Children overwhelmingly prefer playing with their friends and parents over watching TV.
When children across the world were asked to choose between watching TV or playing with friends or parents, they overwhelmingly choose to play with friends (89%) and parents (73%) with TV a very poor substitute for social interaction at only 11%.
Nearly half of the parents think play should be educational. Children disagree.
Nearly half (45%) of all parents think that play is best when it’s educational. This rises to two thirds of parents in China, Slovakia, Czech Rep, Spain, Hungary, Russia, Poland and Portugal. A further minority at 17% (China, Italy, Russia and US) actually prefer their children to learn things rather than to simply play. 27% think play should always have a purpose. As for the children, 51% actually prefer to play rather than learn.
The rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects. But Sherry Turkle, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and who has studied texting among teenagers in the Boston area for three years, said it might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop.
“Among the jobs of adolescence are to separate from your parents, and to find the peace and quiet to become the person you decide you want to be,” she said. “Texting hits directly at both those jobs.”
Psychologists expect to see teenagers break free from their parents as they grow into autonomous adults, Professor Turkle went on, “but if technology makes something like staying in touch very, very easy, that’s harder to do; now you have adolescents who are texting their mothers 15 times a day, asking things like, ‘Should I get the red shoes or the blue shoes?’”
Parents today spend much more time with their children than they did 40 years ago. The sociologists Suzanne Bianchi, John Robinson and Melissa Milkie report that married mothers in 2000 spent 20 percent more time with their children than in 1965. Married fathers spent more than twice as much time.
A study by John Sandberg and Sandra Hofferth at the University of Michigan showed that by 1997 children in two-parent families were getting six more hours a week with Mom and four more hours with Dad than in 1981. And these increases occurred even as more mothers entered the labor force.
Yet something happened the other day that made me think I have been too hard on my students. I often try to describe to them the way their ancestors, not all that long ago, would have chosen the mates of their children, a practice they associate today with some backward part of India. I try to help them see that the choice of a marriage partner should be based on wider considerations than romance alone. To focus this discussion, I ask them a hypothetical question. Suppose you were to be guided in your selection of a wife by one, and only one, of two factors, either your hormones or your parents. That is, would you let your parents pick your wife or would you rather trust your sensual desire, that spark of attraction that makes you light up with sexual longing?
In past years, my students were horrified at the thought of their parents choosing their marriage partners. This year was different. Many of them said they would trust their parents. In fact, more said they would trust their dads than their moms. They thought their moms would look for a good girl and disregard looks altogether, while they thought their dads would probably get the balance of moral and physical attributes just about right.
I found their conversation to be very moving, and wondered if my two young boys, when they reach the marrying age, will have that kind of trust in me. We lose something when we do not have to fight for what we believe, but what we have gained in father and son relationships is so much more important that I do not regret that my boys will never be able to relate to Cat’s in the Cradle.
Why would the housewives of 2008 — many of whom read Good Housekeeping — choose to spend so much less time cooking and cleaning than their grandmothers did? You can’t blame the lack of technology for grandma’s intensity; ads for Norge dishwashers and Spam show that labor-saving devices and prepared foods existed in 1958.
Instead, the answer might be found in another striking difference between the 1958 Good Housekeeping and its 2008 counterpart. There is almost nothing in the older magazine about parenting. There are instructions on making clothes for your kids, but little about nurturing their souls or brains. In 2008, on the other hand, one of the longest articles is about “Staying Close to Your Teen” by doing crafts together, jamming to her music, or learning about his hobbies. An essay by Anna Wulick talks about teaching Hanukkah traditions to her daughter; a “Book Bonus” excerpt from Amy Dickinson’s new memoir recounts introducing her daughter to God and teaching her that “when prayers go unanswered, you learn to change your prayers.”
Indeed, reading through the two Good Housekeping issues back to back, it’s hard not to reach the conclusion that, on the whole, American culture is far more child-centered now, in these days of two-income families, than when most women stayed home. If the 1958 Good Housekeeping is any indication, many moms in the June Cleaver era were too busy brushing the nap of their electric blankets to ponder how best to bond with their teens. As women’s time has become more valuable, though, because so many are working, working moms have chosen to spend their limited time not sewing tops for their kids, but playing, talking, and praying with them instead.
What the reading yields is the idea of father and mother as the Universal Father and Mother, the Lord‘s dear Adam and His beloved Eve; that is, essential humankind as it came from His hand. There is a pattern in these Commandments of setting things apart so that their holiness will be perceived Every day is holy, but the Sabbath is set apart so that the holiness of time can be experienced. Every human being is worthy of honor, but the conscious discipline of honor is learned from this setting apart of the mother and father, who usually labor and are heavy-laden, and may be cranky and stingy or ignorant or overbearing. Believe me, I know this can be a hard Commandment to keep. But I believe also that the rewards of obedience are great, because at the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.
The change in the way these children address their parents probably stems from baby boomers’ less authoritarian child-raising practices. Technology is a factor, too, given the offhand style that people use in instant messages and cellphone texts. The Internet has made people comfortable using names that are not their own - in particular, the frequent use of screen names online has made naming a bit more elastic, said Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who is a former president of the American Name Society, a group that studies the cultural significance of names. Screen names, he said, “might have made people freer to think of the same person addressed by multiple names, and that’s what nicknaming is.”