Season after Pentecost, 2023
There's no question that the number of screens we have available to us have changed our lives and can change our schools. There's also no doubt in my mind that we need to limit the amount of "screen time" that kids have.
But I take real issue with an angle in a recent NPR story Kids And Screen Time: Cutting Through The Static.
Thirteen-year-old Tom Zimmerman gets it: "One example: this one kid who was, like, in this room, and he had, like, this fake lightsaber, and he was acting really crazy. And it looked really stupid. And it was funny, but I'm sure that kid won't want it in the future. But so many people have taken that video and put it on their channels that there's no way of getting rid of it."
That 2002 video — of one teen boy in a heated lightsaber battle with himself —has been watched millions of times, but the so-called "Star Wars Kid," now in his 20s, says he was bullied because of it and had to leave school.
And that gives principals like Brad Zacuto not one but two big reasons to worry about screen time: 1) Because of what's not happening — important face-to-face time; and 2) Because of what is happening — kids putting themselves out there in embarrassing and potentially dangerous ways.
I beg to differ. Thirteen-year-old Tom Zimmerman doesn't get it. Neither does reporter Cory Turner.
The problem with the "Star Wars Kid" video is not the video; it's the bullying. Why aren't we talking about the bullying?
Because the video "is pretty amazing", or so comments reporter Cory Turner in the audio version of the story.
Just see for yourself:
So, step back and look at this. What is being proposed here is that kids not "put themselves out there" at all.
Is that wise? In this increasingly digital economy we want to stifle this form of creative self-expression too? We've already taken away art and music, and now kids can't even make awesome YouTube videos in their basements?
So what if you embarrass yourself? Make another one! There has to be a happy medium here. Kids have to be able to play around with this stuff. We've never had video tools available like we do today. Don't we want kids to play with this stuff?
The odds of your video going viral are next to nothing (not discussed in the NPR story) and the odds of you encountering bullying are pretty high (not addressed in the NPR story).
What's really "dangerous" here is stifling imagination, risk-taking, and a sense of play. What's really "dangerous" is telling kids that they must conform to their peers, not stick out in any way, and not have any original ideas, lest they be bullied by the enforcers of the status quo.
The answer is more creative self-expression, not less. Every kid should have to submit a "Star Wars" video.
At least you would in my class.
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