“The New Childhood”

The unknown surrounding new technologies often cause concern. In the case of iPhones and Xboxes, parents worry their kids are over-engaged. But Dr. Jordan Shapiro is offering a different perspective. In his new book, “The New Childhood” Shapiro argues that everyone needs stop worrying about our children’s device usage and instead harness that usage for good.

Shapiro, who teaches the Intellectual Heritage Program at Temple University, says the reactions to smartphones and video games today are not much different than the way society acted to new technologies in the past.

Jordan Shapiro The New Childhood
Jodan Shapiro Credit: jordanshapiro.org

For example, when the printing press was invented and books were bound for people to take home there was an uproar that stories would become too isolated of an activity.

“Because stories had always been told communally, whether that’s around a campfire or at church,” says Shapiro.

While we forget that trains were once a new technology, Shapiro says physicians and neuroscientists were once worried about kids staring out the window of moving trains.

“Because the images go by so fast and the human brain is not capable of taking in things at that speed,” Shapiro says back then the physicians were concerned about brain damage.

Play video games with your kids

Several years ago Shapiro was going through a transition in his life. He and his wife were separated, and he was worried about his kids.

“They were little, and it was hard enough on me, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be on them to go through such a giant shift in their life.”

Shapiro wanted to find a way to spend time and bond with his kids. So he tried sitting on the couch and playing video games with them.

“And that gave me the opportunity to talk about so many other things cause we were just sort of sitting next to each other playing,” said Shapiro.

But he also believes he was helping his kids create narratives about their digital life.

“I was both using the digital world to help them make sense of their none digital life, and I was also preparing them to have a much more stable and healthy digital world,” said Shapiro.

To hear more of our conversation with Dr. Jordan Shapiro listen to Episode 85 of Class Dismissed. You can find Class Dismissed in your favorite podcast app or on iTunes.

Other notes from Episode 85

To protect kids, don’t send report cards home on Fridays

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