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Childhood in the 21st Century :: Thoughts on Pokemon Go! and Minecraft

When I was a kid, my third grade classroom would march into the (windowless) computer lab of clunky Macintosh desktops to play Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego? and Oregon Trail. I loved Computer Lab Day, because for an hour, I escaped my reality and entered a new one. Oregon Trail brought the history lessons in the classroom to life, while Carmen San Diego was the best geography teacher I ever had. (I remember there was even a television show, and a soundtrack – I would watch and listen borderline obsessively, and could sing along.)

Now, I’m raising children and my goodness, the childhood landscape has changed so much. It is much more digitized and portable, as school worksheets have been replaced by apps on a school-issued iPad. As technology innovates and advances, parents are called upon to take a stand, and set rules and limits to their children’s screen time because it remains a fact that physical play outdoors is integral to a child’s health and well-being. 

I’m writing this because there has been plenty of mention regarding the topic, especially as of late, thanks to the advent of Pokémon Go!

First, I must admit I had a hell of a time creating an account for Landen. Under pressure to go as fast as possible so he could join his friends, I finally passed my phone over to an 8-year-old for help.

(Apparently there are 4 Pokemon near our house right now, 
and a little bibbity-bobbity-boo will catch them.)

Now here’s the thing: I like it. Of course, it is screen time I have to monitor and set limits with, but since I downloaded it, I have seen its value. It’s gotten the whole family outside, exploring areas of our neighborhood we may have looked past otherwise. We are walking, and building a camaraderie. It’s an activity Landen does with his friends in the neighborhood. There have been many a summer day where a Pokémon Go! session turns into a bike ride, or a pick-up lacrosse game, and Landen is outside with his friends until the street lights turn on. 

My problem is not with the game or its premise, but how people choose to use it. There have been headlines that speak to players’ questionable decisions, which has cast an unjust shadow on the game. 

I take a similar stance with Minecraft, which I would venture to call the Oregon Trail of the 21st century. As reward for either good grades or good behavior (I can’t remember what it was), we purchased Minecraft for Landen after he was exposed to it by his occupational therapist. As you may or may not know, Landen has ADHD, and Minecraft has been helpful in centering his focus while expressing his creativity. Now, this game is much more of an imaginative virtual reality, so we certainly limit how long he can play, but overall I don’t have an issue with it either.

There have been plenty of Memes circulated by Generation Y’ers that “Thank God I Was A Kid Before Phones/Social Media/Blah Blah Blah” …

… It’s like the Baby Boomers who walked to school uphill both ways.

Whatever the generation, whatever the technology available and whatever the youngest generation faces, it’s up to parents to find that balance of reading/physical play/screen time/social interaction/chores/sleep/etc. I’m not perfect, but I am present, and I am satisfied I’m giving my kids a well-rounded experience in the face of societal pressure.

iKid: 9 Important Strategies for Raising Children in a World of Technology


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