Thursday, May 17, 2007

Are Friends Electric?

Adinah can't read yet, but she can use my laptop. She can spell her name in Word, use the mouse to point and click, and play her first computer game: a version of Memory featuring 15 pairs of pictures of Homer Simpson.

When she was just two and a half, and I was scrambling for some way to entertain her, we would go online and look at pictures of cats, clowns or Marvin the Martian. Now, when she draws and colors, she makes pictures of trees, spiders and computers.

My wife the sociologist tells me that in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, children were not thought of as special in any way--they were just little people. They were farm laborers who could do special tasks because their hands were small. In the Victorian era, adults invented the idea of the child. People began to think of kids as delicate toys, tiny humans meant to be protected. In the twentieth century, advertising spawned the cult of youth, and the adoration of the Teenager.

A friend of ours just got back from New York City, and she says that her friends there are all having their elementary school kids take private Chinese lessons, presumably in preparation for careers as futures traders or pharmaceutical executives. Maybe these days, Western humans think of their kids as saviours of our global edge, if not the universe.

I wonder where our digital princess is gonna fit in?

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