Generational conflict is at the core of human life, and barring some kind of mass migration to a virtual reality matrix wherein we are all forever young, it ever shall be.
The old hope to pass on wisdom while clinging to whatever shreds of youth remain; the middle-aged still feel insecure beneath the gaze of their elders but sneer at the rising ambitions of the young; and the young feel that no generation before them has ever done anything well, and they will be the ones to set the world to rights. Everybody marches with the spear of mortality at their backs.
And so, Slate tapped into some very primal stuff with its story "Why Millennials Can't Grow Up: Helicopter parenting has caused my psychotherapy clients to crash land."
It's immediately appealing to all older-than-Millennial readers for a few reasons: It confirms our suspicion that over-coddled young people are making a mess of things. It suggests that because the author is a psychotherapist, the story will be grounded in science, or, at least, science-y sounding language. And it gives us the sense that the upbringings of us old people - spare and sometimes unsupportive, but rife with freedom and the chance to take on responsibility - were somehow superior to the new, unworthy pack of whippersnappers that has appeared on the scene, all cocky because they're in their twenties and the world lies at their feet ready for conquest.
The article's lead is every insecure late 30- or 40-something's fantasy. A patient ("Amy") cries while talking to her therapist because for her:
It became increasingly difficult to balance school, socializing, laundry, and a part-time job. She finally had to dump the part-time job, was still unable to do laundry, and often stayed up until 2 a.m. trying to complete homework because she didn’t know how to manage her time without her parents keeping track of her schedule.
In short: Over-coddling by helicopter parents creates helpless child-adults who can't handle pressure, conflict, or, in short, "the real world" without mommy and daddy holding their hands.
The story is an interesting riff (and partial rebuttal) of the even more popular "Millennials are narcissistic, entitled monsters" storyline - we're invited to feel sorry for Millennials, not just hostile toward them. But while it is pegged to some real indicators (high rates of depression among college students, the inflation of educational credentials that means today's four-year undergraduate degree is little better than yesterday's high school diploma) it also feels a little like most of the stories of its ilk in that it's generational warfare waged by the people with power (the managers and leaders in their late 30s and 40s against those who largely don't (those in their 20s) under the rubric of "oh, those poor kids - their bad parenting has ruined them."
So long as there are generations, there will be attacks and counterattacks and fumbling efforts to cross the swamp that is cross-generational communication. And while stories like "Why Millennials Can't Grow Up" at least seem to offer a sympathetic stance toward the young, something a bit more welcoming - or, hey, even celebratory of what the next generation is bringing - would be a nice change of pace.
Lord Vader, the guy who struck terror into my pre-teen heart in the original film, has taken a selfie and released it on Instagram.
Cue the jokes: “Did he use a dark filter?” and “At least he doesn’t have to worry about red eye.”
The light-hearted caption posted with it is, “Just another day at the office.”
It’s screamingly funny and that’s the point. The whole social image of Darth Vader as a force to be reckoned with just suffered a bigger impact than Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star.
It’s gonna be hard to scream with fear with that image of Lord Vader in your head.
Mark my words, had Voldemort done this he’d have needed a lot more than a wand and a snake to scare folks.
This is a fun example of how parents can send the wrong message via social media and selfies in particular.
The name Vader is German for father. Darth was the mac daddy of all intimidating parental figures, until the selfie.
In an instant, gone is the uber villain who strikes terror into your heart, replaced by Darth Dude in one epic smart phone snap.
“Well that was a huge mistake,” said Quin, 10, looking at Darth Selfie. “It reveals weakness. It’s like he’s begging people to like him.”
For some parents, who have trouble relating to teens, a funny selfie might be the way to break the ice. Then again it might just get you a groan and an eye-roll.
That’s because selfies by their very nature are not very parental. They are self-absorbed which is something most parents don’t have time to be.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words, the selfie screams, “Me, me, me, me, me…!”
That actually says a lot about us.
When I meet someone and they tell me to look them up on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites the first place I look is the photos posted.
I check out how many postings are selfies vs. photos of friends, family, activities and pets getting a clear, unfiltered, picture of that person.
Like the Dark Side, it’s hard to resist the urge every once in a while to take a picture of ourselves from arm’s length and soft focus away some years and pounds for a profile shot.
However, when a parent’s social media is plastered with selfies it may be time to resist that urge to shoot yourself with a smart phone a dozen times a week.
The official Star Wars Instagram account aptly proclaims, “It is useless to resist.”
For some selfie-generation parents I know, that seems to be true. I know one young couple whom I taught five years ago when they were high school seniors and are now parents of a four-year-old.
Both mom and dad’s Facebook pages show drunken, sexy, selfies with toys and kid things piled on a chair in the background and lots of alcohol on the coffee table in the foreground.
Those are some very dark and dangerous selfies that could become very popular with child protective services and police.
Maybe it is hard to resist the selfie urge, but as parents we need to think about pictures we post of ourselves.
Also we don’t want to become the parent who spends more time pointing the camera at themselves than their kids because that sends the message that how we look today is more valuable than how we behaved.
However, we can use the Force of photos via social media to set a good example for our kids by helping them snap unselfies – photos of ourselves and our families helping each other, taking out the trash, feeding a pet, doing homework.
Perhaps we need to thank Darth Vader for the selfie that reminds parents that on social media we can make ourselves look bad trying to improve our social image.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has announced plans to launch 30-minute or less drone delivery, shipping packages 5 pounds or less up to 10 miles away from their fulfillment center. He introduced the new delivery option in a CBS 60-minutes interview earlier this week.
I’m already game. I get excited enough when the mailman shows up with a package for me, so I imagine I will be standing on my front lawn in my bathrobe and slippers scanning the skies for my latest delivery. Yes, I am that crazy, and during nap times for my toddler, I do have that much free time on my hands.
There are a lot of ways parents could use drone delivery, here’s a start to my list of items that I imagine most parents would agree would make the perfect drone drop.
Diapers: We’ve all had it happen to us. No more diapers, un-diapered child, resulting in feverishly digging through all diaper bags, car seats, and luggage to find anything that resembles a diaper. Then magically, diapers drop on the front lawn. Like manna.
Sporting goods: Kids grow fast, sometimes overnight, and kids lose stuff. Mouth guards, soccer cleats, ahem … jock straps, all need speedy, not to mention discreet shipping. I can tell you I am already not looking forward to some of the aforementioned sports equipment purchases for my son. And he’s one.
Food: Will food be on the drone delivery list? Packaged food at least? Please make it so. I like to think I keep my pantry well-stocked, but I have been known to purchase extra rolls of plastic wrap, extra peanut butter to add to three other jars of peanut butter and yet another can of tomato soup, while entirely forgetting other basic packaged goods. Cookies for a school party? Macaroni and cheese for Friday night sleepover? Done by drones.
Books: I guess we can go ahead and take notice of the original delivery item that made Amazon famous. Would drone delivery make it possible for me to purchase a book as a gift that my son and I fell in love with at the library? Note, I am always going to plug the local library first, but I am sure the local library authorities will come hunting me down after I renew the book 18 times and keep pretending like we have not gotten around to giving it a read. So, instead of not answering the door to a group of angry librarians, I could enjoy opening it to a drone delivery. Sounds like a plan.
What would you add to the list?
Norwegian fitness blogger and soccer wife Caroline Berg Eriksen’s controversial Instagram photo of her postpartum body begs the question, what is the point of all this body-focused discussion, really? She posted the photo four days after giving birth, and already her body looks perfect, – no stretch marks, no sagging skin, no out-of-proportion breasts. You can’t even tell that she had been pregnant at all. This comes on the heels of all the hype about fitness instructor Maria Kang's controversial bikini photo with her three young sons and the caption “What’s your excuse?” that went viral and spurred numerous online discussions about postpartum body perceptions. Ms. Kang was accused of fat-shaming, bullying, and presenting unrealistic expectations for postpartum moms.
When I saw both photos, I was shocked. How annoying! How unrealistic! What bullies! Why would they be so arrogant and attention seeking?
Then I swung back to the other side. Wow, they look amazing! I wish I could look like that too. I’m eight months postpartum, and that level of fitness doesn’t even seem like it’s possible. What’s their secret? I want to work harder and be fit and sexy, so good for them for sharing their success and inspiring others.
But wait, let’s back up. What’s really going on here? No matter what your reaction to these photos, it’s worth taking a moment to get some perspective.
Why do we moms feel the need to judge each other on our postpartum bodies at all? What is the point?
The fact is, there is no point. Your body says nothing about how good a mom you are. It does not provide any information about how patient, loving, strong, protective, and nurturing you are. It can’t say how you’ve grown now that you’ve become a mom.
Instead of, “Have you gotten your body back?”, how about, during the postpartum period, we ask each other, “How are you doing balancing work and motherhood?” or “How are things going with your husband?” or “How has motherhood changed your life purpose?” or “What can I do to support you in your new role better”? I can think of thousands of questions that would be more worthwhile than, “Are your stretch marks fading yet?”
I’ve experienced postpartum body pressure firsthand. One family member even asked me recently (eight months postpartum) if I was pregnant again (I’m definitely not). For about half an hour, I was deeply offended. But then I realized that this is the culture we live in – where we focus on the mother’s body, instead of focusing on her spirit. It’s not personal – it’s just going with the flow of our culture. Every mom needs our support, not judgment about her body, whether it’s positive or negative. And remember, once we learn to focus on what’s in the mom’s heart, it will seamlessly transfer to teaching our daughters that what’s valuable is on the inside, not the outside. We have a long way to go to get there, but woman to woman, husband to wife, parent to child, we can stem the tide of body-focus and redirect our attention to much more pressing matters.
For kids and parents who love the game Minecraft the news of tunnels under Rome being mapped, is a great opportunity to dig in and use the popular computer game to model history’s mysteries at home.
Beneath Rome is a maze of ancient tunnels that often collapse, damaging buildings and streets above. Scientists are attempting to map the labyrinth under Rome in order to predict and prevent such collapses, according to NBC.
George Mason University geoscientists Giuseppina Kysar Mattietti and scientists from the Center for Speleoarchaeological Research in Sotterranei Di Roma are mapping high-risk areas of the quarry system.
However, as a parent of child who plays Minecraft, all I can see looking at the pictures of the tunnels is opportunity.
Here is a chance to make that gaming time payoff by engaging kids to relate to history and solve modern engineering challenges using their creative, social, and intellectual processes.
Parents, kids and teachers can team up to guide the gaming for a very positive outcome. Much like Lego League challenges teams of K-12 students to solve engineering challenges using Legos and pre-set scenarios where they must build robots and cities to solve real-world issues.
Minecraft, originated in Stockholm, Sweden, created by Markus Persson, known to gamers as “Notch.” It’s a fairly simple eight-bit building game where players use with 3D cubes (a bit like virtual LEGOs) in an infinite “sandbox” game world, with no specific goals or levels to beat.
Players can choose survival mode, where dangers abound and characters can die, creative mode, a peaceful building environment, or “Hardcore mode,” which is completely unforgiving.
“In Hardcore mode you only get one life, like real life. If you die you have to delete the whole world,” my son Quin, 10, initially explained to me. “Bear Grylls and Chuck Norris would probably play in Hardcore mode only.”
According to the Minecraft Stats website, 12,904,885 people have bought the game. In the past 24 hours, 7,804 people bought the game.
Yet this game is much more powerful than your average Lego set because it connects players online so that problems can be solved in real time using a common map. And the Minecraft-style of online building is expanding to help solve real-world urban planning challenges as well.
“A new collaboration with UN Habitat called "Block by Block" Just like the Swedish predecessor, “Block by Block” aims to involve youth in the planning process in urban areas by giving them the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future. Minecraft has turned out to be the perfect tool to facilitate this process,” according to the Mojang website.
Rome can be built in a day using Minecraft if you have enough gamers online and the tunnels can be reconstructed beneath it using archival materials in combination with incoming data from the current scientific efforts.
One of the great features of this idea is that Minecraft has become so popular worldwide that free codification packs are available online, including various Ancient Rome Mod Packs called Romecraft. These add-ons to the game allow players to construct an authentic ancient Roman world and the very nature of the game – mining – allows you to make the tunnels right down to the type of rock, mineral, and ore in the caves.
Gaming can impact our children’s educations in many negative ways when no parental guidance is in play.
Here is a chance to read the news, learn about ancient Rome, explore architecture, history, modern and ancient engineering methods, and civics lessons all in the course of a game they already love.
Best of all, it empowers kids to help adults find solutions to real world problems. If we can make learning fun we can build a better world right here in Hard Core Mode.
One of America's unlikely holiday traditions is the annual tedious breakdown of the Twelve Days of Christmas carol into a consumer index, along the lines of: "If you paid for everything mentioned in the song at today's price's, you'd be out a whopping..."
This year (and, seriously, how does one actually price ten lords-a-leaping?) the number comes to $27,393 according to the Christmas Price Index from PNC Wealth Management.
As a new parent however, I'm not even vaguely fixated by this figure, conspicuous though it may be. I've got my own carol-based problem to solve, the Baby Turning One Not Long After Christmas Price Index from Norton "Wealth" "Management." It looks a little something like this:
Twelve bottles shaking,
As the father of an infant who has effectively self-weaned at seven months, I have become painfully aware of the financial footprint left by formula. The stuff's not cheap. I'd ballpark 12 5 oz. bottles at about $17.
Eleven apples blending,
Baby food is such a transparent racket that we've gone to an all home-cooked fruits + veggies + quinoa + brown rice program for the solid food portion of our son's diet. Seconds are pretty cheap; let's put 11 apples for homemade applesauce at $3.
Ten Mum Mums crackling,
These little rice rusk crackers are great for babies for a number of reasons. They're light. They're safe (supervision still required, but they basically disintegrate before they become a choking hazard). They're fun for babies to grip. They're therefore distracting while you get solid food warmed up and ready to roll. 10 would be about $1.25, a relative steal.
Nothing plays up the neat-freak versus casual divide like having a baby. My wife goes for the "wipe him down once at the end of the meal" approach, like most rational people. For me, watching food get smeared around ... and around ... and around ... is like a mild but very real form of torture. When I'm feeding our son, I like to have three damp, warm cloths handy: the primary cloth, the back-up cloth, and the auxiliary support cloth. Cost: about $5.25.
Eight diapers filling,
Whether you're using home-washed cloth, disposable, or cloth service diapers, there's no getting around the new reality that these heavy, fragrant bundles of anti-joy represent. Price? Hard to say. Priceless, perhaps. Or I suppose we could peg it at $2.40.
Seven rattles rattling,
What's a rattle go for these days? About eight bucks, which is shocking. $56 for this line item.
Six onesies snapping,
For the sake of pricing, let's assume animal outfits rather than bare-bones onesies, because there's not much point in raising a baby if you can't dress it as a tiny bear or reindeer or rabbit. Let's say $132.
Five ... crinkly books!
Ah, the crinkly book. It simulates reading, but is really a teething / crumpling / distracting toy. Best of all worlds. We like Fuzzy Bee and Friends ($45 for five of them. Also available in a Kindle edition if you're completely confused about the point of a "touch and feel" crinkly book.)
Four jumping chairs,
Few parents would need four jumping chairs, but here's a scenario: a big, suburban house, plus two supportive sets of in-laws. Jumping chair in the living room, one in the home office, one at each of the in-laws' places. Boom! Four jumping chairs. Price varies, but you could get four good new ones for a mere $300.
Three cute bibs,
Three bibs? If you're buying new, retail, as we are for this song, $12. My only regret about bibs is that they don't cover every part of the baby at all times. I guess what I'd really like is some kind of spray-on Teflon coating.
Two pack and plays,
The pack and play! Your baby's home away from home, and/or visiting babies home away from home. A vital tool. Not cheap, but not terrible for what you get. $120 for two.
And a wifi video monitor.
OK, it doesn't scan exactly right with the song. But if baby's sleeping somewhere not immediately in eyesight, it's nice to be able to see what he or she is up to when strange noises begin to float through the air and/or to pick up on the lower-volume strange noises you might otherwise miss. This one clocks in at about $150.
The sum total for our baby song's contents? $843.90, more or less. And the unlikely moral of the story is that it's much cheaper to raise an infant than to live like a medieval lord. It's counterintuitive, and somehow incredibly cheering!
Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Maria Callas, who left behind not only an amazing body of operatic work but also the perfect template for a classic diva on a collision course with misery, reminding us that a “Diva in training” shirt on a little one isn’t really a good label.
Maria Callas was born Cecilia Sophia Anna Maria Kalogeropoulos in New York City on December 3, 1923. She became a celebrated opera diva for her stunning voice and emotional delivery. But Ms. Callas died a mysterious, brokenhearted, lonely death in Paris in 1977.
While modern-day moms may think it’s cute and trendy to label themselves and their daughters as divas, wearing T-shirts or jewelry proclaiming it, the truth is that with being a great diva comes great misery and loneliness.
Perhaps that’s because while divas are fun to visit, nobody wants to live with them.
Callas’ life story could rival any opera. She lived with great passion, touched the heights and plummeted to the depths of emotion. She captured the attention of the wealthiest man in the world, Aristotle Onassis, only to lose him to the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
When Jackie became Jackie-O, that was the end of Callas, who became a recluse in Paris and died a mysterious death there at the age of 55.
Callas fit the classic definition of “diva” in the Etymology Dictionary Online: "distinguished woman singer, prima donna”; "goddess, fine lady”; "divine (one).” Callas was, in many ways, “divine” in the way she transformed her operatic roles into beings of such depth and beauty that they will live forever. To hear her sing was to touch grace.
However, today, the Urban Dictionary defines diva as, among other things “hustler," "princess," "vixen.” That second definition is what young women and teens emulate today.
Because of that second definition, anyone who calls herself a diva today via T-shirt, World Wrestling title, or music industry status had better take some time to learn about Callas, to see what it really means to live that lifestyle.
My mother was an immense Maria Callas fan when I was growing up. Seeing today’s Google Doodle, Mom, now 83, remarked, “she had the most gorgeous voice, but she had a temper. She deserved to be called a diva.”
When I saw Callas on the Doodle today, it immediately brought to mind the way society has begun to celebrate the worst qualities of the diva, being temperamental, snappish, haughty, and unreasonable, without realizing that living that way can cause you to end up heartbroken and alone.
When I was a little girl growing up in New York City, my mother broke me of my little diva ways using Callas.
Whenever I threw one of my monumental temper tantrums, my mother used to counter them by putting Callas records on and playing them louder than I could wail.
“If I have to listen to a diva, this is the one I want to hear making noise in my apartment,” Mom would tell me.
I would stop the tantrum because I started to listen to Callas and the music. You can’t listen to something that pure and be a brat at the same time.
While Callas had a temper, she also had a voice, drive, ambition, and natural beauty. It’s sad that so much of her legacy is tied to her temper and lost love.
Being a diva is great for the stage, but when it comes to life in your home or plastered as a label on the front of a child's shirt, it’s time to pay attention to the plot line we are writing for our kids and change our tune.
It’s Black Friday and, as businesses get out of the red, it’s worth pausing to admire the Pizza Hut manager who lost his job when he tried to give corporate America an opportunity to see families as something more than a source of black ink.
While businesses traditionally mark profit in black ink and loss in red, Tony Rohr asked his boss to see past the ink to the value of family time.
Mr. Rohr, who has worked for the chain in its Elkhart, Ind. restaurant since starting as a cook more than 10 years ago, refused to open on Thanksgiving Day, according to the Associated Press.
Rohr says he was looking out for his employees in an attempt to preserve one of the very few guaranteed family-time holiday experiences on the restaurant’s calendar.
The result was being told to write a letter of resignation (The company has since offered him his job back, but he has not yet accepted.).
Instead, Rohr says he wrote a letter explaining that he believed that family should be more important, at least two days per year, than the almighty dollar.
"Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only two days that they're closed in the whole year, and they're the only two days that those people are guaranteed to have off and spend it with their families," Rohr told WSBT-TV.
This story resonated with me because this Thanksgiving was the first in many that my husband did not have to work. As a front-end designer for the Virginia-Pilot newspaper, he frequently has to work on holidays.
We have always rationalized his absence as an awful necessity and done our best to have dinner before lunchtime in order to have him there before his 4 p.m. shift started.
He also works Christmas most years.
The tension of trying to jam the family time and holiday “joy” into the spaces around his work hours has usually resulted in family arguments and crankiness.
Family time gradually became something to avoid.
However, having him home yesterday was such an incredible blessing that I realized how different our family would view holidays today if it had been complete each previous year.
Yesterday, we sat around the table laughing and telling old stories without the tension of having to hurry up and eat so he could go.
He wasn’t preoccupied and anxious.
It was relaxed and fun. We all connected because there wasn’t a time limit hanging over the meal – the corporate axe hovering above the turkey’s neck.
Afterwards, he sat and watched sports with two of the boys. My husband and I later walked off the meal together with the dog.
When we came home, he dozed in a tryptophan-induced slumber while I tidied the kitchen and made coffee.
Because jobs are scarce – and with two kids in college and a wife who works part time, my husband needs his so very much – he would never be able to risk his job as Rohr did in order to have some family time.
After dinner he told me he’s working Christmas Eve this year, which for him means not getting home until midnight or later.
That means Christmas morning will once again mean Papa is exhausted and the kids won’t understand that it’s not him being “a holiday grouch,” but an exhausted, dedicated provider.
Someday the kids will understand. It would be lovely if corporate America could get the picture right now. I know as a shopper I would appreciate and be loyal to a company that values families by allowing us to get more for our money than just things.
Lord, as we gather at the counter of the food court this Thanksgiving Day, we thank You for our blessings. We thank You for Kohl’s and Macy’s, for Toys R Us and Target, for Walmart and Best Buy and Penny’s. We thank You, too, Lord, for Polo, for Uggs, for Chanel. Please shower Your mercy on those less fortunate among us – especially those who have no friends or family coupons to redeem, and especially those still driving around the parking lot in search of a spot. Oh, and, Lord help the poor.
The cornucopia of stores now open on Thanksgiving Day has drawn a visceral “NO” in many circles: I know I will not shop on Thanksgiving, but I don’t want anyone else to either. I simply don’t like the idea of having shopping be possible on Thanksgiving at all. It dampens the enthusiasm for spending one day each year together atop Walton’s mountain, so to speak.
But the retailers have thrown down the gauntlet, defying an entire people to just try to wait till the turkey’s put away to do some shopping. It sets the whole of us back on our heels. It puts that panic-y “gotta get it done” feeling back in your stomach on the very day you want room in there for peach pie. You might not succumb to the lure of the loot, at least not this year, but your mom might, or your sister, upsetting the womb of the day. Maybe the teenagers start clamoring to get out of the house, and after all, what difference is there, really, between the mall and flag football? Between picking out a TV and snoozing in front of your own?
But wait. Isn’t what we’re doing all year in the stores the set-up for this very moment? Isn’t providing the backdrop for this kind of feeding and being fed and resting awhile together the very reason for all the shopping in the first place? Or at least a good deal of it?
Adrienne Lyles-Chockley, assistant visiting professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s College, understands all this. But she says that despite the complaining about stores being open, they wouldn’t be open unless there were people going in. “There isn’t anything inherently wrong with shopping on Thanksgiving,” she says, but she suggests that families, before following in shopping lockstep, can inventory their values to make sure that their holidays reflect the family they want to build.
“Many people have a shopping ritual, but think about whether that’s really the kind of ritual you want your family to have,” she advises. Then, too, there are the larger concerns – the fact that your shopping means somebody else has to work that day, for instance, or the association of early Christmas shopping with frenzy and with deal-hungry mobs. Consider whether these issues should affect your decision. In short, do the consistency check on your family’s values, making sure actions and intentions jibe.
Ms. Lyles-Chockley says that the choice about shopping starts with the individual, but that, as many individual families intentionally refrain from shopping in order to keep Thanksgiving sacred, it becomes its own kind of fad. “It becomes easier [for others] to say ‘we’re opting out of this.’ ”
Back to the dishes.
To much of the media much of the time, video games are a convenient whipping boy for all of society's problems: they distract the youth from social interaction and school, they encourage violence, they reward the meaningless wasting of time. It has always been clear that this view is (at best) half right, and that there's more going on in the world of video games than that, and a paper entitled "The Benefits of Playing Video Games" (from the Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands) does a great job of exploring the sunny side of the industry.
Overlooked in much of the popular obsession with the harm caused by video games are two really important points: First of all, games have changed immeasurably over the past decade, becoming far more complex and social.
Secondly: all video games are not alike. More accurately, they vary wildly in terms of tone, scope, objectives, and gameplay style – The Sims franchise is nothing like Civilization which is nothing like Call of Duty which is nothing like Minecraft. "The Benefits of Playing Video Games" likens making a broad assertion about all games to making a broad assertion about the health value of food in general – you really need to get more specific.
And like food, video games are no luxury – they're essentially omnipresent, with 97% of children and adolescents playing at least an hour of video games a day, and the industry earning more than double in 2010 ($25 billion) what Hollywood's box office sales were in the same year ($10.8 billion.)
That in mind, what's to like about the way these ubiquitous, sprawling, financially lucrative entertainment properties are shaping our kids' brains? Quite a bit, argues the paper. Games (particularly shooters) are one of the fastest ways to develop spatial relations skills. They're actually good at teaching problem solving. They're a legitimate creative outlet. And, more important than all of those points:
They're brilliant motivators.
Games build skills through repetition and variation, by adding a storytelling context that make exercises seem both fun and part of some greater whole, and by rewarding persistent effort. They're born teaching tools, even if they're not often deployed that way.
Even more interestingly: games actually help kids view intelligence productively, a meta-benefit that many other future benefits flow from. What does that mean? You can praise a child for being smart – saying, in effect, "you are smart, and if you succeed it's because of that innate quality, and if you fail, you must not be smart." Result: a kid afraid to take risks and fail because of what it might mean to their self-image. It's the "entity theory" of intelligence.
Or you can praise a child for working hard and trying to figure a problem out, encouraging the effort, and suggesting that you can get smarter and better via hard work. That's the "incremental theory" of intelligence, and it's the road to glory in terms of real achievement in life – and it's something that games, with their ramping difficulty levels, neatly solvable problems, and big "you did it!" reward screens directly supports.
The future of education, therefore, may not be games versus the classroom; it may be games as the classroom, or at least a significant part of it. And we can either embrace that prospect or panic about it. The incremental theory of intelligence seems to suggest that if we plug away it, we'll get better and better, to the benefit of all.