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Watching TV With Your Kids Creates Deep Familial Bonds If You Have The Proper Components

Sony-flat-screen-tv I'll be honest with you. Unless I'm in one of those whimsical kindergarten teacher moods with animated blue birds perched on my shoulders, I don't like talking to my kids that much. We don't share many interests. Except one. Click Here

The proliferation of technology in the 20th c. distorted the meanings of time and space and altered the fundamental way we relate to things in catastrophic ways. We assess the value of everything we encounter in terms of what it does, how fast, and its potential for making money. Though we get to play with the leftover gadgets that result from the advance of technology, the real heart and thrust, the cutting edge, of technology is its military applications. The peak of our inventive power is utilized toward the end of killing the most people with the most efficiency. Technology is a monster. Sometimes, a subtle one. Though marketed as that which makes our lives more comfortable and easy, the flip side of all this easy comfort is a culture of lazy people drowning in a sea of apathy.

But, hell, it's not going away. What can we do about it? [Shrugs shoulders.] Maybe there's an iPhone app that'll fix it.

I have kids. I have a bunch of technology. The question is this: Must the technology strip my kids of their humanity, reducing them to thoughtless cogs in a machine bent on its own self destruction? Is it a given that technology erects barriers between family members, leading us further down paths that alienate and isolate us from one another? Or can technology possibly be utilized as a tool that actually connects parents with their children in profounder forms of intimacy and family togetherness?

I believe it’s the latter. However, if we truly want technology to bring our families closer together, a lot depends on the quality of the technology. Do we want to connect a little? Or do we want the entire family submerged in a super charged field of techno-togetherness? I know my answer. I love my kids.

And my love is expressed by the quality of entertainment components in our living room. 46 beautiful inches of LCD HDTV. 1080p. 120Hz. It’s a grand thing to behold, even off, it’s lovely. But is our television’s stunning visual potential wasted by sending it the shoddy signal from a standard DVD player? Hell no. We use a Blu-ray disc player with a 405 nm blue-violet laser. After all, it’s our kids’ eyes we’re talking about here. If your kids squint at a standard def  TV with DVDs read by a 650 nm red laser and you can still manage to live with yourselves, to each his own.

I’m not sure what brings me more joy in terms of our entertainment center: the pristine visual clarity or its miracle of sound potential. 6.1 channels of cutting edge Yamaha sound, attacking us from strategically mounted speakers positioned around the entire room. We’re surrounded by sound! Virtually inside the audio experience and, together with the previously described visual aspects, we are now primed and ready to be entertained. Wait. Make some popcorn. Huddle up now, together in the middle of the couch, in that sweet spot toward which all the audio points. 

All these devices are merely formal methods of projecting content. My wife and kids are primarily focused on the content, on the actual movie, and I am too. But, I confess, I get excited by the effects of the formal devices too: animation is so beautiful in high def, I love it when a soundtrack relies heavily on the rear speakers (doors slamming behind me, sounds of laser battle all around pew pew pew), and - most importantly - the formal process of four individuals submerged inside one entertainment spectacle, forming one entity in its focused interest on a story that unfolds around us, holding us together, a family.

Our closeness occurs in this submerged focus, in this sharing, in this accumulation of stories that we watch and hear together. 

What do you think? A culture’s cohesiveness traditionally coheres in their collective collection of common stories. They used to recite stories from memory around fires. Is technology the fire around which the modern family gathers?

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Aside: This post was brought to you by Dodge, which is awesome because my first car was a tan Dodge Omni. This was a piece of technology that brought me and Kerri Wolf a lot closer in the parking lot behind Pine Park.


Click HereThis Content Series is brought to you by Dodge Caravan, so technologically advanced your kids will be like '011101110110100101101110.





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BHJ can't wait until technology makes him a hologram.






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Comments

Julie @ The Mom Slant

We do watch TV together. On a TV much like yours (plasma though). And it sparks great discussions. Just last night, watching Mad Men on DVD (sorry, no Blu-ray), we talked about why Sal got fired.

Maybe not the way child development experts would advocate families interact, but oh well. We do a lot of stuff wrong at our house.

Bitchin' Amy

If you know me well, then you already know how I feel. If you don't know me that well... Uh, yeah, my life kind of revolves around technology almost as much as it does around the kids. And if I can get the two to work in tandem then I am in heaven. So, yeah, I love watching movies and shows with the kids. Yeah, I love playing video games with them. And, yeah, I miss the hell out of my LCD TV and surround sound system back in America, but have to admit that our limited TV viewing experience through the computer (straight from the iMac, no extra speakers)-- it is a great way to connect with the kids on a common point of interest.

Bitchin' Amy

I just re-read my comment and realize I garbled the end it, which of course, was the part where I actually make a point. Sigh.

My point was that, NO, I do not think the quality of your technology makes one bit of difference. It definitely makes the experience more awesome, but it doesn't change the way I/we feel about each other *in* the experience.

Sweetney

I'm of the Everything In Moderation school on this. I love watching shows with my daughter that we both enjoy (Project Runway! Adventure Time! WIPEOUT!!), but if that was the *only* time we spent together... well, you know.

I have a lot of fond childhood memories of watching TV with my parents. It WAS bonding. I felt that then, I feel it now.

Wizz

In favour of this one...although we're not a TV oriented family, we err on the evil computer games side of bad parenting. So the latest gaming tech is what we share. Most weekend evenings find all four family members playing four separate games on four separate devices...but together. It's now very far from the traditional view of 'kids shut off in a room, plugged into a blue screen in a catatonic state until mum comes in and shouts.' There is constant interaction between the four of us; tactics are discussed, cheats and walk throughs researched, battles and victories rejoiced over, the usual 'watch me, Mum!' happens...in other words, technology is just a normal family activity. I think the generation gap that existed between the generation that saw TV start and the generation that saw the computer start was very different and had very different dynamics to the modern family dynamic. No longer is technology something the parents don't get, and the kids are obsessed with. We all use and understand the technology, and the positive and negative sides of it. So the modern family bonds over movies and games, we're still bonding and spending time together which is what matters in the end!

Air Rift

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beta dad

It seems like you've got yourself convinced, anyway! You present a very compelling and passionately crafted argument that resonates even with a guy who hasn't had a TV since 2000.

The other side of the coin is that our forbears in story-centered family/clan/tribe life had to rely on their imaginations to experience the sensory elements of the tale, and the stories had to be memorized and performed in small groups. Probably these campfire sessions only happened on special occasions. If the family is simply bombarded by whizbang storytelling whenever they feel like it, at the touch of a button, it seems to to detract from the ceremonial, identity-constructing aspects of the low tech campfire story.

I don't know if having to actively engage in the story experience makes the campfire people better than the HDTV people, but it complicates the analogy.

I wonder if Saxon parents had to yell at their kids to put out the fire and stop reciting epic poetry.

Also, I don't quite buy the bit about the family "forming one entity" within the spectacle of the technological wizardry. When I have sensory overload, I tend to forget everyone around me.

When I was a kid, we didn't always have a TV. But whenever we watched a movie or a show (or passed a book around from person to person), we spent more time talking about the story than we did consuming it. That seems healthy. Later though, when we got TV and no one enforced any limits on it, I used it to tune out the rest of the family, because it was easy and I was an adolescent jerk.




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