Remote Kontrolled Kidz

That outdoor play has largely gone the way of the dodo bird is a great loss for our children and,  as you know if you’ve been keeping up with this blog, a matter of personal concern and the focus of future books.

But even if our kids stay indoors where they are “safe” they don’t read anymore. They watch us, and do what we do. We don’t read. We punch buttons. And they want our tools and toys in their hands. They want the remote–no matter what its buttons do.

“Children want to emulate their parents, whether they are on the phone, using a digital camera or on their computers and online,” said Mark Randall, vice president of the toy and baby store at “The toy industry now has pretty much got a product for every one of those behaviors.”

Even toys with no typical connection to technology are newly wired. A new generation of popular stuffed animals and dolls, like Webkinz, are now tied to Internet sites so that toddlers can cuddle and dress them one minute and go online to social-network the next. Among the hottest toys listed in the holiday issue of Toy Wishes magazine are Barbie Girls MP3 players and the Rubik’s Revolution, a blinking, beeping update of the Rubik’s Cube that includes six electronic games.

“Are we creating media use as a default for play?” Dr. Shifrin asked. “When kids want to play, will they ask, ‘Where’s the screen?’ ”

And on a related note, this from long-time blogger Chris O’Donnell.

I wanted to let y’all know that after years of writing a blog for primarily my own enjoyment, I’m finally trying to do something useful with the medium. So please, check out the new blog at We are trying to help parents stay on top of the torrent of tech news by analyzing it from a “how does this affect my family POV” while bringing some rationality to the over hyped nonsense that sometimes passes for news these days.

Subscribe if you are so inclined, and definitely feel free to pass this on to anybody you know that might be interested. We are all parents, or at least know somebody that is a parent!

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, very interesting observations – one I am most concerned about. My grand-daughter, now 5, has computer time in kindergarten! She enjoys a couple of sites on my computer when she is with me – her favorite is My Little Pony, where she can color & play games. However, she also loves to be outside, whether it be kicking a soccer ball with the neighbor boys or riding her bike and/or scooter on the sidewalks. She also love to draw, so for Christmas this year I have bought an easel with lots of paper and color markers. It should keep her busy when the winter weather is so bad that we can’t be outside.