(I have lots of stories from lots of events over the weekend, but for now here’s Tony with another guest column. )
When I was five (cue era appropriate soundtrack, ELO’s “Livin’ Thing” comes to mind..) the only things I ever took home from school were chicken pox and Sphenisciphobia (Google it..). So imagine my shock when my first grade son came home with an iPad.
At first I thought he’d crashed through the roof of Target commando style and snatched it off a display rack while laying down a submissive blast from a water cannon to keep sales associates at bay (he’s done it before), but it turns out it was part of District 58’s Pilot Program in which students in selected grade levels take home an iPad mini “for use in all subject areas throughout the day and to take home in the evenings” with the hope that “students embark on creative, exciting projects throughout the year. “
Considering my son inherited my penchant for extreme clumsiness, I gave the device a 38% chance of surviving the week intact, but he surprised me by not only preventing it from becoming a smoldering lump of melted plastic and gorilla glass shards, but actually using it (and the accompanying school approved “movie making” app) to direct movies with his sister and friends.
My son the future film director … hey why not? Maybe he’s not destined to a life of futility pursuing a job as a professional Lego Star Wars player. Maybe, from these humble beginnings, this confluence of events that placed this inspirational technology into the hands of my previously easily distracted child could emerge his generation’s Steven Spielberg!
Do I own a tux? Will it still fit me when I attend the Oscars? Will the camera find me during his acceptance speech when he gives me a wink and calls me his hero? Will I be seated next to Angelina Jolie Cesare? Will she look lovingly into my face as tears of pride roll down my cheeks? Will she still be as hot?
I was still lost in the daydream when I got a call from my wife (not Angelina) informing me that a teacher at the school confiscated his ipad because she had witnessed “inappropriate content” on it. The Principal would be contacting us over the weekend.
So much for that tux. Maybe a burka for my wife so she can grocery shop without revealing the shame in her eyes.
We sat down with our son that night and impressed upon him that the iPad was not a toy, there was a right and wrong way to use it, and obviously he had chosen the wrong way. As to what exactly constituted “inappropriate?” He didn’t provide any clues, but that didn’t stop my mind from wandering to some very dark places.
Forget Spielberg, was I raising the next David Lynch?
It turns out that the inappropriate material he created was a “Pirates versus Ninjas” movie starring him and his friends (no nudity) and the inappropriate material consisted of a pop up ad for a gaming website that featured a buxom Warrior Princess character coaxing viewers to click here (not THERE!) for an amazing adventure. The ad was part of a screen grab from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” website, doubtful my son ever noticed it.
Apart from feeling relieved that our son’s transgressions were age appropriate, we were left feeling frustrated at the school’s definition of “inappropriate” material. I think we can all agree that any six year old boy who is handed this technology is naturally going to gravitate to what appeals to him most, and while he never considered directing a documentary on Field’s Medal winner Terence Tao (which is a shame but that’s a story for another blog), we hardly felt that Captain Jack Sparrow and sword fighting (not that kind) was inappropriate.
Then again, where does the school draw the line? While speaking with my son’s Principal (who could not have been more professional) I restrained myself from using the word “overreacted” because I recognize the immense challenge the district faces regulating content considered appropriate. The fact that the website that contained the image of Princess Iron Tits made it through the district’s content filters underscores just how hard it is to regulate content kids are exposed to.
I think it’s worth it. We can fool ourselves into believing our kids want to play kick the can, watch H.R. Pufnstuf reruns or stage their own variety hour (Hey! We can put on a show! There’s a piano in the barn and my sis knows music…) but the reality is they will grow up more “connected” than we can ever imagine. We may as well guide them now and point out the positive from the negative, even at the risk of the lines getting blurred. I would rather teach my kids to err on the side of caution on the Internet, maybe then they’ll think twice someday before bullying a classmate via social media.
It was also pointed out to me that some of the photos my son took around our house featured empty liquor bottles in the background. Maybe his next feature could be a sequel to Leaving Las Vegas; he can film it right in the Living Room.