[extropy-chat] ethical issues with children

pjmanney pj at pj-manney.com
Sun Jan 21 20:34:43 UTC 2007

MB wrote:
>Been there, what a problem! Suggestion: request donations to a
>prep-school/college/graduate-school fund until at least the child is old 
>enough to
>really appreciate certain carefully selected toys.

We tried that.  The grandparents (3 sets of them) sometimes oblige.  Sometimes not.

>Boxes are good toys for little ones. They come in all sizes and can play many 
>Bashing toys together is certainly something children enjoy. Boxes are pretty 
>And they're not terribly loud when they crash together. If they break they're 
>likely to injure anybody. And if they get chewed on that's not the end of the 
>either. ;)

Absolutely!  And wrapping paper, too.  It falls into "some things never change."  It's hard to chew on a virtual box.  ;-)

>It's very good to see extropians dealing with this kind of thing.

It is.  For my 2 cents, I'm in the "old-fashioned" camp.  You can always learn certain intellectual skills, like computer skills, in school and later childhood.  But imaginitive skills are different.  I've seen some deeply literal children come from these deeply literal toys.  Can't play "Batman" without the "Batman" doll.  Can only play Star Wars with the Annikin action figure.  Not Batman.  Who are these kids???  [Actually, I know.  They have deeply literal parents.  They're also part of the generation birthed by people who somehow think they were deprived.  And have to keep up with the Joneses. (Not you, Spike!)  And can't be bothered really caring what their kids play with and how it will affect them, as long as it looks good.  And yes, I absolutely agree, they are buying the toys for themselves.  To feed their gaping, consumerist maw that will never be filled, because they're looking for an emotional fix with a material possession.  Quite a species, ain't we?!  Okay, I'm done now.]

All the books and music (again, appropriate) they want.

Almost no television - maybe an hour total a month of commercial broadcasting.  We do watch appropriate movies on disc, and non-fiction documentaries.

No (or few) branded toys in our house.  Closely monitored and rationed time on the computer, although they both love Runescape, along with their friends.  And since I know what I know, I know that virtural world skills WILL come in handy when society is split between the physical and vitural, so I allow it.  But not a lot.  They pick it up fast and they've still got their imaginations to develop.

Lots of things you can build with.  My kids have my own set of Creative Playthings wooden blocks, bought in 1965.  My son (10) still uses them in conjunction with his Lego Mindstorm projects!  Those Mindstorms are fun things.  For those of us who don't have the Mr. Fixit skills of a Robert or a Spike, it gives them an opportunity to design and make things that do stuff.  Without us wondering what the hell they're doing and will the house burn down...

{BTW, I wanted to thank Alejandro for posting the Mindstorm Autofabrik!  My son's head exploded!  He's been watching it over and over, to see how they did it.  Somehow, with our limited parts, I don't think we'll manage to replicate it...  ;-) )

Physical stuff: bikes, skateboards, skates, sports equipment.  My kids fell in love with Badminton when I brought home a cheap set from CostCo.

A place (preferably outside) they can call their own: We have a yard, so my folks gave them a great jungle gym set from Cedarworks of Maine.  Awesome thing.  We call it "the condo."  It's their fort, clubhouse, swings, etc.  But it could be the cardboard box the new fridge came in.  Or a patch of open dirt amongst the shrubs.  We've did those, too.

Also, kids will guide you soon enough.  My son is car crazy.  Lego cars, car models, photos and posters of cars are everywhere.  He says he wants to become a car engineer and designer.  So you feed the passion.  He goes to car shows, learns at the feet of my husband's best friend, who is a car 'expert' (the kind who builds an experimental engine in his living room in his spare time...)  I spend time showing him alternative fuel sources, radical designs and encourage him to think outside the box.

Now watch.  He'll become a lawyer.  :-(

My daughter (8) has dolls, dollhouses, musical instuments, etc.  Loves those things and has a very rich, imaginitive life with them.  She's inherited some of mine, but to be fair, she actually plays with them.  Mine sat in my room, mostly ignored, in my mother's failed attempt to feminize my interests (except I liked to build sarcophegei with the above blocks, mummify Barbie in toilet paper and do burial rituals with Skipper as the High Priest(ess); and the dollhouses I treated like real interior design projects!  Wallpaper, flooring, molding, paint, upholstery -- I loved that!).

My kids love boardgames and card games.  It not only teaches them game skills, it teaches them to play well with others in their physical proximity, which video/computer games don't do.  Only watch out playing Texas Hold 'em with real money with a 10 year old.  He'll clean you out faster than you can say Kenny Rogers...


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