Models of Reality for Children in the Internet Age

In the past people raised their children as small adults. Children were an insurance policy against the hassles of old age and infirmity, and childhood was not a productive period in the life of a newly acquired asset. So children were rapidly moved from the home to fields, factory, or apprenticeship, in order to support the rest of the family and their prematurely aging parents.

Happily, nowadays, childhood is a longer proposition. But the rate of change of the world has increased, so the necessary problem solving skills for survival have become more complex to master. Children have always employed toys as models in becoming acclimatized to the world around them. The models of horses and riders and dolls of a hundred and fifty years ago have now been supplanted by computer games and television shows which reflect the complexity of the real world. The Second-Life-ers and reality show enthusiasts are soaking up information which enables them to deal with complex and rapidly changing realities.

You might think that the travails of a let's-vote-them-off reality show are far from the concerns of reality. However, if you have a little work experience, you appreciate the need to maintain a degree of glad handing in the avoidance of pathological backstabbing, and you also appreciate the reality of changing objectives as missives from head office about mergers and acquisitions take their toll on the status quo. Why not learn by example the correct blend of popularity, conspiracy, and deceit, in the comparative safety of your own living room.

Testing your social strategies in the relative safety of the online world is also wise. No chance of dangerous physical contact and the complete avoidance of overridden discriminating functions through a hormone induced haze.

The distractions of childhood are generally fashioned to be useful. The horse and cart models helped their young owners understand how the world operated. Similarly the vote-them-off reality shows and computer games teach their teenage viewers today how to solve social and other problems. The problems are different to those that confronted young Victorians, but they are still vital to survival. Today's children need to know how to fit into a fickle social world where fashions change rapidly, and being unfashionable, or voted off, means that you lose all influence and standing within the group. Similarly, the logical problem solving necessary to understand how to make modern electronic equipment, or vehicles, perform correctly demands many years of experimentation and experience with a succession of console oriented computer games.

When games are correctly fashioned they are not only fun but educational. They help the child through a logical sequence of activities that enable success in the real world. If you can solve the puzzles inherent in typical computer games, you can work your way through the complexities of the tax system, for example.

However, play has had to be cunningly rigged through the ages to be different to work. This is simply a marketing necessity. People are not going to pay for activities which are indistinguishable from hard labor. Only a great marketer, like Tom Sawyer or Jimmy Wales, can market work with little disguise. However, a certain similarity is invariably perceived as beneficial. Hence, Monopoly can be arduous - almost as arduous as building up a Trump-like property empire, Second-Life is life consuming, and Grand Theft Auto every bit as demanding as a sentence for taking and driving away, yet we happily pay for these simulations of the real world.

The reality is that society and technology are rapidly changing. The young adults of the future know that they need to be adaptable and this need results in the toys and entertainments of our age. It may not seem that these toys and entertainments are bursting with educational value. However, they are being selected by children as the devices that they need to allow them to adapt to a complex world.

So, let your children know that computer games, and telephones with complex interfaces are perfect training material for the life ahead of them! If you are lucky you may see a slight increase in the number of books that they read.

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