A commercial is floating around and it’s designed to make you feel guilty. You’ve probably seen it, maybe you haven’t… if you’re like me and no longer get real TV, you may not have, but it’s out there and it’s trying to demonize a very specific activity. It wants you to feel so terrible about your choices as a parent that you stop what you are doing… oh, and also buy their product.
What subject could be so terrible that a food company thought calling out every mom and dad in America on their parenting was a great way to sell their product? Can you guess?
Now, this sort of demonization of the “latest and greatest” is nothing new, but this time… they go after ALL Tech. Not just TV, not just music, not just games… ALL OF IT. From smartphones to televisions, it’s all the big-bad and must be destroyed. I have a problem with this.
Just to sum up; The commercial features three generations of multiple families who all talk about what they did for fun as children. The oldest generation had memories of outdoor adventures. Picking blueberries, making toboggans and sliding down hillsides. That generation’s children then talk about their childhood pastimes; getting together with random neighbor children they’d never met, knocking on stranger’s doors to invite them to play, or making forts in their backyards.
Then, they get to the youngest generation. (Cue the melancholic piano) Children between eight and 14 years of age begin to talk about their interests. “What is there favorite thing to do?” they were asked. They enjoy gaming, talking to friends on their phones, texting, sending them emails back and forth and watching movies. Seems fine to me, but I can tell by the music I’m not supposed to think so…
The point of the commercial is to make every parent who encourages technology feel bad. It was supposed to be an “eye opening look” at what WE are doing to our children. Then, they return to the parents who are all ACTUALLY CRYING over the videos of their children’s answers. The parents are asked by someone off camera, a completely loaded, guilt-filled question; “what do you think will happen if this trend continues?” The parents and grandparents, all with heavy sighs and downward, tear-filled eyes, reply with things like “it’s scary”, “I feel sad that he’s missing out”, and, “It’s mind boggling”.
But wait… there is HOPE! (Cue hopeful music) We see the kids out in nature, walking on a forest trail, planting a garden, running and laughing outside, as though the’ve never seen the light of day upon their skin. Oh happy day, we’ve freed the children from their enslaving technology! A woman’s urgent voice begins talking about how a child’s appreciation and connection with nature must be nurtured, followed by the ad for the product they are selling; granola bars.
Ugh. Judgy bitches. I seriously wanted to throw up a little.
This ad never tells us we are doing it wrong. It never demands we change. It doesn’t directly point at the camera and tell us we are bad parents. It doesn’t have to. The clarity of the message is as pristine as crystal and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
Am I surprised by this? Meh, not really, I grew up around this perspective… but I am frustrated with the continuous condemnation of an aspect of our lives that has done SO MUCH to progress us as a WORLD culture. The use and understanding of tech is exactly what has pushed us into the age of even having a world community. Sure, we might not always like it, but we have one now and we sure didn’t accomplish that by replacing our kid’s science and technology kits with wooden hoops and corncob dolls.
Now, I get it – Some people get caught up in it in a negative way. They get addicted to gaming and sometimes forget to live. Sometimes they get caught up in binge-watching television shows and forget there is a such thing as books, but for the most part, gaming and the early use of any technology for children is a gateway to necessary skills and valuable interests and careers in this century.
It frustrates me that they automatically take the children’s activities and make something gross out of them, something with no value, something that damages them when this simply is not the case. My kids, while still in the preschool/TK age rang, are going to be homeschooled and I’m already working on ways to incorporate the basics of coding into their curriculum. BECAUSE IT’S RELEVANT.
I’ve already begun teaching them how to navigate different tech platforms and showing them how to know which buttons to push for what purposes. Our sight words right now are words like, “return”, “delete”, “play”, “enter” & “shift”. They play Lego Batman and Star Wars III on the PS3 to help them solve problems and puzzles, learn patience and reward for critical thinking. Do I care one tiny bit what these kinds of people think of me? NOPE. Because while their kids are going to be great experts at campfires and identifying plants, my kids will be developing software to help ANYONE do that. (Y’know, maybe… if they want to)
The children in this video talk about how much they love “texting and emailing” and it is supposed to be seen as a waste of time. According to this perspective, it should be exchanged for going outside…. to do what..? Play alone in their backyards? Do these judgy adults understand that texting and emailing means they are connecting with their friends, no matter where they are in THE ENTIRE WORLD? Someone invented a way for your kid’s pen-pal in Japan to send LIVE VIDEO FEEDS of things going on during her day. I cannot even list all the ways this is beneficial for any child!
It also means, while they are just connecting with friends, they are also gaining skills in typing, language (hopefully), navigating software of various types, possibly photo and video editing… all of which can be useful job skills later on in life.
Gone are the days when it was safe to knock on stranger’s doors to see if they had kids we could play with. You play with kids you’ve met, who have parents who aren’t creepy and dangerous.
Gone are the days when open, green fields are just there and available to walk through by any random person. Now, it all belongs to someone. Berry patches are protected with “no trespassing” signs, shock wire and camera surveillance and our children are not allowed to go there.
In many cases, children live in homes with two working parents, in apartments, tract homes or deep within a paved city. Many children spend upwards of 14 hours a day in the care of someone that is not family, or several hours alone if their parents can’t afford professional day care for older kids. They have connection with friends through the use of technology. Social media, gaming, messaging and emailing IS their playground because they are trapped in empty houses or surrounded by strangers waiting around for their parents to get off work.
The realty most of these judgy people don’t get is that most kids don’t live in that magical world. Y’know, the one with the picket fences and kindly neighbors who won’t kidnap your kids to sell on the dark web. I’m much happier as a parent knowing my child is building skill sets that can help make our future in this world better from my kitchen table.
To shame people -children- for using the tools that can improve our society is a disservice to us all. It does nothing positive to judge today’s parents against the parents of 40+ years ago.
Instead of making parents feel like crap for allowing their children to email their friends, we could be coming up with new ways to help our kids utilize what they love to help others and to make our world better. But no, instead they would rather just criticize strangers for allowing their kids to use a tablet at the dinner table. (NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!!!!)
I’m not saying we shouldn’t help our children find the magic outdoors and learn to communicate with humans who are actually in the same room. There is no need to denounce one activity in order to encourage the other.
Being a child who grew up watching Star Trek, I look forward to the day when people can stop arguing and just do what is necessary to allow our world culture to succeed and grow, both indoors AND outside in nature. Wouldn’t it be nice if “outside in nature” included places like Pluto or Mars? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could create a program that would allow a child who cannot walk or is bound to a hospital bed, the ability to feel as though she is on the top of Mount Everest? I’m pretty sure that will never happen if we insist upon only allowing our children to play with apples and sticks with homemade paint from the berries gathered in the forest. (Um… do you have a forest I could borrow?)
Let’s stop criticizing the use of tech with children and start encouraging them to use it to change our world for the better. Allow them to boldly go out into that future. They aren’t going to get there by horse and buggy.
“Do not confine your children to your learning, for they were born in another time.” – Chinese Proverb