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    We covered related issues at some length on Metanomics this week with Adam Thierer. It was a substantive discussion on protection, privacy, government policy and solutions offered by technology. Transcript available.

    "Until technology develops a system of flawless digital family involvement, the family will suffer when gamers devote their full attention to a synthetic world."

    Didn't they say the same thing about TV? Radio? You make this assertion with no evidence to back up your argument.

    "But the internet-dependence of today's children raises questions." Except you then do not actually state any questions - instead, you state conclusions.

    I have some questions that you could have asked:
    - How do the hours children are playing on video games and virtual worlds stack up against television? Are they actually spending *more* time?
    - How does the quality of time spent compare between television and video games? (Refer to Stephen Johnson's "Everything Bad Is Good For You")-
    - What level of awareness do parents really have about what media their children consume, be it music, television, video game, movies, or Internet?
    - How much education is being done for parents and children for video games and virtual worlds? How does this compare with television and movies?
    - Are television commercials more harmful to children than video games? (I read a study a few months ago suggesting children 7 and under literally could not distinguish between advertisers' claims and truth, and concluded that ideally there should be zero advertising for children that yound.)
    - Why is the assumption that the digital world will supplant the real, instead of augment? (And yes, we know that Hamlet and Philip are immersionists, not augmentationists.)

    Until bad parents learn how to be good parents, bad parents will remain bad parents. It's not useful for us to panic and say, "zomg what about this new technology?" There's always another new technology. The focus has to be on cultivating healthy families and educating parents, otherwise we will have this same sort of "Think of the children!" for any new technology.

    "Has anyone seen my Daddy?"

    - blimp boy Jan. 2010

    Back when I was a kid, I used to spend all my free time reading, a classic bookworm. Probably nobody reading this blog can remember this, but it used to be that books were the primary escapist entertainment. They were thought to contribute to bad eye sight, anti-social behavior, and other ills. "Don Quihote" is an example of what happens when a guy spends too much time reading swashbuckling adventure novels. (For the non-literate folks out there: he went crazy and went around acting like a knight.)

    But I don't hear anyone complaining about books anymore. I don't understand why! They are the classic passive entertainment. There is no way to interact with a book, other than turning the pages.

    You read a book by youself. Even if you're in an audience, having a book read to you, there's not much opportunity to interact with the other listeners, or with the content of the book. (Unless you're very, very young and you get to make the sounds that the animals in the book make!)

    Creating a book is also a solo process -- just the writer and their typewriter (or quill, or word processor).

    Virtual games, however, are collaboratively designed, and collaboratively played. Even the most passive gamers interact with the environment, solve puzzles, made ethical choices, and, in some worlds, design objects and environments to share with others.

    My kids, for example, are building a virtual world together, in collaboration with their dad, who's on the other side of the world in Shanghai.

    Sure, books help improve grammar and vocabulary. But so does surfing the Internet or watching Law & Order.

    When it comes to developing the mind, creativity, and social skills, virtual games have the other entertainment media beat hands down.

    Quick correction: that's Don Quixote.

    - Maria

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