More on Books and Technology: A Conflict of Interest?

Last month I wrote about the shift in entertainment interests of children, away from books* to video games or apps. I also touched on the immediate gratification of streaming movies**, rather than waiting for them to be aired on tv. So here is a follow up based on those two posts.

At one time, my son was a big Harry Potter fan. He would stay awake past his bedtime, reading the latest book under the covers, eager to discover what would become of Harry or Dumbledore. Once that series came to an end, he tried reading other books in a similar genre. These interested him for a while, but within a year he no longer wanted to read. I am not sure what was the cause – the pressure to read at school, the distractions of video games, or the inability to choose a captivating book; but no matter what my efforts were to encourage him, he would only read when it was mandatory.

As all parents know, we are supposed to limit our children’s screen time (tv, computer, video games) but with so many options, it is a challenge and unless we are willing to battle over the principle, we often lose. The latest electronic device is the Ipad2, which my son got for his birthday. He uses it alot- for doing research, as well as playing games, talking with friends and listening to music. All of these uses allow him to get what he wants when he wants it. I tried to slow him down and stretch his patience by asking him to wait before buying things, but the result is that he has stopped asking my permission to do so.

The other day he approached me asking for help to locate a book at the library. I was so eager to see him read that I immediately got on the computer to look it up. The book he wanted was an autobiography, which I thought was unusual. It was by Ruben “Hurricane” Carter, the same one about whom Bob Dylan had written his ballad, and of which my son knew all the lyrics. We discovered the library copies were checked out and decided to look for it at a book store online. If it was available, I could pick it up for him tomorrow, only a short wait. But then he told me his report was due next week and he really needed it sooner. So much for trying to hold him off.

I have a Kindle so I offered to download it onto my device for him. I looked it up on the Kindle site and then figured out we could download it onto his Ipad using a Kindle app. Within 2 minutes, the book had been purchased, transferred to his ipad and he was laying on the couch reading it. The entire process took less than 20 minutes since he had made his initial request.

It certainly seems like a conflict of interest to me- trying to teach patience but buying something over the ethernet, wanting to limit time spent on electronics yet encouraging him to read on one. I want to tear my hair out! The use of this at bedtime can be even more clandestine than the good old flashlight trick. Where do we draw the line?

This new technology certainly presents a hoard of parenting challenges, but on the bright side, he is reading this autobiography and excitedly reporting what he has learned after every section. That is a side of him I haven’t seen in several years. I did ask him whether he liked the book because of the format, and he immediately countered that it was the actual story that was interesting. Maybe I shouldn’t give up on paperbacks yet…

*My Father’s Books in the Age of Tech   posted 9/23/11

**Cancelling Netflix: A Lesson for my Kids  posted 9/20/11

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. stmarco7
    Oct 27, 2011 @ 21:29:54

    Lots of posts – you’ve been busy! Has the book you were recently reading given you any insights into the negatives and pluses of tech and kids? and how to better manage? it would be interesting to hear your more of your thoughts on this.

    Like

    Reply

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