thoughts on transmitting one’s values to one’s kids

It is five in the morning and I am lying in bed thinking about cultural continuity. Specifically, I am thinking about the ways my parents communicated their culture and values to me without a single word: the books and magazines lying around the house. After I learnt to read, I started reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on – first the little shelf full of kid’s books they kept in the living room, but pretty soon there were visits to the library every week, and me picking up whatever was lying around. That stack of audio magazines my dad subscribed to? My mom’s subscription to New Yorker? Stuff off the lower reaches of their shelves in the back room? Anything I could reach was fair game. Sure, there was stuff that was specifically My Reading Material that they had no interest in, but and I sure wasn’t reading everything they did, but there was a lot of overlap. And a certain amount of my parents shaping me by what they chose to subscribe to for me, as well.

I consider my current reading habits: lots of stuff on the screen. If I had a kid, how much of my tastes would be transmitted to them? They wouldn’t have any magazines to read. Most of my books are in the Kindle app, except for the comics. They’d probably end up getting lost in the horrors of Deep Youtube, populated by people hollering racial slurs over video games, idiots narrating their lives, and corporate-owned characters getting kidnapped by evil dentists who bury them up to their necks in sand, or whatever the hell else The Algorithm has decided is Popular now.

It’s the same with music: no stack of records or tapes or CDs for a kid to browse and maybe fall in love with a few things. Especially not if I was one of the zillions of people who have apparently quit buying any music at all and stream it instead. No treasured DVDs of movies or games. Just… data.

I suppose there are Family Plans, ways to share a collection of licenses to media in the cloud with your spouse and kids. But those are never the first thing on anyone’s list of features to implement; things are solitary and siloed as a matter of course. And I’m not sure that’s really a good thing at all.

Raising a kid now must be pretty complicated and scary, given that there are literal Nazis out there hoping to recruit any lonely, bored people they can…

(and on the flip side I guess there’s all those queers out there happy to help validate a kid’s explorations and drag them down into that world, where gender is a construct and all those other horrible things? Kids get into weird shit, it’s part of growing up. I’m just wondering how much less of a grounding they have in their parents’ values now due to Ambient Media Lying Around The House.)

  1. I don’t think this is something to be terribly worried about. The particular cultural transfer you’re describing of your childhood existed within a very particular period of time. A few decades at most. The experiences of children now will be very different, but those differences between the mechanisms of cultural inheritance have changed with the time in pace with the media produced by those cultures.

    Although I have to admit, I am not entirely comfortable with policewoman pink-spiderwoman dancing to baby-fingers while pushing the hulk in a shopping cart on youtube.

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