Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Technology Is Murdering our Children!

Hello? Anybody here? I’ve been gone for a while, but I thought I’d check in with a report on the computers-and-videogames-are-making-us-stupid crowd. The latest fear monger is a neuroscientist named Susan Greenfield. Here’s what the Mail has to say about her worries.

She argued that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites could leave a generation with poor attention spans.

I can’t see how instant messaging and chat rooms shorten an attention span any more than sitting around talking with people, and, if anything, computer games help increase attention spans. My seven year old will spend hours at a time trying to beat the evil forces of the Covenant. He works through frustrations, he thinks of new strategies to overcome problems, and he challenges himself with increasing levels of difficulty. How could any of that be bad for his mind?

“I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf” she said.

So, wait, is she arguing in favor of screen dialogues here? Because it seems pretty clear to me that simply buying a steak at the store is a hell of a lot better than butchering your own cow.

Lady Greenfield told the Lords a teacher of 30 years had told her that she had noticed a sharp decline in the ability of her pupils to understand others.

Why do I suspect that this teacher simply no longer understands her pupils?"

It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in
brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations,” she said.

Ah, but different can be better as easily as it can be worse. As Steven Johnson has pointed out in his book “Everything Bad is Good for You”, average I.Q.s have been going up for a long time, and new technology may be responsible for this.

She pointed out that autistic people, who usually find it hard to communicate, were particularly comfortable using computers. “Of course, we do not know whether the current increase in autism is due to more increased awareness and diagnosis of autism or whether it can –if there is a true increase – be in any way lined to an increase in prevelance among people of spending time in screen relationships. Surely it is a point worth considering.”

No, it is not a point worth considering. Autism begins to manifest itself in children when they are around three years old, long before any of them ever log onto Facebook or play Mariokart for the first time. The Baroness’ previous arguments were poor, but here she ascends to Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Educational psychologist Jane Healy believes children should be kept away from computer games until they are seven. Most games trigger only the ‘fight or flight’ region of the brain, rather than the vital areas responsible for reasoning.
Of course, because if my child weren’t playing a videogame, he’d be sitting around “reasoning”.

What crap these people come up with.

Here’s why I have allowed, nay, encouraged, my boy to play videogames since he was five years old:

1) He likes playing videogames.
2) Videogames are father and son time. A bond is created between father and son when they battle side by side against the Nazis hordes or evil alien invaders. And it is a proud moment in any father’s life when they are playing Slayer on Halo against each other and the son blows his father up with a sticky grenade to win his first match. Excuse me, I have to wipe the tears from my eyes.
3) Videogames help my son get comfortable with technology while having fun with it.
4) As I mentioned above,he has learned to set goals (“I’m going to win this game”) and to overcome difficulties (“How the crap are you supposed to kill that brute with the hammer?”). Videogames have been nothing but good when it comes to his attention span.

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