As adults, we tend to project our fears backward onto children. But the tendency to view everything new as a mortal threat not only leads to bad laws--it makes life pretty lame for kids and grown-ups alike.
Rather than letting fear control his family, Jordan Shapiro is trying to buck the trend. His recent book, The New Childhood: Raising Kids to Thrive in a Connected World (Little, Brown Spark), is unlike virtually any other book about kids and video games. A psychologist who teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia, Shapiro is upbeat about the many ways new technology is transforming childhood.
"We want to make sure we all come together as a community, because that's better for all of us," he says. The question is: "How do we teach our kids to use these tools to do that?" Shapiro spoke to Reason's Nick Gillespie about his unorthodox child-rearing philosophy in February.
Q: What are you trying to accomplish with your book?
A: The main thing I'm trying to accomplish is to give parents a way of understanding the time that our kids are living in. We live in a connected world. These technologies are not going anywhere. But in our panic over kids and tech, we're failing to inject old values into those new things.
Q: You're 41 and your kids are 11 and 13, and you play video games with them. What has that taught you?
A: Well, first, I'll be honest. I don't game that much with my kids anymore, because they're too good at it and they don't like it when I play. I still spend a lot of time watching them play and talking to them about what they're doing. But it did start with us gaming together. We had a Nintendo Wii, and playing it allowed us to have so many different kinds of conversations. The language of the game started to inform conversations about other things. I would use examples like, "You need a power up to do better at school." Those kinds of silly metaphors that work with little kids.
Q: In the book, you refer to Minecraft, which is an online game with players all over the world, as a "global play date" and a "sandbox." Talk about what you mean by that.
A: We live in a global world, right? And kids need practice building the social skills to work with people in a global...