So I’m at a restaurant recently, minding my own business, when I look over at a young family. What caught my eye was not the cute little kids (two or three years old), who were adorable, but the iPad that was propped up on the table so the kids could watch Toy Story 3 while they ate.
THE IPAD THAT WAS PROPPED UP
So I tried to put the password into my iPad so I could jot down some thoughts, when I realized I don’t own an iPad. I was trying to put a password into an “Etch-a-sketch.” I admit I’m not as technically advance as most. But I do know that kids growing up today have NO CLUE how awesome this time really is. When I was a kid I felt cool if I had a 72 piece Crayola crayon set, especially if it had one of those cool crayon sharpeners in the back. Those were really cool.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging those young parents (well, yes I am, just a little.) I’m just as guilty as anyone of putting my kids in front of the TV. It is the perfect built-in babysitter. The problem is if you do it all the time, like, oh, I dunno, at a restaurant, your kids will never learn proper “restaurant behavior.” Can you imagine how frazzled the parents will be if their iPad isn’t charged up, or, heaven forbid, forgotten next time they want to eat out?
Again, I’m not judging. I get it. Using an iPad is SOOOOOOOO much easier than parenting.
I just recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a group of professors from the University of California, Los Angeles which include anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and archeologists, who want to understand America’s middle class, to understand “what the middle class thought, felt and what they did.” Their goal is to “publish two books this year on their work, and say they hope the findings may help families become closer and healthier.”
They are using research from ten years ago where 32 Southern California families were recorded at home for one week.
On the surface I don’t have a problem with the research. A group of academics getting together to analyze isn’t always a bad thing, just ask the team of psychiatrists I have following me around, analyzing, having meetings, discussing me. I didn’t think they were very professional when they smirked at my Etch-a- sketch. Part of my problem is how the research was done. First of all they recruited families from ads. Then they recorded them, for one week.
So? I hear you say, what is wrong with that? One of the problems I have with reality TV is that it isn’t really “reality.” The people you are watching have applied to be there. They sent in tapes, filled out forms, and when they are being recorded they KNOW the camera is there. So how “real” is it? (On a side note, I wish they would make a TV show called “Prancing To Their Cars” because, as silly as it sounds, I’d probably win.) My second problem is they only recorded them for one week.
Let’s say I’m an anthropologist, or a sociologist. And let’s say I want to do some research on how monkeys interact with each other. I set up my camera and hide. When monkeys see the camera they think “who-who-who-who-HA-HA-HA.” That’s it. That’s all the monkey thinks of the camera. To contrast the monkey, walk into a high school with a camera and watch the kids. Many will be drawn to it, like a moth to a flame, flexing, and bird flipping and “hi mom-ing.” The point being everyone in America has a frame of reference for what the camera is, and what it does. Although the families involved in the study may not have been told what the researchers were researching you KNOW they know they were researching something…you know? (How awesome was that run-on sentence?) I’m sure they weren’t acting totally normal.
Let me give you a scenario:
A kid comes in crying because he skinned his knee and is bleeding a little bit. My reaction without a camera in the kitchen:
Pfffff….What are you crying about? Just rub some dirt in it and keep playing.
My reaction with a camera in the Kitchen:
OH NO!! (knocking everything off the counter to lay the now panicked child on it) Honey call 9-1-1, I’ll make a tourniquet. Stay with us son. Whatever you do, don’t go toward the light!!!
Now it could be I have problems. Believe me – I KNOW I have problems. I’m not sure what my problems are called. I just know they are really hard to pronounce. (On a side note, I’ve decided to upgrade my ADD to ADHD because the picture quality is so much better.)
In the article anthropologist Dr. Elinor Ochs says the American children acted differently than children from other cultures she has studied. The article says, “Young children were expected to contribute substantially to the community.” It went on to describe “a girl around 5 years of age in Peru’s Amazon region climbing a tall tree to harvest papaya, and helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire.” The article continues, “By contrast, the U.S. videos showed Los Angeles parents focusing more on the children, using simplified talk with them, doing most of the housework and intervening quickly when the kids had trouble completing a task.” Well isn’t that cute? I could have told you a kid from Peru’s Amazon region would behave differently from a kid from Southern California without funding.
It is probably true many American kids don’t contribute. I know my kids would never, “serve food to their elders, waiting patiently in front of them before they eat.” They have never harvested a papaya tree and they certainly have never hauled logs thicker then their leg. But they also have other responsibilities the Amazon Peruvians don’t. The article described “about 75% of the families, the mothers came home first and began to “gyrate” through the house, bouncing between the kids and their homework, groceries, dinner and laundry, according to the group’s analysis published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2009.” Do the Peruvian kids have homework?
My biggest problem with the research is they are comparing American families to those of Samoa, Peru, and in one case Italy. Just because they don’t have “Family night” in Italy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it here. Personally, I think a big group of American parents aren’t too bright. I think they make a lot of mistakes, but as a whole we are doing alright. All-in-all this is just another example of anti-America / American self-loathing that has been permeating throughout the media the past decade or so. That is a topic for another day (note to self.)
Also, if you think about it, ten years was a long time ago. I just looked and in the last 48 hours I have communicated via text with one of my four kids eight times. I love parenting by text. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have. My friend Dave Young said it best when he said, “So a point could be made that technology is changing our world so rapidly that unless studies on home life and interpersonal relationships don’t take into account the recent influence of social media and personal technology for communication, they will most likely be missing a substantial component that significantly affects our home and community interactions.”
I KNOW…how cool was that? To tell the truth, I don’t even know what half those words mean. I’m just thrilled to have a smart friend who thinks enough about me to say to such fancy words.
The more I think about it I don’t see how analyzing ten year old videos, of 32 families, from Southern California is going “help” my family.