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Parenting: Honey, I Wired The Kids


Striving, however, does not always pay off.

Having, for instance, chosen an academically superior school for our children, we find that technology is looked down upon.

"The kids tell us about computers," said a fifth-grade teacher with remarkably deft condescension during one parent-teacher conference I endured not long ago.

My middle-school daughter has recently come home to report that every time she goes back to an interesting kid site or game site at a school computer, a blocking sign appears, saying do your homework!

I suppose the face-off here is a natural one between technology and pedagogy, but the snobbery is clear too. Technology is an arriviste thing (which is true).

Gallingly, we recently endured the great e-mail ban in our academically superior school.

The ban, which was instituted this winter, made it an offense to send or receive personal e-mail from a school computer. Now, this directly impacted on our household, because my older daughter passes a particular cheese store on her way home from school, which means that if I e-mail her in time with my preferences, she'll pick my choice of Italian/French/Spanish cow/goat/sheep on her walk home.

I was going to write a letter. ("If you even think of it . . . !" my daughter threatened, heading me off.)

The solution, of course, is merely to upgrade our handheld devices to wireless network status, which I suppose also has the benefit of offering a lesson to my children in how technology subverts authority. Ha!

Certainly we spend too much time thinking about our technology. Possibly, we spend as much time in our house on the rituals, protocols, procedures, and complexities of digital media and communications as families in another era might have spent on religious dogma and training.

But our children are blasé. They are post-nerd kids (assimilated). These are un-meaningful appliances for them. Just a bridge to somewhere.

Indeed, I find the highest order of technological accomplishment to be my teenagers' bedrooms. In fact, there is some kind of developmental progression you can watch in which, over a few years' time, the technology comes together in a smoothly running universe of totally maximized communication and information access (among the dirty clothes, papers, food).

I know few offices or news outlets or international monitoring groups as in touch with the world as my 16-year-old daughter's room.

This isn't specialized geekdom, either; this is just an up-to-the-minute media universe.

There converge in my daughter's room (and it is a very small room) multiple copper land lines, high-speed broadband connectivity, cable access, and wireless cell and PDA reception. From the Web, from anyone she has ever known who is sending her e-mail, from mobile teen callers to AOL IMers to Katie Couric to whatever Napster is scarfing down for later listening amusement to various English-class texts she is downloading for searchability, portability, and other use, it all ends up here.

It is cool.

At least it is when you have a mother to get it working for you.



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