Sunday, April 28, 2013

Where Does Technology Belong and Where Does It Not?

Katya and dog, outdoors, playing. 

Recently I began nannying for an eight-year old girl named Katya. She and I spend HOURS playing “make believe”, dinners reading Matilda, we walk to the dog park where we race back and forth across the fields, and plenty of time in transportation conversing, covering all the bases. She is very smart and perceptive—some of the things that come out of her mouth are truly remarkable. But one thing she simply cannot resist is the computer, specifically a website called Moshi Monsters. It is a classic website aimed at children where one creates a virtual monster who must be looked after and given plenty of attention. There are music videos starring monsters. Friends can me made and alliances can be formed. I have to fight for her attention and hope that as another living and breathing human who is actually paid to entertain her, that I may possibly be better than the computer.
She attends a Brooklyn charter school with plenty of hands-on and aware parents, teachers, and peers, yet Moshi Monsters is still a focus at school and at home. This contrasts with my Waldorf charter school upbringing where we were forbidden to talk about TV and actually reported on each other if we heard anything of the sort. If we ever heard anyone discuss anything related to media, we would actually begin yelling at the top of our lungs “NO TV TALK!” It was always exciting to tell the teacher about “TV talk” because there were never any hard feelings, everyone knew the TV was strictly off limits.
So in this age of technology in the classroom or at least dialogue about technology in the classroom, I have to step back and really think. The mother instinct of mine which kicks in when I play the role of caretaker for Katya makes me want to tear her away from the computer and carry her kicking and screaming to the park or a garden. I want to clap three times and have the computer be replaced by a book, Harry Potter preferably. When I walk in the door I want her not to ask me to watch cartoon music video of a monster version of Justin Bieber, but instead a picture she drew or maybe a song on the piano. Not only is this wishful thinking and terribly critical of her interests and likes, but it just wouldn’t make sense for a child who is growing up a complete digital native. Then I begin to think about what this means for her growing up, on her way to becoming a master of technology and Internet. What a wonderful thing! Access and familiarity with the Internet is a vital skill for everyone nowadays, child or adult. Katya is well on her way!
And anyway, she and I have plenty of media-free wonderful times together. 

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