Nick shared his musings on how our kids learn from what we say AND do:
I'm smart enough to know that I know nothing – My oldest is only 3, so who knows what our parenting will wreak upon his little psyche. I do know that we have friends who severely limited technology for their oldest kid and he now spends all his time podcasting. Is that a good or a bad thing? I don't know.
Kids learn by example (that much I do know), and they see me at the computer all day long (self-employed selling machine tools on the internet) so it's natural they want to be at the computer too, they see me watch TV, so they want to watch TV, they see me fixing things and making things in my home shop and they want to fix and make too. Oh yeah, and reading – my kids see me read so they see that reading is something one does.
So I think that environment and teaching are really the same things, or rather different sides of the totality of life experience. I'm always amazed when my son turns off the TV or computer – he's had enough or is bored and moves on to coloring or playing with trains. So I think the environment is working, and he is learning that you can manipulate your environment to your needs.
But again, I have no idea – as a great general once said "no plan survives contact with the enemy", and that is certainly true of parenting.
We traded a bit of email on this, and he added:
I do think that people have different ideas about media influence on children largely driven by their own experiences with media – that is if you feel that media has a negative influence on you, you tend to protect your children from it, and if you enjoy media, then you encourage your children to enjoy it.
In my case both the internet and (satellite) TV have had a profound positive effect on my learning and general happiness (in the philosophical sense) that is akin to the effect that books have had.
Check back in three or four years and see if I've had to eat my own words…
Nick's sentiments rung a bell with me, because I often hear myself (and my mom friends) saying, "When I was a kid, I did [insert mildly unhealthy activity here] and I turned out ok." In my case, it was TV. My parents never restricted my TV watching, and I grew up watching game shows, Star Trek and Mary Tyler Moore reruns, and Spiderman cartoons after school. I also read a ton and did all my homework, rode my bike, played with friends, and did all the other things kids do…and I turned out ok.
The "I turned out ok" excuse usually slips out when I'm "caught;" someone observes the kid mesmerized by the Game Boy or eating Capt'n Crunch or engaging in some other activity that's frowned upon in my educated, liberal community. It makes no sense, really, because my friends don't judge me or my parenting. No one cares if my kid occasionally eats Froot Loops for dinner — their kids do too. But I still feel the need to notify the world that this is an exception. Hmm.
I fear I'm going off on a tangent, but hopefully it's good for discussion. What're your thoughts?