Computers aren't unequivocally good for kids

From Evernote:

Generational Error mode about computers

I'm 37 and I come from a generation that invented the personal computer. Well, a tad younger really. But when I was growing up I know my parents were intimidated by computers, and basically felt that whatever I did with them made me "smart". 

This, of course, was not the case in the 80's, and it's not the case now.

Computers do not make you smart any more than reading makes you smart. If you read trash, or do trash activities on the computer, then you are not doing anything smart. Playing Ultima III on the Apple IIe did not make me smarter (although arguably playing with Logo and Basic did).

This distinction is lost, I believe, on many parents today. Parents encourage computer use because kids need "computer skills" to succeed in today's marketplace. Computer usage is seen as all benefit and no cost.

Recognition of online addiction has been incredibly slow because of this cultural, historical bias in favor of computers. "Jimmy's on the computer" is still too often a source of pride. In truth, Jimmy being on the computer is meaningless, although unless Jimmy is working on something specific, is probably harmful to Jimmy.

Computers are powerful tools for content creation and consumption. As such they are terribly dangerous. It is interesting to me that there is ever greater awareness of the fragility and complexity of the human mind, and yet so little cultural mistrust of the informational firehose that is the computer. For every Wikipedia resource, there are thousands of porn sites. For every programming tutorial, there are hundreds of time wasting forums like Reddit, Usenet, or 4Chan. For every kid learning Photoshop, there's a hundred kids playing World of Warcraft.

Computers are getting smaller, more portable. Sensors are getting more pervasive, sensitive, and networks are getting faster and more ubiquitous. It is inevitable, perhaps, that more of our interactions with each other are mediated by computers. But this is not a change to be blindly embraced. It is a change to be wary of, distrustful even.

What we need to do is enumerate our desires and use technology to achieve those, and no more. For example, I want to be able to contact people easily - and leave them a message if they're not available. Ideally I'd even like to choose to leave them a message even if they are available! I want to use my computer as a journal and logbook, because my handwriting is horrible. I want to use it as a publishing platform. I want to use the Internet as a research tool for professional interests (which ironically revolve around building new things for the Internet).

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