(Originally published as a column under the same title in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News on December 14, 2013)
I had planned to write about last weekend’s outing near Lac Le Jeune where we took the boys skiing. It was freezing cold (minus 21) and the snow gave up clumping up and turned dusty instead. It was a good frosty adventure.
But that night after dinner a few words were dropped about child slaves – a thing that should no longer exist in today’s world and yet it does and we often discuss social inequities – and my oldest son said ‘Mom, you would not like to hear about this game many kids are addicted to.”
Curious? I was. And he told us. We looked it up and cringed.
It’s called Cookie Clicker. It is described as a ‘mindless, addictive and fascinating web game’ or, according to Wikipedia ‘The point of the game is to bake cookies as fast as possible, to have a large number of cookies, and to have a lot of milk; notably, however, there is no true end to the gameplay.”
Like I said, mindless. So you might ask if the cringing was elicited by the mindless aspect of it. Partially, but the disturbing part were some of the upgrades.
They come with explanations: you can use grandmas (‘A nice worker to manufacture more cookies’) or child labour (‘cheaper, healthier workforce’,) or sweatshop (‘slackers will be terminated’.)
Child labour is an atrocious reality of today’s world and so are sweatshops, there’s no way of joking about it and not wondering where your common sense and heart went. You just cannot take such things in jest and have your dignity intact.
Yet children click on cookies and buy child labour as we speak, in an effort (or not, since the device they play on can keep up the game playing by itself) to collect… well, more cookies. Mindless should become worrisome at this point.
A sign of times, you might say. Empathy and a social conscience plus a responsibility to watch over the values our children learn or not learn, that should stay, no matter how crazy the times get.
The world is a crazy place to be, it has always been, but we are witnessing the stretching of this concept to new dimensions. If I had to choose one major aspect of the new degree of craziness I’d settle on information and the way we use it.
The amount of information we are bombarded with on a daily basis has increased a lot since the first days of internet. Exponential growth on steroids.
If we lived in a physically enclosed internet space, someone looking from up above will be noticing some bursting at the seams here and there. With more to come.
And if daily information for the adult mind is overwhelming occasionally, and increasingly so, just imagine what it’s like for children.
Jumping off a cliff in the azure waters below because you choose to is one thing. Being pushed off is a totally different thing.
Children today are born and raised in the murky waters of too much information, and much of it is often controversial enough and it should make even us adults avert our eyes.
The question is: are we vocal and aware of the controversial content enough to make our children aware of things that are not right. Because that is the responsible thing to do.
It is simply wrong to assume that this is only going to amuse kids. It will also desensitize them. We are born empathic.
Young children cannot stand to hear another one crying, yet if they are not encouraged in that caring attitude they may lose it after a while.
As they grow, they become prisoners to peer pressure and their own social image, which they will strive to keep cool at all costs. Often the price is insensitivity, a sword with more than two sharp edges that ends up hurting them, their loved ones and increasingly affecting the world around.
It is high time we reconsider our children’s upbringing and align the values we want them to adopt for themselves with the ones we would like to see modeled around us every day.