Saturday, October 28, 2006

Preparing young 'uns for the future, or making fat slobs?

I was channel surfing after watching my Michigan Wolverines win again, against a game, tough, overmatched Northwestern team. Found a couple things to watch for a few moments, such as the Sports Center after game show to catch up on scores. We all know Noter Damn is gonna beat Navy. ND is a sports franchise, Navy is a military academy that turns out leaders who play football while they're there. How ND stays ranked playing games like this is still a mystery to me.

As I commence to the surfing, I came across a couple things that really got my attention. First was a commercial for a new Penguin movie called "Happy Feet". I turned around to see an animated penguin rapping Curtis Blow's "Don't Push Me". I don't care who ya're, ats funny aight ther. The next thing that caught my attention, becuase the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Special wasn't airing, was a couple of commercials for a couple new Fisher Price products. The first was a kid-proof digital camera, which frankly I find to be a brilliant idea and a wonderful product to bring to market. At least this kind of toy has the potential to get kids to go outside...although the potential downsides of what could be caught on camera are pretty obvious. Be careful, parents!

The other product I'm undecided about. The Fisher Price Star Station is essentially a kid's version of a karaoke (or as I prefer to call it, "kill me, choke me") that's been dialed in for kids. The upside of this is pointed out on FP's site: it can help a kid get used to doing things in front of people, which will make him comfortable with it later in life. I was never a show off, center of attention type kid, so when the time came in school to give presentations in front of the class, I had to learn on the job how to be comfortable in front of an audience. The other upside to this product is that it may help kids to appreciate music and pursue it. This can be a magical thing. I can say from experience that there's very little that will bring as big a grin to one's face as much as playing in front of a crowd. I got one of the biggest rushes in my life playing in front of 750 people. It was awesome. No wonder people wanna be rock stars.

The thing that concerns me, though, is that this product works through the TV. I'm torn here. Now, the upside to technology is that kids get exposed to it at an early age and grow up with it. Running computers and such will be things that they've done all their life by the time they get to the job market. That's probably a good thing. The ugly, insidious thing, though, is that anything that is TV based or computer based (like a blog! Oh, the irony!) has two effects that I consider...if not pernicious, then at least undesirable: they are visual stimulants, and they're indoors activities.

I am fearful that our nation's youth (yeah, I'm a bit of a xenophobe. I don't care that much about other nation's youth) are losing valuable skills by using the things that are available to entertain them. Video games may increase hand/eye coordination, but they keep kids sitting in front of their Idiot Boxes for hours upon hours upon hours. They're not using their imaginations, and they're certainly not out getting any exercise. That's not a good thing. We don't need fat people with no social skills and no ability to think outside of the parameters placed before them (yes, its true, I am making a concious effort not to use cliches with the terms "box" and/or "paradigm").

Its a well known fact that I think LARPing (go ahead and search LARP on your fave search engine) is at least 14 different kinds of geeky, and its got some seriously comedic aspects to it. But at least they're outside and using some imagination and creativity. The funny thing is, these are many of the same people who spent their formative years inside playing games rather than being outside running around in the world. I don't know if that's good or bad in sum; what I do know is that it beats the hell out of sitting in front of a screen ad nauseum.

All I'm getting at is that I'm seeing the results of the kids graduating after me. I'll use High School as a cut off, since that's where people either go on in their education, or they try to make it in the working world. I've worked with some of the "gaming generations". They don't think on their feet all that well. They don't deal with other people skillfully. They certainly write and comprehend what they read at a lesser level than there had been previously.

The older people I interact with tend to have a similar upbringing to mine: tearing around dirt lots on their bikes, having played a lot of "war" or "cowboys and indians", and having spent a good bit of time digging holes and making forts. That appears to be an art that is being lost. It is my opinion that not doing those kinds of things not only makes our latest crop of kidlets less fit, it makes them mentally weaker, too. That is not to say that I had a perfect upbringing and a wildly imaginative childhood, but it appears that mine was moreso than is the current standard.

Its definately not too late for our kids, but parents are going to have to make a concious effort to change the way things are. Let's face it, its pretty damn easy to let the TV and the computer be the parent and supervisor. Get it together, parents, or your kid's greatest achievment will be not unlike the all powerful player in the World of Warcraft game that Cartman, Kyle, Stan and Kenny were into. Your kids are going Southpark on ya. Do something about it. Make that kid go outside and get dirty.


Josh said...

Uh, excuse me? Lets not go making blanket accusations about my generation here, shall we? Thats for me to do, not you old farts.

Haji said...

Except that its my blog, and I have complete and total freedom concerning my comments here. So, in my very mature and adult manner, I shall have to say "Phhhtttttttttt!!!!!"

Josh said...

I shall now bring the full extent of my contempt upon you by saying - pshaw.

Haji said...

Oh, really? Then I shall break out the heavy artillery: