Raising a 21st Century Analog Boy* in a digital world

Learning tools (some obsolete)

I found the above chart on Pinterest earlier today, and it made me think of a number of conversations I’ve had with a coworker. She’s young, newly married, and doesn’t have kids (and frequently declares she doesn’t want children), but she insists that when she has children, they’re not going to be allowed to play video games or on iPads or anything digital. Rather, they’ll only have books and cassette players and non-electronic games.

Whenever she declares this, I wish her the best of luck, and she concedes that it’s easy for her to say now because she doesn’t have a child of her own. (And as much as we may need to do things for our kids, the reality is that children have their own personalities and dispositions. They really are just little people.)

Link between cassette tape and pencil

At any rate, Cute Husband and I do our best to expose The Boy to as many analog things as we can. (And by analog, I really just mean non-digital.) The photo above doesn’t really apply to The Boy because he’s familiar with cassettes (thanks to a toy handed down by his cousins), all sizes of batteries (both alkaline and rechargeable), and vinyl records. And though they’re technically digital (though largely headed toward obsolescence), he’s proficient in working with CDs and DVDs. He’s also got a number of what I like to call “unplugged” things: books, magazines, flash cards, board games (that don’t require batteries), and a host of other toys that inspire imaginative play without being “plugged in” (Legos, Beyblades, Thomas the Tank Engine, etc.). His new amplifier also has analog knobs, so he will learn the actual meaning of “Turn it up to 10″. (He will not, however, learn the real meaning of “dialing” someone’s number or making “carbon copies”.)

But it’s really not realistic (or fair) to keep The Boy from digital media. He learned to use a mouse at an early age, can type on a keyboard (though not quickly nor with correct finger placement), can operate touch screens (and can tell the difference between touch devices and non-touch devices), can navigate the Roku and XBox interfaces, and is generally quite technology-literate. I think in order to give him a fighting chance in this world, it’s absolutely critical that he has the same skills as his peers. It wouldn’t be fair to do otherwise.

Playing on Daddy's iPad.

It gives me pause, though, when I think of how much “screen time” kids have these days, The Boy included. I let him read on my iPad in the car on the way home after we talk about his day at school, and after a few minutes of reading, he’s allowed to play games. He chooses his own show on the Roku before bed, and once in a while Cute Husband will indulge him at dinner with a video podcast.

So are Cute Husband and I doing a reasonable job of raising an analog boy? Well, it’s hard to say. But at least The Boy is analog-literate. And in a digital world, I think it’s important not to forget where the technology we know came from.

* With apologies to Bad Religion.


2 thoughts on “Raising a 21st Century Analog Boy* in a digital world

  1. It is hard to balance everything, isn’t it? But keep in mind, printed books and newspapers used to be “new technology”, so were radio and TV. I am sure when they just came out, parents in that age also thought they would not let their kids spend too much time carrying the smaller printed books, listening radios, or watching TVs…

    • Very true! I still worry about it, though, because I think it’s important that he is still able to engage himself in “unplugged” activities, even if that just means creating something out of Legos or immersing himself in a book. It’s important if for no other reason than the power outages that often accompany inclement weather!

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