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Kids and Computers--Skeel

Thanks to the East Coast blizzard, we’re now in day two of a six day weekend (otherwise known as an eternity) with our two high school sons. This means lots of spirited debates about how long the boys can stay on the computers. In our house, we’ve arrived at a rule that that they can’t go on the computer before 12 noon, and must get off by 10 p.m. My wife and I are pleased with this system (the boys are rather less enthusiastic, and frequently tell us so), but it still means policing the noon and 10 pm boundaries and lots of discussion about how long they can stay on during those hours in between.

At a recent dinner I attended, an executive of a prominent organization told a story about how a young employee had been fired for using Facebook on his work computer, because the organization has a strict rule against employees going on non-work sites.   The principal concern was that surfing the web would interfere with work. When the employee’s boss heard that he’d been fired, he said, “Oh no, he was my most productive employee.” At the dinner table, this led to a predictable discussion of the changes in the way the younger generation processes information and does their work.
At home, the story made me wonder whether our after-noon-and-before-10 pm system is hopelessly anachronistic. Maybe it is, but that love for computers looks an awful lot like an addiction to us old timers, and going cold turkey for at least part of the day still seems like the best treatment.


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Comments ( 7 )

I'm a retired software engineer, and I can testify that it really is an addiction. I'm trying to work out how I can fast from computer usage as part of my religious discipline -- maybe shut it down at sundown on Saturday and leave it off until sundown on Sunday. We'll see how bad the withdrawal is.

You haven't mentioned what they are doing on the computer. Would you limit the amount of time they can read books? If you feel they are not using their time wisely you can help them improve it with better alternatives. If they play games, show them how to write computer games, etc.

A suggestion on the 12-10 policing.
My kids are not of the age yet where this matters, but I have a router that can block Internet access by client (IP address) based upon time-of-day, type-of-traffic, etc.

It wouldn't keep them off the computer, but maybe off the Internet (and that may make them keep off the computer) if you programmed the router to do this type of thing.

You'd want a Linksys WRT54GL router (~$60)
and the Tomato firmware (free, http://www.polarcloud.com/tomato)

I am concerned that by the time my kids get on computers by themselves the ISP will have moved to a cellular service and they don't go thru a gateway/router system I can control.

Yeah it's an addiction. But a bad one? As a member of Generation X (and a former Temple Law student of Prof. Skeel's) I had NO computer/Internet while growing up. But I watched LOTS of cable TV. My folks were afraid of what it would do to my brain.

Not sure if we should believe the hype/drink the kool aid.

I do believe that the new generation's work behavior is different and should be accepted as it is. My colleague has to be at facebook for two hours everyday and he is known for his fast work and good results.

Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with many worthwhile people that I otherwise would not have. I feel like there are more people I can turn to when I need an expert, a specific skill set, some encouragement in an area of life, etc. as a result of this networking.
I've noticed that this is true with my younger siblings- they are surrounded (virtually) by a large group of great people who may in limited ways now, and perhaps in more significant ways in the future, be of help to them. Being partially homeschooled and belonging to a small and fairly connected group of fellow OPC kids, they extend their community beyond occasional church rallies and summer camp. T

I see both sides of this issue and here are some random thoughts:

No matter how productive an employee is, if he/she is a person of integrity, they would obey the rules (even archaic ones) until they can change them.

Yes, I would limit my children's reading (books) time if it were excessive and detrimental to sleep, school work, getting outside, etc.

Limits or boundaries are GOOD and cultivating the discipline necessary to respect those limits is undervalued and grossly lacking in our society. We do need some wisdom in setting those boundaries but as parents we cannot afford to be fearful of setting and enforcing the boundaries we prayerfully believe to be in the best interest or our children (even older teens). I certainly did not agree with all of my parents boundaries as I grew up but learned, both from obeying and being blessed, AND by disobeying and suffering consequences, important life lessons.

I am fascinated with technology and understand that nimble use of it will be a great advantage, HOWEVER....while it can be a blessing, it can also be a curse and we owe it to our children to be aware and to help them be aware of the dangers as well as the advantages.

May God grant us the wisdom to set good limits and the courage to follow through.