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Kids Need More Video Games, Not Less

[This is a post I originally wrote for one of my other sites, Gentlemen of Gaming. But it applies just as much to Modern Day Dad, so I thought I'd include it here too.]

 

Those of us who play video games regularly already know that, aside from entertainment, video games can have other (often unintended) benefits. And while I'm not really sold that playing Just Dance 3 on the Wii should really count as exercise, there are skills to learn and practice while playing games.

So if you've been wanting to get an XBOX 360 for the living room and still can't convince your wife, send her a copy of this article a friend sent me recently, Kids and video games: Why children should play more [Venturebeat.com]. Video games can promote cooperation, teamwork, problem solving, planning and thinking "outside of the box." 

"...The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) states that kids actually need more, not less, video game play as a result. Citing games’ ability to prepare workers for the increasingly competitive global job market, the organization says that games promote strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, plan formulation, and ability to respond to change."

Despite what many parents may think (and what many bloggers may, ahem, blog about), not all video games are violent. In fact, the vast majority are not. And when you compare playing a game to more passive forms of entertainment like watching television, the differences are easilly contrasted.

I just wish this research existed when I was twelve.

Gee Mr. President, Thanks for the Christmas Card (Finally).

Obama_christmas_card_2011

I don't usually get political here on Modern Day Dad, but this isn't really a post about politics. Rather, it's a post more about politeness than politics.

In 2008 I was a big supporter of President Obama's campaign. For the first time in my life not only had I contributed money towards a campaign, but I had also volunteered. Even though it was a small amount of time (knocking on doors on election day), I enjoyed the victory because I felt like I had contributed something more than just my vote. That night I received the thank you email like everyone else, and I was happy.

That Christmas however I did expect a holiday card from the President, but not because of anything he did.

A few years previously my wife and I had moved into a new house, and that Christmas we received a card with a signed picture of (then) president George W. Bush. We hadn't ever given money and were both registered Democrats but somehow we got on some list. And even though he was barking up the wrong tree (politically speaking), I had to admit it was nice getting something in the mail from the President of the United States.

But in 2008 a card didn't come from the President. The country was in rough shape and I figured that they probably had more important things to spend money on than cards to political supporters.

Then in 2010 I volunteered for the Harry Reid reelection campaign here in Nevada. This time I spent many, many more hours and was fortunate to use some of my own skills for the benefit of the campaign. It was a great experience, and while I remain grateful to the campaign for the opportunity I never received any sort of formal thank you from the Senator or the campaign. A simple form letter would have been a nice thing to get, but by now my expectations had kind of been set by the Obama campaign so I wasn't really that surprised.

Then this year at Christmas I got, for the first time ever, a Christmas card from the first family (pictured above). Coincidentally, the 2012 reelection campaign is starting up and they're looking for more campaign donations. I don't mind the transparent marketing, but getting a Christmas card from someone only when they want something (and not when they don't) is insulting. Do they honestly think a holiday card this year is going to get me to contribute more money? Because believe me, it's had the opposite effect.


As a post script, I also happen to know it wasn't always this way in Democratic politics. In 1966 my mother (then a young college student) went out to the airport in St. Louis to see off Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Some photographers from Life Magazine were there, and my mother signed a photo release form. The pictures were never used, but few weeks later the Senator's office sent her a form letter thanking her, and underneath the signature Senator Kennedy himself wrote "Many thanks."

That's what I call good politics.

Talking "God" with Your Kids

Nytimes_child-cross_teetertotter

Discussions of God and the beliefs that different people have has been a topic of conversation with my kids this holiday season. Not at my instigation mind you, but at the prompting of a table-mate my kindergartner has at school. And while I was unprepared for these conversations at the outset, I'm fairly happy with how they've turned out.

Today a friend of mine pointed me towards a great article in the NY Times in October 2010, the crux of which is that kids can handle the messy truth and contradictions of life. Which is shaping up to be my experience too.

For a Child, God's Back Story by Bruce Feiler | NYTimes.com [via Room 421]

Thank you Steve Jobs.

It's hard not to dip into hyperbole about a man who's life is so extraordinary it essentially defies hyperbole. But I really can't think of a contemporary person (whom I've never met) that has had more of an effect on my daily life than Steve Jobs. His death is a great loss and, selfishly I suppose, I hope that his legacy survives long enough for us to transition into a world void of his unrelenting drive to make things better for everyone.

I think the best way to remember him is to go back and watch his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Two Girls Are Best

My last post for Man of the House is about a study that said the family configuration that results in the "happiest" family was two girls. As this happens to be the configuration of my own happy family, I had some thoughts of my own.

My editor changed what I originally wrote a bit, replacing my final paragraph with another. I still like mine better, so I thought I'd include it here:

I can't say what it's like to have more than two kids and I definitely don't know what it's like to be the father of a boy, but having two girls is pretty great. Before we had our second daughter I used to say to people that we had the first child for us, and the second child for our first. And while there is some truth to that, the older they get I'm realizing that it's the dynamic between the two that makes everything in our family more fun. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Are Two Daughters the Key to a Happy Family?  [manofthehouse.com]

How to Raise Boys That Read? Maybe Start By Parenting.

[Note: This is a post I originally wrote a month ago for another website. They changed their minds about it, so I'm posting it here.]

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

via online.wsj.com

Twice in my Facebook feed this morning people have posted links praising this opinion piece in the WSJ about the problem of getting boys to read books. Written by Thomas Spence (a book publisher in Dallas) it tries to explain the reasons for the apparent disparity in reading proficiency between boys and girls since 1992 (as stated in a study he mentions but doesn't link to). In the piece Mr. Spence points to what he believes are the two main culprits, books that pander to boys through "[their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor" and, wait for it, video games.

As for the gross-out humor, his argument is that by allowing boys to read books that they think are funny (apparently Mr. Spence has never laughed at a fart in his life) the education system isn't teaching them "manners and taste." He even uses a pretty rich quote from the venerable C.S. Lewis, who talks about how the "little human animal" must "be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful." (As an aside, I haven't read something so utterly condescending in a long while.)

Are fart books really turning our boys into idiot zombies?

Am I really expected to believe that in C.S. Lewis' time there was nothing of dubious literary merit for people to read and enjoy? There has always been things written poorly for cheap laughs or thrills, and somehow "literature" continued to thrive and societies maintained social norms. 

Having never personally read any of this newest class of books that "pander to boys' untutored tastes" I can't comment on their merits or lack thereof. But take a second and look at the roster of books Mr. Spence has published. While most all seem to be politically conservative treatises about "the Tyrrany of Judges", How to Beat the Democrats, and The Left Illusion, none of them are books for young readers. So is he an expert worthy of a WSJ opinion piece, or is there some other social agenda going on?

And then there's the old "let's blame video games for everything" argument. To back his conclusions up, the author cites one study from a Psychology professor at Dennison University that purports a causal relationship between video games and academic performance. One study is all is needed apparently, because "Science has spoken" (capitalization is all his too by the way). And the magic solution to fix boys, the education system and America? Take away the video games.

While I have to assume Mr. Spence's heart is in the right place, I think he's got it all wrong. The way to get boys' reading proficiency back up, or make them have better manners, or appreciate some of the truly amazing things humanity has created is to act like a parent. And this doesn't go just for boys by the way, it's also true for girls. I see no problem with allowing children to read so called "gross-out" books if they want, but you have to encourage them to read other stuff too. In my own life, my oldest daughter picks books she'd like to read, but I also choose books for her as well, typically the books I remember reading and loving when I was young. And I haven't had a complaint yet.

The same goes for video games. Act like a responsible parent and limit the amount of television, video games, sports, reading or anything that might be putting your children's lives out of balance. If your son isn't reading books and playing video games for three hours a day, then cold-turkey might be the way to go. But to say it's the fault of the video games is absurd.

And be an example for your kids as well - maybe your son isn't reading because you don't read. When is the last time you took your kids to the library or talked to them about a book you read? There are all kinds of reasons why boys might not read as much or as well as girls, but "I submit" the root of it isn't the video games or the subject matter of the books, it's the parents.

How to Raise Boys Who Read [WSJ.com]


A Blunt Truth About the Effect of the Wakefield Article on Vaccines and Autism

In a recent Medscape article titled "Autism and the MMR Vaccine, Revisited" (taken from a lecture and reprinted here), Dr. Paul Offit lays down what really matters with Wakefield's fraudulent Lancet publication.

Thousands of parents in England chose to not vaccinate their children. Hundreds were hospitalized and 4 were killed. Three in Ireland and 1 in London died because their parents feared the MMR vaccine more than they feared the measles. You could argue that the Wakefield paper killed 4 children.

My only problem with what Dr. Offit says? He still calls him "Dr. Wakefield." As we all know, he hasn't been a doctor for some time now.

Autism and the MMR Vaccine, Revisited [Reprinted at mi-aimh.org - Medscape is subscription only.]

New Nintendo 3DS Not Safe For Kids Under Six. Really Nintendo?

via manofthehouse.com

Nintendo says their new gaming system the 3DS might hurt the eyes of children under six, but eye doctors are saying that's not necessarily true. Aren't the big bad companies supposed to be putting our kids at risk (for a profit) while doctors are supposed to warn us against this kind of stuff?

It's an interesting swap of expectations, and the subject of my latest post on Man of the House.

New Nintendo 3DS Not Safe For Kids Under Six. Really Nintendo? [Man of the House.com]

Bond on the Brain - The Music and the Fashion

Roger_moore_suitesofjamesbond

You may or may not have heard about the recent death of film composer John Barry, but he was the person most famous for composing eleven James Bond soundtracks, most notably the James Bond theme at the beginning of every movie. He also wrote the theme songs for Goldfinger and Thunderball.

Even if you set aside one of the most iconic themes in all of film music, he'd be tops in my book just for Goldfinger. Who can deny the awesomeness of Shirley Bassey's Goldfinger?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MagCoUYvIXE&w=480&h=390]

In fact, if you want to check out a really great interview of John Barry before he passed away, check out his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air on NPR

The Suits of James Bond
And then last night I was reading one of the blogs that I regularly check out - Put This On (it's a blog that kind of aims to encourage men to dress like adults) and they linked to an amazing website called "The Suits of James Bond." And while I am rarely what anyone objective might call "well dressed," I stayed up way too late last night reading it.

The Suits of James Bond is a website written by a person who has (what appears to me at least) an expert-level knowledge of mens clothing, who can parse exactly what type of suit James Bond is wearing, how it is made, and often what brand it is. It covers all phases of James Bond, from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. And sprinkled inbetween the minutiae is how the fashion relates and inter-relates to the rest of the James Bond universe. To wit:

Roger Moore always wore slip-ons with his suits, as practised by the literary James Bond. Slip-ons are traditionally too casual to wear with a city suit, though it was popular to wear them in that fashion in the 1980s. Moore left behind the bit loafers in the 1970s and for the 1980s wore a more conservative style.

Read it long enough, and you start to realize you're getting tips about dressing yourself too (for instance, shiny neckties are more appropriately worn in the evenings and for more formal occasions). It sounds nerdy (and believe me it is) but it is really awesome.

The Suits of James Bond via Put This On.

UPDATE: For those shopping on a budget, check out Affordable Bond via my friend (and 007 enthusiast) David.

Parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should have to pay more.

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It's precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

via www.cnn.com

Check out this great op-ed piece on CNN.com (link above).

In 2008, one couple from San Diego who decided not to vaccinate their child for measles ended up exposing 839 people, creating 11 new cases of measles and costing their county and state $124,517 (not including private insurer costs).

Even if you set aside the health risks for everyone that children who aren't vaccinated create, reckless parental decisions have real economic consequences as well.

"You can only do one thing at a time." Time to take my own advice.

In our family we preach the gospel of hard work and doing your best is what matters - not the result. Results will be good if you do your best and you work hard. And when I see my kids dealing with the many, many land mines of distraction I've set up in our house for them, I'll often tell them to focus, and that "You can only do one thing at a time."

The problem is, when they are at school and I'm at home I don't really follow my own advice. If you've got a second, read this article from Andy Ihatko in the Chicago Sun Times about how he's starting to realize the tools we use (especially the tools in front of a computer) might actually be working against us.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go turn off my email inbox notifications. That is, right after I check to see if anyone has responded to my latest tweet.

Multitasking is a lie - your brain needs a break :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Andy Ihnatko

Stay-At-Home Dads Going Back To Work in the Wall Street Journal

There's a good article in today's Wall Street Journal about At-Home Dads trying to get back into the work force. There are as many different reasons for staying at home or going back to work as there are At-Home Dads, but the article does a good job of illustrating a few different situations. Whether Dads decide to go back to school to give them a competitive edge or keep themselves in their industry with freelance work, the smart Dads play the hiring/interview game without discounting their time as primary caregivers.

In a world that pays a lot of lip service to those who "think outside of the box," I can't think of anything in my life that has made me do so more than staying at home with my kids. As featured father David Hallowes says, the "challenges and self-reflection of the past 2 1/2 years will make him a better manager."

Daunting Task for Mr. Mom: Get a Job - WSJ.com

[And for the record, shame on whomever wrote the lazy "Mr. Mom" headline.]

"Is That $50,000-a-Year College Worth It?" Uh, maybe.

With the baseball season started and the tax season finished, it is time for the final rite of spring: Where to send the college deposit check.  That is the dilemma facing many families of high school seniors who have been accepted to multiple places.

via blogs.bnet.com

This is a question I know I'm going to have to tackle eventually - twice. What this article basically comes down to is - if you can get into a truly elite school, then it's probably best to go. If it's between an expensive middle tier school and a public university, the cheaper public option might be better.

The most interesting point to me was that if you can get into an elite school in the first place, then actually going might not make you any better off. UNLESS you come from a low-income family.

Of course measuring "success" is kind of difficult, but my advice? If you live in a state with great public universities, stay put.

via @deantsouvalas

Stay-At-Home Dads Grapple With Going Back To Work : NPR

via www.npr.org

In a "down economy" stay at home dads are more popular than ever!

Whatever.

This story from NPR is pretty good though, and it puts a spotlight on what a lot of us are going through. Namely, should I go back to work? Because there's a part of me that does, and a part of me that doesn't. And if I do, how the hell am I going to explain this period of my life on a resumé?

Modern Day Dad At CES 2010. Oh. And Lady Gaga Too.

Lady_gaga_CES2010_polaroid_1

Well, I did the quick calculation this morning, and this is officially the 7th CES I've been to, and while some were fun (the first few) and some were really underwhelming (last year), this year's is proving to be a little better, if only for the fact that I pretty much kicked it off by going to a Lady Gaga press conference at the Polaroid Booth.

You see, she's now a Creative Director at Polaroid for a special line of New Imaging Products or something. In the conference she made it very clear (while she tried her best to hide her face with her bizarre hair-hat), that this wasn't a typical endorsement deal, and that she and "The Haus of Gaga" (I couldn't make that up if I tried) were going to be very involved with new products.

Hey, that's great I suppose, and I know that Polaroid who haven't had anything exciting going on with them in about, oh, twenty years or so, are probably thrilled with the association. But all that stuck out to me during the whole thing was, there's a guy who works for Polaroid, one of the last great brands in photography, up on a platform saying "Lady Gaga" as if it were the most normal thing anyone ever uttered. Maybe I'm old or something, but it was kind of funny to me.

So anyway, if you're interested in my posts about stuff I'm seeing at CES this year, check out my posts over at Babble.com's product blog, Droolicious.

Can We Please Stop Praising The Baby Dangler?

Jackson_dangling_baby

Enough of the Michael Jackson tributes already. Almost every morning I turn on the Today Show on NBC, and today was the first morning since his death that the news has been at least fifty percent something other than Michael Jackson related. On Saturday morning I even switched over to a business show on Fox News (to get a break from the wall-to-wall "king of pop" coverage on NBC), and what do you suppose they were talking about? Michael Jackson's money.

Sure, I loved (and love) Thriller as much as the next guy, and no one can deny he was the amazing performer everyone says he is. But at what point do we separate the art from the artist? I think it's safe to say that most people believe, including myself, that the guy was a (albeit never convicted) pederast.

And even if you're one of the people who believe he never touched a child in an improper way his entire life, he's the same guy who DANGLED HIS INFANT SON OVER A HOTEL BALCONY. And now I have to listen to Al Sharpton on the Today Show tell me what a devoted and amazing father he was.

Is this the person we need a moment of silence for in Congress?

Stay-at-home Dads are going to hell? I guess I'll see you there!

A friend of mine sent me this clip from YouTube of a crazy Christian preacher saying that, and I quote, "You call yourself Mr. Mom, God calls you a bum."

I think my friend wanted me to join in her shock and anger, and although I appreciate the sentiment, honestly my first reaction was laughter. And then I kind of got bummed out because there were so many people in the congregation agreeing with him. It's just odd to me (but not surprising) that people actually think this way. And it's funny that someone would preach it.

If choosing to stay with your kids because you can afford it and you'd rather do that then send them to daycare makes me a bum, then feel free to send me a hand-out via PayPal.

Or at least click an ad.