I wrote the other day about my son and books. I’m not generally any kind of crusader about paper verses digital. But I’m having a little bit of trouble with the tension between all media being digital and raising kids that are interested in the world.
Kids of the future describing books:
“This is the settings panel.”
“This is the page-turn touch-target on the bezel.”
“This is the ice cold, unfeeling, touch screen. If you stare hard enough, it might stare back.”
I picked up a lot of great habits from my family by seeing how they went about consuming media. My mom and sisters were often around the house reading books. Dad read the paper.
We always ate dinner as a family. But around the time I was in middle school, Peter Jennings became a part of the family. We would watch the news together.
In fact, just having the paper in the house was important in how I became interested in the world.
No one ever told me to read it. But it was there. So when I was sitting around the house, eating breakfast, or whatever else, the paper was there for me to pick up and look through.
On Sunday, Dave Barry was in the back of the Washington Post Magazine. Which, as a young fan of comedy, showed that the written word could be really funny … every few weeks or so, anyways.
I’d read books that were around the house. I’d pull out the ten year old Funk & Wagnall encyclopedia and flip through it, reading about random things for hours on end. Sometimes while procrastinating homework. Sometimes not.
Our House is a Media Desert
Our house is barren of physical media. The bookshelves have a few books on them, but are mostly filled with pictures.
I go back and forth between ebooks and the real thing. Or at least, I’d like to. The truth is that I get in much more reading when my book is always available and in my pocket. And I’m far too impatient to wait for a book to be delivered or to take a trip to the bookstore/library.
We subscribed to the paper for a few months before realizing that we didn’t have time to sit down with it. Or that we weren’t taking the time to sit down with it.
Magazines that we’ve subscribed to get to the point where they go directly from the mailbox into the recycling bin. We could’ve just left the recycling bin under the mailbox and asked our mailman to just skip the middle man. Lifehack.
And TV news? We can’t put that garbage in front of our kids.
When I’m reading a novel on some sort of device, it looks exactly the same as when I’m mashing the like button on Facebook or raising cortisol levels in my email inbox.
They don’t see me writing things. They see me rubbing and tapping on glass.
I want my kids to see us reading books and magazines and newspapers. There’s no sense of when I’m using “grown-up” media and making things versus the spazzy social media that is eventually going to consume their lives.
We’ll have to try harder.
I want them to know the difference. To have an appreciation for media that requires an attention span and stepping away from the world for a few minutes at a time.
I want them to know that it’s OK if they are not constantly reachable, and that it’s OK if they don’t get back to someone right away. I want them to be alone with their own thoughts and imaginations without the pollution of other people’s spastic posts and emails and snaps and chats and expectations.
I guess there’s not really an answer here besides trying harder. If I want to set the example I want to set, we’re going to have to invite physical media back into our lives. We’ll need to keep the instantly available, backlit convenience of digital books and magazines and websites at arms length. Or at least use it in moderation.
It would be good for the kids, and probably better for us.