The parenting dis-Kinect
Author: Clay Nichols

I’m thinking about the challenges faced by previous generations of parents. Parents who had to cope with the arrival of Rock ‘n’ Roll or the Sexual Revolution; parents who had to send their kids off to the factory or the draft.

I’m thinking about these parents as I try to figure out how to attach the Kinect sensor to the XBOX.

If you had to distill the greatest challenges faced by this generation of parents down to a single word, would it start with a lowercase i ?

The Ghosts of Parents Past smirk and ask: “Really? That’s what you’ve got to deal with? Little light-up thingies that amuse you and make life easier, and some imaginary gathering place invented by a twerp in a hoodie? Tough one!”

Maybe we’re a fortunate batch of breeders gone soft as church music, but if you want to witness real panic and chaos, sneak up on a crowded PTA meeting and shout “sexting!” or “violent video games!” and watch the gathering dissolve into a spastic, gibbering bedlam.

(You expecting and newborn parents are feeling smug right now, but that first teething-biscuit encrusted smudge on your smartphone is months, not years away.)

Maybe an iPad is less dangerous to kids than a steam powered loom, but it seems like the headlines announcing the prevalence of online bullying or the threat to literacy posed by auto-correct scream at us daily. From our iPads.

And it’s not just the tech that’s got us ‘rents jumpy, it’s the rate of change. I propose we get an injunction preventing the introduction any new gadgets that kids will want until the parental controls on 80% of the old ones are turned on.

Which brings me back to my Kinect — a gadget that makes gaming more fun by scanning and storing my children’s voices, faces and body sizes. Would I trade my misgivings about this harvest (what could go wrong?) for the worries of an agrarian dad of yore? Are we that different? Woods or web, we both keep a sharp eye out for predators, but both know that sooner or later, the children must go out there alone.

Clay Nichols is one of the founders of and co-author of
“DadLabs Guide to Fatherhood: Pregnancy and Year One.” He lives in Austin with his wife Kim and three children.

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