Louis CK (language warning)
I think Louis CK is a very funny guy, but also often profound (in the midst of all the biting humor and foul language). This video was an interesting counterpoint to all the praise of mobile technology we’ve been reading.
So, there are two main points he’s making here—humorously of course, but I think with a vein of truth. The first applies to kids and mobile technology, and the second applies to everyone.
First is the point that mobile technology is particularly problematic for children. As he says, “Kids are mean, and it’s because they’re trying it out.” I’m around kids a lot, and I’ve heard almost all of them say rude stuff that they think is funny. They heard another kid say something like it, or they heard it on a show. They are trying it out, just like they try out jumping from the top of the slide because they wonder what will happen. They inherently want to push limits (if human beings were NOT like this, mobile technology would never have been invented).
I don’t think any amount of kindness curricula and anti-bullying assemblies will ever eliminate kids testing in that way, any more than you can get children not to run around just because it’s easier for the yard duty to supervise if they don’t. (Seriously—we have “running lanes” at the school blacktop and the kids are not supposed to run around except in the running lanes. SMH.)
Running is fun. And while it’s true crashing into other people is unpleasant, or tripping and hurting yourself is unpleasant, running is still REALLY FUN. Playful banter is also fun, but going too far is hurtful—kids learn that line by crossing over it, and having to deal with the consequences. If you run, you risk hurting yourself. If you mouth off, you risk hurting someone else or hurting your own social standing because people get mad at you. “Children learn how to deal with risk only by facing risk” (Lahey, 2014). A computer environment is too safe for this kind of feedback to happen; the risk is too removed from the action for children to learn from it.
I really agree with Louis CK—when you have to face someone that you’ve hurt by your supposed witty remark, it is a lot harder to deny what you’ve done. When you are distanced by technology, it’s easier to minimize someone else’s pain. This echoes the concern raised by librarian Kathy Kleckner in Samtani (2012): “[Kleckner] says that relying on apps for storytelling dilutes the key ingredient in a child’s development: human interaction.” Babies respond more strongly to faces from a very young age, processing information at a more sophisticated level than they do when looking at other objects(Stanford Report, 2012). I hope there will be more research about exactly how children’s brains respond to mobile technology specifically, but in the meantime, I don’t think we can assume it is innocuous for them to interact with an app instead of a person.
Mobile technology is extremely compelling and fun, and I think it is a real concern to prevent technolust (or the incredible convenience of keeping kids quiet and occupied because we don’t want to be bothered by their kidlike antics) from letting kids at the technology without thoughtful reflection on what it adds, and what it might be replacing.
Louis CK’s second point is that connectivity anywhere can be used as a crutch to escape any boredom, discomfort or sadness (or our kids whining or fidgeting). Mobile technology didn’t invent the phenomenon of distracting ourselves, of course. Alcohol, sex, eating, shopping, gambling, television…unhealthy uses of experiences have been around for a long time.
Pretty much all the other problematic things are things we keep away from children or we control for them (no TV until you do your homework, that’s enough cookies for today), because we recognize that they are not yet capable of understanding the potential dark sides to the very attractive, compelling experiences. Yes, the “genie is out of the bottle” (Samtani, 2012). I agree that librarians can’t suppress or ignore apps for kids. In fact, since librarian’s traditional role has always included being a guide to the difference between junk information and reliable information, it is all the more important for librarians serving children to educate themselves about beneficial and harmful uses of mobile technology.
Lahey, J. (January 28, 2014). Recess without rules [Web log post]. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/recess-without-rules/283382/
Samtani, H. (2012, December 27). Libraries use iPads and apps to ramp up storytime, but concerns remain [Web log post]. The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.thedigitalshift.com/2012/12/k-12/libraries-app-up-storytime-libraries-use-ipads-and-apps-to-engage-kids-and-parents-but-concerns-remain/
Stanford Report. (December 11, 2012). Infants process faces long before they recognize other objects, Stanford vision researchers find [Web log post].Stanford News. .Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/december/infants-process-faces-121112.html