Every new narrative technology has been demonized upon arrival by those convinced it’s harming their children. In 1835, the American Annals of Education declared that the “perpetual reading” of novels “inevitably operates to exclude thought, and in the youthful mind to stint the opening mental faculties, by favoring unequal development. No one can have time for reflection, who reads at this rapid rate.”
Radio was so addictive, parents warned, that children were skipping meals to tune in, and film transformed viewers into sexually deviant criminals. Television was a mental wasteland. Video games created violent killers.
When I look at young people today, I see a generation that is everything these horrified oldsters were afraid of – no; worse. Far worse. If those people could see into today, they’d be out smashing radios and holding formal comic-burnings, just to save their great-grandkids from becoming what they glimpsed in nightmares.
Whether we ought to agree with their assessment is an open question. I mean, we’re used to ill-mannered kids without critical thinking skills, and maybe the fact that they know how to post naked pictures of themselves online is enough to make up for the fact that they can’t name a single Supreme Court justice. Who am I to judge, right?
But consider the logic itself: if every generation pushes the envelope just because pushing the envelope is what every generation does, is the logic that says “it [terrifies/shocks/infuriates] the elders, therefore it must be good” really the smartest way to determine what “progress” looks like?