological abuse of the child and should be illegal. I went through similar shit growing up and I still feel the ramifications today.


intercom noise that's a strike, Sir_Cmpwn. Stay in line.


Cognition Builders' particular practices seem pretty obnoxious but behavioral analysis conditioning can be very useful in general. For example, I've used profanity my who life. My wife didn't and it genuinely offended her more genteel sensibilities. I decided I wanted to make the change but I utterly failed for like two years of using just hope and willpower. Then we instituted a "swear jar" whose proceeds would be used to fund something distasteful to me like the Trump campaign. Within a couple months I was rid of the profanity. It's been like two years since we retired the jar and I haven't reverted. It was literally a life changing intervention.

When I started reading that article I was excited because I thought it was going to describe some cool, inspiring uses of the techniques to the much serious problems around dysfunctional family dynamics. Unfortunately Cognition Builders seem laughably Black-Mirror-esque. Another thing my wife and have wished for was a recording of our conversations for when we disagree about what was actually said in past conversations. I wonder if Cognition Builders could have a more passive offering where you could ask on demand things like "what did we agree to last week when we were talking about so and so..." It would be more like a life logging perfect AI for you to use as you see fit for things like reflection or accountability.


> I wonder if Cognition Builders could have a more passive offering where you could ask on demand things like "what did we agree to last week when we were talking about so and so..." It would be more like a life logging perfect AI for you to use as you see fit for things like reflection or accountability.

That's literally straight out of Black Mirror ;) ("The Entire History of You" - S01E03).

That said, if we're to have this, I'd say this is a perfect example of something that should be a product, and not a service. I might want such cameras, but I would never want them operated by a third party.


Jeez, can parents just chillax for a bit? Hyper-parenting aside, I feel that the conventional wisdom of disciplin and setting firm rules about everything is misguided. Just anecdotes, but it seems to me the kids who grew up with the most rules either snapped or became overly docile, boring and uncreative. I remember having sleep-overs at friends' places and just thanking the lord for having loving but extremely permissive parents. If kids have the freedom to do what they want they will take more responsibility for their own life. Staying up late and eating 5 bags of candy might sound fun at first, but after a while you figure out you'll just feel extremely bad the day after. I say let kids be people, within reasonable limits of course.


> Staying up late and eating 5 bags of candy might sound fun at first, but after a while you figure out you'll just feel extremely bad the day after.

People don't seem very good at learning that lesson (substitute video games/binge drinking/binge netflix).

Parents helping their children recognize the consequences, instead of insulating them from consequences can be beneficial.

The problem is when consequences take a long time to manifest - skipping/dropping out of school, never doing homework sounds great, but 10-15 years later, it causes major problems. Similarly, the benefits of diligent practice in whatever field take a long time to manifest.

These are places where loving guidance from a parent can make a big difference.


Kids are notoriously bad at learning on their own. Give kids the choice between candy and something healthy for dinner every day, and they'll consistently pick candy. Good parenting and limits are important.

But on the whole, I also see your point. I remember as a child being friends with two siblings with particularly strict parents. Everything felt so regimented... there was a specific time on certain days of the week that they were allowed to "bring out the Nintendo" and it had to be away at a certain time, on the dot. I always felt really nervous being over there, like I was on the edge of being thrown out of the house for something or other.

One of the kids turned out great, the other got into drugs. Go figure.


Decision making is a skill, and parents need to help train it in their children. This is a huge hole where most advice seems to have parents actively digging deeper rather than filling it.

Take advantage of the fact that your child probably doesn't understand false dichotomy and let them make A/B decisions with controlled positive and negative outcomes. Then hold them to those choices and negative outcomes, reminding them of the positive outcomes.


The article does not seem to ever define what a strike is and the repercussions. Maybe they should just sit down and talk to the kid instead of taking parenting advice from 20 year olds.

The child explained to the reporter what his problems were, did the parents ever ask or seek to remedy the situation. Also way to go ahead and use your child as a sales tactic for a behavior modification company. All of the other kids at his school will know about it now.

Just talk to your children, pay attention to them and treat them with respect, that will get you half way there.


The article does not discuss it indeed, but an essential part of behavioural conditioning is to have discussions about why sanctions were applied so that the parties involved do not just blindly fight the system. They need to be part of the system, so if at that time they can argue that the rule is unjust then the rule may be changed or removed.

In the article it was said that although Shep was told to get ready for bed, he said he would read for a bit instead and this was accepted as there was a good reason for it. I expect that this came out of a previous discussion.


Am I the only one getting serious Black Mirror vibes?


Indeed. The part where they describe a kid sitting there while a remote camera barked orders at him was especially cringe-worthy.


I prefer to think of Black Mirror as having serious reality vibes.


It is perfectly named.


I've liked that interpretation of the title better than the one from creator

>The "black mirror" of the title is the one you'll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/dec/01/charlie-b...


Holy crap. As a kid, I had minor privacy and personal space issues, and I can only imagine how bad they'd have been exacerbated by being watched by strangers through a camera all the time.

I have to imagine those cameras might have lasted maybe two or three days in my case.


Jesus Christ.

The sort of personality that constructs a domestic regime like this is the sort under whose power I lived my late childhood and much of my adolescence. To say the least, it was not a pleasant experience, nor was it an effective means of raising a child - looking objectively back at the period in question, my behavior grew markedly worse over time, from your typical sort of bratty indiscipline at the start, to the kind of outright antisociality that's genuinely dangerous to, and in, a teenager - the vast majority of which was in reaction to the absurdly strict and ever stricter regime that was enforced at home. Of course, that's also a handily self-fulfilling prophecy, in that every such reaction, to the sort of deeply malfunctioning person who finds this approach at all sensible, justifies cranking the thumbscrews that much tighter, until eventually something explodes.

Of course, the person I describe, in the time of my youth, didn't have the kind of technological or professional support detailed in the article; the best she could do was leverage her own training in (also mostly behavioral) psychology, and take doors off hinges and the like - there were no consumer networked cameras, then, but if there had been I'd have lived daily under their lidless eyes. Certainly I'd have been followed around by a squad of commissars had it been an option, as here - luckily for me, it wasn't, so I could find at least a few hours most days of escape, if not freedom, from an otherwise constantly oppressive regime. Fortunately, modern technology has made it possible to eliminate such undesirable loopholes which so impair the ability to enforce structure and discipline!

My own experience was ultimately survivable, or at least I certainly did survive it - I hope I don't seem too lacking in humility to say that I suspect not every other person might have managed as well. But it did not make me a better person. Quite the converse; while, as it will, the increasing distance of time has healed many wounds, I'd be lying to say I don't still struggle with the lingering effects of the things that were done to me, decades ago though they ended. God alone knows what kids raised in a modern version of such a regime will suffer, although I see no reason to doubt that, given the near-perfect panopticon modern technology makes possible, it will be much worse by comparison.

Some of them aren't going to make it. When they decide that the best use, of what precious few moments they can manage to snatch from the would-be omniscient minders, is to open a vein or swallow a bottle of pills, no doubt their parents will tear their hair and howl of how incomprehensible it is, because weren't they doing the best that they could? Weren't they hiring the best professionals with the most comprehensive program? What could they possibly have done differently?

And as for the people who inflict this quiet, grinding sort of horror...well. Imprecations really fail one, don't they? I'm sure most, maybe all, of these people have all the good intentions in the world. They want to help everybody! What a shame that this is what it's led them to.


Technology empowers us all, but how many people would you trust with even the power they already have? You've highlighted that problem with your own pretty harrowing ordeal. All across the board, from the means to spy, to the means to inflict pain without having to leave marks... tech is helping us all do MORE.


I can't really blame technology per se for this. It expands the amplitude of which we're capable, but the sign of the signal is still, each and all, up to us.


Blame the people for the behavior, blame the tech for increasing the efficacy of the behavior.


Not seeing the sense in blaming a hammer for the head it's used to bash in.


It's more about recognizing how a hammer makes head-bashing easier, or even possible.


This is scary. Now some YC startup will figure out how to automate the surveillance and scale this. Big Brother, but less labor intensive. Just something that snoops on your kids' phones and uses machine learning to evaluate what they're doing would do more than half the job these "Cognition Builders" are doing.


I'm reminded of a quote from something related to nonviolent communication I read. It went something like: "You cannot make someone do anything - you can only make them regret not doing what you want. And soon, you'll find they they have ways to make you regret making them regret not doing what you want."

My parents were also huge fans of the operant conditioning style. They definitely wanted to have convenient kids that fed their "I'm a good parent" ego. When I got bored and tired of school in my early teens, this caused a significant amount of conflict. I basically decided that the level of punishment they were in fact willing to inflict was my better than paying the escalating costs of keeping them happy with me.

I ended up spending a week in my room reading books with no access to things they were actually willing to take from me. They were wisely unwilling to cross the line into actual abuse - no withholding food, physical punishment, etc. It was pretty much just limited to angry lectures that I dissociated through and waiting around with books in my room. And since they had some empathy and "punish me until I improve" wasn't working, they blinked first and let up.

Anyhow, I guess my point is that this sort of thing would have been completely unacceptable to childhood-me. It would have done little other than provoke reactance. Like this:

>“Hey, buttholes!” he said. “Why don’t you leave us alone?”

>At first, nothing happened. Then there was a crackle of static, followed by a voice on the other end. “That’s a strike,” it said.

I'd have asked for another strike, and reiterated my request to be left alone. What could they do that's both not child abuse and worse than the constant surveillance? Depending on the specific context, my followup would've probably been physically destroying the cameras.


This is insane. Whoa.


“I thought my rules were stronger than they were. [Cognition Builders] showed me how I’d turned my children into negotiators."

Why is that a bad thing? Don't you want your kids to be able to stick up for themselves?

The quote at the end is just heart-wrenching:

“I think the best thing is being able to talk to my friends and my family. And the worst thing is definitely having a lot of homework. I’m taking a lot of honors classes. And then I have therapy once a week, drums once a week, tutoring twice a week, and an executive-functioning tutor once a week.”

Poor kid just wants to talk to his family and they stick him with the executive functioning crap. He's going to grow up and be pretty angry about this.


incubator cam, baby crib cam, baby sitter cam, pre-k... kids today grow up under constant surveillence and it would be wrong to think they as a group will have the same ideas of privacy any of us do. This will be perfectly normal for the next generation.

I've heard of religious folks using cameras on kids surreptitiously and then catching them in lies and saying "God told me you..."

Brave new world.


So disturbing... "Our child is extremely happy in an environment where he is empowered and independent. We're going to force him into an environment where he is powerless and functions in a subservient role to every person he interacts with. And we expect him to be happy and pliable, dammit!"


This is a weaponized version of "The Elf on the Shelf", which is also creepy, but not nearly as creepy or abusive as this.


> “They also pushed me to have them in all the kids’ bedrooms

How do they avoid capturing images of naked children?


I normally avoid talking about downvotes, but I'm interested in why this got at least 3.

A company is pushing customers to install webcams into the bedrooms of children. This puts them at some significant legal risk.


Yeah. I revisited this thread today hoping someone gave you an answer. I'm curious how they're handling it too.




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