Parenting in the Age of Computer

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter, Viva, who will not hand over her iPad and has never heard the word “courier.”

Disparities in technological aptitude are among the most reliable markers of a generation gap. My grandmother doesn’t own a computer. My dad paws at his desktop like a cat interrogating a Roomba. At 40, I’m on computers and social media all day, but I’ll never understand Snapchat. My 5-year-old, however, was swiping at mirrors at six months old because she thought they were touchscreens. She’s a digital native, and we’ll never truly understand each other. So, how do those of us born in the Age of the Speak ‘n Spell raising kids in the Age of the iPad handle the intersection of parenting and technology? There are books to read–largely about putting down smart phones. There are researchers and gurus like the witty and insightful Alexandra Samuel. I, myself, like to get my advice from someone with “a very good brain” and “the best words:” five-time father, ersatz college founder and soon-to-be leader of the free world, Donald J. Trump.

On Wednesday, Dec. 28, the petulant-nectarine-who-would-be-king was asked what he thought about bipartisan supported sanctions against the Putin regime for their interference in the U.S. election. The failed-casino-owner-who-doesn’t-know-how-long-a-necktie-is-supposed-to-be replied: “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.” It’s a tough sentence to parse, but remember he has to translate all his thoughts from the original Russian.

Scalp-reduction-malpractice-victim Donald Trump is right, though, folks–it IS where nobody knows exactly what is going on. It is truly the Age of Computer, and who in their right mind can trust computer? Not I.

As he said in the debates: “As far as the cyber … we should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. We have so many things that we have to do better … and certainly cyber is one of them.” I know that I can do the cyber better than I am right now. Am I cybering hard enough? My daughter cybers very hard–but is she cybering too hard?!

When bloviating-kleptocrat-and-Charles-in-Charge-enthusiast Trump was born, computers were whirring leviathans the size of a barn whose primary function was to print out small punch cards that read, “Take it from Harry S. Truman: For a Figure That’s Neat, Go Easy on Wheat!” There wasn’t much to understand. Decades later, when I was in elementary school, computers had been winnowed down to the size of a TV but they were still very simple. They existed to organize recipes, which they didn’t do quite as well as a stack of index cards. Computers had cool light up letters on a black screen, though, so just being near them made you feel like Tron. By high school you could play Oregon Trail on computers. It wasn’t quite as fun as other analog-era childhood games like vandalism, smoking or finding barrels full of skin mags in the forest preserve, but when a member of your Oregon Trail party died of diptheria you could at least write “Here Lies Butt” on a tombstone and know that someone on that library computer later that day would be forced to read the word “butt.” This was the dawn of the cyber, and we immediately became trolls.

On New Year’s Eve, the-guy-who-thinks-twenty-foot-light-up-letters-make-for-classy-hotel-signage gave sage advice to reporters: “You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe.” And that’s where I’m failing as a parent. I’m showing my daughter how to email, how to order things online, how to text and Skype and register for activities and pay bills and edit photos and take classes and teach classes and read and write all on Computer. Sad! I’ve got to knock off all this Age of Computer nonsense. If she’s home sick from preschool tomorrow, I need to write out “Viva is sick today” on a piece of paper, seal it with wax, roll it up, tie the note to the leg of a messenger bird and then toss the bird out the window to bring the message to the teacher. If it comes home afterwards, it gets an honest day’s mouse for an honest day’s work. If it gets captured, well, I like birds who weren’t captured. America needs to become great again, and it’s going to do it through an explosion in courier service jobs. By the end of 2017 you’re not even going to be able to walk down the street there are going to be so many people employed on bikes bringing carbon copies of memorandums between gold-plated office buildings. It’ll be yuge.

So, that’s my computer-related advice for parents in 2017. Stop cold turkey and make your kid stop, too. Drop off your smartphone at a flea market and buy your kid a hoop and a stick. Put down the tablets. Boot down the IBM. Close down the apps. (Except maybe Twitter.) Hackers are everywhere and according to Don-King’s-best-friend-and-seventy-year-old-father-of-a-ten-year-old Donald Trump, Russia, China or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” is likely hacking you right now. Nothing you do online is secure, nor is it worth your time. Sinister forces, foreign dictators and, I guess, large sleepy men can see what we computer, and steal what we cyber. Those recipes you put on floppy disks on your TRS-80 may have seemed secure, but when you input recipes, you’re probably sending them right to North Korea or Syria, and you never know when Julian Assange is going to leak your buffalo sauce pull-apart bread secrets to the world. Soon the world will know that your secret ingredient is “more buffalo sauce.” And when your kid downloads a game to clap along with Little Einsteins … they might just be clapping along with Chinese Ministry of State Security head Chen Wenqing.

Together we can close the generation gap. Together we can stop cyber and go out and play Kick the Can like our grandpappies did. Together we can figure out exactly what is going on, and end the Age of Computer.

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