The Matrix on Cheetos

The Matrix On Cheetos

Two tremendously scary articles in today’s New York Times.

No, I don’t mean the one about Robert Gates in India warning of interlocking Asian terror networks.  Or the one about ex-convicts from the U.S. joining  with Yemen radicals.   Or even the ones about the defeat of Martha Coakly in Massachusetts.

I’m talking about the article by Jennifer Steinhauer reporting that “Snack Time Never Ends” for U.S. children, and the one by Tamar Lewin, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They Are Probably Online.” (This one reports that, with the advent of smart phones, personal computers, and other digital devices,  internet time never ends for U.S. children.)

Reading these articles, one gets a picture of a U.S. child blindfolded by a miniature screen, which he manipulates with one hand, while using the other to repeatedly lift crinkly snacks to his lips.  (It’s kind of like the Matrix on Cheetos.)

I don’t mean to sound critical.  I myself spend much of the day on the computer.  I am also an inveterate “grazer.”

The difference between me and most U.S. children, however, is that I’m old enough to know better.  I have had enough experience of the benefits of (a) uninterrupted concentration, (b) delayed gratification, and (c) discipline, to understand that there is something to be gained from thinking deeply and quietly while repressing the urge for non-stop stomach and mind candy.  Even my body (especially the toothy bits)  has a deep (if sometimes neglected) understanding of the benefits of not constantly chewing.

In other words, I feel guilty.

My personal difficulties bring up the fact that adult society has, to a large degree, fomented this conduct among children.   In the case of adults,  however,  ADD (attention deficit disorder) is generally called “multi-tasking.”

It’s bad for us too.   There has been study upon study about the dangers of texting while driving, texting while walking, texting while taking care of young children.  Then, of course, there are the soaring obestity rates.

But it all seems worse when children are involved.

Though I  don’t mean to criticize parents, part of the problem is simply their  busy-ness.   Working hard, their lives, and the lives of their children, are highly scheduled.  Snacks and media are used to silence childish impatience;  both allow parents to participate in their children’s lives in a way that makes them feel (and is) caring, as cook, food-buyer, internet-regulator, but is also somehow less personal and confrontational, than acting as direct companion and/or adversary.

Older generations focused on the behavior of children (and both parents and children had the relief of unsupervised play–time that was free and apart from each other); but in our world, it’s not enough for children behave the way that we want them to;  we also want them to be happy while behaving this way (while remaining in a fairly confined location).   Some parents trot out long explanations to children, trying to secure agreement to restrictions;  others (or maybe the same parents) trot out snacks, gameboys, smart phones, trying to pre-empt disagreement, discomfort, wear and tear.

It doesn’t really work.  But the parent is busy, stressed;  besides, he or she has some browsing to do.

Explore posts in the same categories: elephants, parenting, Stress, Uncategorized

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