This article is powerful: FOMO, Digial Dementia and Our Dangerous Experiment. Once at the website, select either “Full Text” or “PDF” and read.
If you have kids, be sure to read it with them.
I don’t know what the future will hold for my son, Colson, in relation to digital entertainment and tools. He just turned 11, he does not have a cell phone, thank goodness, and he hasn’t played Minecraft for about 5 months because Minecraft, Wii and other types of games change him for the worse. Once he starts they are all he thinks about and he loses much of the joy in his day. Normally engaging activities become lame. The peak of the digital imbalance occurred when he tearfully realized that he would rather be playing those games than hanging out with us. We limited his time to an hour a day (much less than the 7 or 8 hours most kids his age are playing), but he was addicted.
Colson knows digital games are bad for kids and he will readily tell you that, yet he still wants to play. Yesterday he thought he had detoxed enough to try Minecraft again and then realized he wasn’t ready. I admire his strength. It is so hard to go against the norm, especially a highly addictive norm, especially when you are just 11.
He was angry yesterday because of the pull of digital entertainment. We had to talk again about how the game programmers use every bit of psychology to make people addicts and how boys are especially susceptible. Whole armies of people are continually working to hook him. He doesn’t like how addiction feels.
What does Colson like? Having a brain that is growing and not shrinking, as discussed in the article. The shrinking brains of digital gaming addicts kind of freaked him out. Several times we paused while he processed the detriments of gaming. He likes that Ryan and I limited his gaming time and then helped him break his addiction. He likes that he can talk to us at any time about it. He likes that he is going to be healthier and stronger than the vast majority of his peers.
We don’t talk about it in this way, but I wonder what his future will be like. In fencing class when he is on break with some of the other fencers (there aren’t enough strips so everyone gets a break) literally all the other fencers whip out their phones and start texting. Colson sits and waits, not talking to anyone because the kids would rather text. One kid did talk to him for a few minutes, but then, literally, said that he wanted to text instead. On the strip they are great and engaging kids, but off the strip they shut down.
The other day Ryan was waiting for the dentist office to reopen after lunch. He was the first there. Three women joined him on the waiting bench and pulled out their phones. Fed up with the self-imposed isolation, and teambuilding guy that he is, he made them talk. All three were highly annoyed that he interrupted their texting. Eventually they loosened up and they were joking around.
Adults are self-isolating and kids are learning from them. What will that mean for my kid? Will he be mostly alone in a world full of people whose primary relationship is with their phone? And don’t get me started on the freak he will be because he has no behavioral challenges and isn’t medicated.
Colson will either soar or fail because he is healthy, engaged and consistently multi-dimensional. What a strange conundrum. Fortunately he is not alone, but there are too few like him and his friends.
Here is a pic of Mr. 11 - he has been tearing it up at fencing against older and more experienced kids.
And what the heck, here he is - pretty accomplished at East Coast Swing with a friend - they owned the dance hall the other night.