It’s hard to believe around fifty years ago people were once *excited* by an invention called television.
It must have seemed so promising. You could watch an escapist glamorous Hollywood musical. You could travel back in time to the wild west. Variety shows introduced you to exotic music (the Beatles!) from far away places (England!). Hey, at the time it was pretty cool. Sorry, groovy. Whatever.
There were ground breaking shows that dealt with major issues like racial discrimination (All in the Family), global unity (Star Trek), or being stranded on a desert island with dumb sailors (Gilligan’s Island.) There were broadcasts of important historical events, like the moon landing. Indeed, there was so much interesting stuff being shown that you could almost forgive shows like “Mr. Ed.” (Wait! Let me clean out my inbox before you send in your complaints!)
Then something happened to television. I haven’t decided whether: (a) Aliens from the planet Neefnoof began tampering with the broadcasts; (b) Multi-national mega corporations started mass producing muck; or (c) Writing school graduates joined the TV industry en masse.
Whatever it was, we’re now getting shows like … “Cosmetic Surgery Live.” I don’t know about you, but I want to watch this show about as much as I want to know more about a procedure I saw advertised yesterday called “lipodissolve.”
Or what if I told you about an event where lots of people gathered around to see individuals being attacked by dogs? You’d think aha! That must be an intellectually stimulating history special on PBS, re-enacting a scene from Roman coliseum. Nope, just reality TV — “Fear Factor.”
This is why, as a parent, I am profoundly grateful for two things: my computer, and my Internet connection. Okay, I’m also grateful for baby gates, apple juice, and night lights, but that’s another story.
The Internet is showing hints that it’s going to become what TV could have been: a fantastic educator. I can go to a site called Research Channel and watch lectures from universities across the US. For example, I can download a piece from the University of Washington called: Cosmetic Surgery: New Advances.
Whoops! Bad example. But from that same site there are things like “Archaeology and Wine Production” or “Learning from Sea Creatures,” and even “Language, Mind, and Brain: How Infants Crack the Speech Code.” I think I’ll watch that last one to figure out how long I have before I have to start spelling things like “t-o-y s-t-o-r-e?” to my husband.
Or I can go to another site and get nearly the entire MIT curriculum without ever having to set foot on campus. Just think of the home schooling I can do with that! Er, once we’ve covered the bit about numbers and the alphabet of course.
I can access satellite shots of my neighbourhood, which means I’m part of the first generation of mums with eyes in the back of their heads AND in the sky. (“Son, I said stay *out* of the garage! Never mind how I knew!”) My children can to play checkers with Australians, watch whales off the coast of British Columbia, and download pictures from Mars, all in a single afternoon. And yes, at some point, they will still come to me and say, “Mum, I’m bored!”
But my point is that the Internet is a grand resource. So it really frosts me to hear about the “Turn off the PC Week” movement. The group behind this warns about the “dangers of excessive computer time” with vague references to “social, physical, and psychological problems.”
Yes, there are a lot of YouTube channels that seem to have taken their cue from Fear Factor. Yes, there is fake news. But as far as I’m concerned, the only real dangers associated with time on the PC are contracting printer rage and computer butt. There’s no known cure for printer rage, but a good balance of outdoor play time and good old-fashioned house chores will cure the other. It goes without saying that the kids should be taken out for real-world trips to zoos, museums, and sports fields whenever parents can afford it.
But *don’t* turn off that PC. Or mobile device. Just show them how to use it properly.
Who knows? Maybe your child will be the one to cure cancer, land on Mars, or invent a printer that never accordion-folds paper that wasn’t supposed to be accordion-folded.