This is the last post in a 5 part series.
Andre: I wouldn’t put an electronic blanket on for anything….Turn on that electronic blanket it’s like taking a tranquilizer. It’s like being lobotomized by watching television.
Wally: I would never give up my electric blanket because New York is cold in the winter. Why, our apartment is cold.
My Dinner With Andre, 1981
Last Saturday, and Nick came down in the morning asking if he could play Sid Meyer’s Pirates. A really charming game, it’s one of the few we allow him now.
“I thought you said last night you wanted to read this morning.”
“First Pirates, then reading,” said Nick.
“Okay, half an hour of Pirates works for me,” I said. “Then reading.”
But when it was time to stop Pirates, Nick didn’t want to.
“Five more minutes,” he said.
“Okay. But five and not ten,” I said.
When the five extra minutes had gone by, I insisted Nick stop playing. He still didn’t want to. The game wasn’t going his way and I could tell he was frustrated. When Nick gets frustrated he can’t be reasoned with.
“Nick, I see you’re having a really hard time stopping by yourself.” I said. “Do you want me to help you stop by taking the game away, or do you want to give it to me?”
Words were exchanged. Mistakes were made. Nick stormed off to his room.
So much for reading.
I tell this mainly to confess that there is no happy ending here. The first-person shooter games are gone from our house, but the battle with computers continues. The battle over stopping continues. And so do Nick’s frustrations.
Dealing with frustration is a huge issue for Nick. I suppose Nora and I can be grateful that as we learn to help Nick deal with it, there are perks. What we discovered about first-person shooter games led to extricating our household from them. And those discoveries were born out of Nick’s frustration that led to the breaking of my computer.
I hope that as Nick grows older, he’ll become less easily frustrated, and more able to bear frustration without taking leave of his senses. But until that happens, activities such as first-person shooter games, which pander to his need for instant gratification, remain a sort of poison for him.
How does a parent encourage patience when a frustration threshold is minimal? Nora and I are working on it. It delights me when Nick’s intellectual life is motivated by curiosity, watchfulness, and play. Computer activities at their best can help with this. But at their worst they accustom the brain to impatience, which, for Nick, makes the problem much worse.
Meanwhile, Nora and I need to mediate between a world that grows increasingly digital, virtual, and populated by screens, and an eight-year-old son whose brain is easily hijacked by them.
. . .
This is the last of a five-part series. Thanks to all who followed!
You might enjoy:
Andre and Wally discuss the implications of technology in the modern world, circa 1981 (the year the IBM PC debuted.)
Your Brain on Computers – Index to a series of NY Times articles on computers and the brain.
. . .
Any final thoughts on computers, brains, or childrearing? Last chance. I’d love you to add your comment below. I (nearly) always write a response here.
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