An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
If you've not read EM Forster's The Machine Stops, download this PDF, print it out, turn off your computer and read it. Clearly I'm no Luddite, but I do wonder to what degree we may be headed in this direction. There is no doubt that many live their "second lives" as their first one. Keep in mind, Forster wrote this in 1909.
We have raised up a generation of multi-media junkies. Think about it: no drug would appeal to us if it did not pleasure one of our senses in some way. Similarly, there is little doubt in my mind as to why a child raised regularly on MTV and XBOX should have trouble in school and actually require drugs to help pay attention. Has anyone ever done a study of ADHD diagnosis rates amongst the Amish or in the third world where epilepsy inducing media is largely unknown?
And we wonder why traditional liturgical worship doesn't "work" for people? Duh...it's like trying to get someone high on caffeine whose been a meth addict for decades.
In our Human G&D class I did a research project on the effects of television on the developing brain. Scary stuff. There's more than enough research out there to suggest that children shouldn't be anywhere near a TV before the age of two, and only minimally until they are approaching the teen years. It's true, the mind does become addicted (and perhaps, more frighteningly, begins to change in response) to the rapid fire stimulus that television provides.
I remember reading in developmental psychology that even if children use "educational TV" as a learning tool (and I take that to mean Sesame Street, Barney and interactive TV) that the brain retains it in a different format. It ties in to what you say Emily.
I think fears of media or technology f*$king up our kids are overblown. I've seen the reports and read the horror stories, but when you get into the public schools, you'll find out the kids are, for the most part, delightful. My wife and I made volunteering in our children's classrooms part of our jobs, so we've rubbed shoulders with hundreds of kids. Invariably, the troubled ones had parents that were troubled themselves - alcoholics, crackheads, meth addicts and worse. But even these troubled kids often responded positively to a little affection and a firm hand. As with anything, vigilance is the key with technology, TV, the Internet, fast food, twinkies, and so on....but that is how it has always been for parents, hasn't it?
I don't think the fears are overblown, not at all. As a practitioner in a busy family clinic, I see -- oh, I don't know -- several hundred kids per year.
Invariably, the ones who spend the most time with the tv and the xbox are the most disturbed.
The most normal and socially adept children I encounter are (1) almost all children under age 6 or 7, and (2) Amish and Mennonite children. The latter are quiet (read: polite and well trained), but very able to interact. Once the kids get older, in the 12-19 year old range, the most normal and able to interact children are those homeschooled and the Amish/Mennonites.
Like Michael said, the most important role is parenting, no doubt. But, the problem is that so much of the extant media is harmful. Studies show conclusively that television (of any sort) raises the risk of ADHD. The American Association of Pediatrics does not discourage ANY television for those 2 and younger for no reason. Every hour of television watched daily up until around age 6 raises the risk of ADD and related problems by 10%.
I think most will find that good parents typically reduce parenting by tv-proxy and fill that spot with books, activities, and interaction.
The warnings are more than justified. The proof will be, I fear, in the pudding, as the young generation comes of age. I am already more and more astonished at the lack of good education being demonstrated by so many in our public school system.