Over the last 72 hours, Madeleine, age 11, has won first prize in a high end fashion show, successfully completed knee surgery, finished the rehab project on her new room, provided edgy commentary about issues surrounding Miley Cyrus's fame and celebrity and decided turnip farming really isn't her thing anymore.
Carter, age 8, has become a dodge ball champion and is now navigating a career change that could grant him the number one tether ball player in the known world. He's also navigated disagreements with three bosses, painstakingly followed the directions to making four new origami creatures, studied climate change and decided that he really doesn't want to go anywhere in a car anymore. Not because he's prone to extreme carsickness--don't get me wrong, Mom. I am sick of THAT--but because he just can't in good conscience get in cars the way the emissions are contributing to global warming.
None of these accomplishments happened in the real world, of course. No, they came while one or both children were sitting behind a computer screen, like thirty year old cubicle slaves, slogging through hours of gaming, learning and websites, on the quest to be the smartest most sophisticated children on earth. Or the biggest losers. You decide.
I know this is considered the pinnacle of bad parenting, that as a "good parent" I'm supposed to limit their screen time, monitor their online use--blah, blah, blah. And trust me, I follow advice from the best of them. (Just come over and bear witness to the 35 paper airplanes Carter engineered this weekend or watch them sled down Meryl's hill or listen to the song Madeleine wrote on the piano that sounds impressively like Sigur Ros.)
I'm just wondering if too much screen time is as worrisome a thing as the wrong kind.
Right now, I'll admit it. I really don't want them to get off "that thing" as I like to call it when they're doing hip replacements or studying Gray's anatomy. I honestly think they can have another thirty minutes when Carter is on Brain Pop reading explanation after explanation about global warming. Now granted, it's not always like this and God knows they are also taking in plenty of drivel. But there's something about the hard-charging, multi-tasking, decide-now-or-die, teach-me-now quality to the online/gaming world that I can't help but think will help them in the long run.
It's a secret opinion I've kept to myself for fear of being stoned by the other parents (think twice before casting the first stone), but then I saw this recent CNN video about gamer Jane McGonigal who's changing the world one game at a time. Those are grown-up boys and girls playing her games, but my guess is the only thing that's different between them and Madeleine and Carter is that there's no mother around to tell them to go outside and turn that thing off.
I'll still be saying that to my kids for the next eight years or so, but I hope that when I'm not around anymore they do something remarkable with their online savvy. I hope they win contests in the real world; I hope they beat some bosses. I hope they talk circles around my doctors when I need knee surgery. And I really hope they solve problems for worthy causes all their own.