Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005

A computer monitor teaches a lesson about homework

By Chris Sherman

My children are starting to glow. Not from fresh air and good nutrition, but from the light of the computer monitor. Where I once had to monitor their television viewing, I now have to police their time on the computer. The television stands lonely and cold in the den, while the computer room is thriving with youthful humanity.

I was naive. They would go to the room where the computer is to do their homework. This was good. As they spent longer and longer in the computer room doing their “homework” I thought, Wow! They are at their studies all evening. They are really becoming quite academic. This was better than good. This was great. I was living the fantasy: children who came home right after school and locked themselves away to do their homework, surfacing only for dinner and snacks.

This arrangement consoled me. After so many years of having to help them with their homework, I was relieved when all of a sudden they no longer needed me for anything. I was so free in the evenings I hardly knew what to do with myself. I could finally watch what I wanted on the television. They were all too busy with homework to watch, leaving the TV program choices all to me!

And the telephone never rang for the kids anymore. I thought this was strange at first, but then I concluded that all their friends had just as much homework and everyone was too busy to call. I could actually make some calls myself in the evening and no one tried to rush me off the phone. There was peace and quiet. For weren’t they all locked away in hot pursuit of academia?

Academia my foot. One evening, tired of “Everyone Loves Raymond” reruns, I go into the computer lair to see why no one needs me and there they are, huddled around the screen talking to friends on Instant Messenger. And it’s not even really talk, it’s a code. LOL. RU2? G2G. (That’s “Laughing Out Loud,” “Are You Too?” and “Got To Go.”) I was stunned. It was like walking in and finding them smoking cigarettes!

“What are you boys doing?”

“Nothing.”

I spot three backpacks all zippered tightly.

“Where is your homework?”

“We were just getting to it.”

Mind you, it’s about 9:30 p.m. They haven’t even started yet and I hear my bed calling me. The last thing I want is to be drawn into their homework dramas.

“Turn off this computer right now and get out your books.”

“I promised Zack I’d go on I.M. at 9:30! The whole class is going to be on. Please Mom!”

Now the kids start to argue among themselves.

“He can’t I.M. Zack, Mom. I have to write a bibliography. I need the computer.”

“You should have done that before, jerk.”

“Oh, right. How was I supposed to write my bibliography when you’ve been e-mailing all night, idiot?”

“Well, I’ve got homework and homework comes first! Right, Mom?”

Oh, so now at 9:31 we look to Mom for wisdom?

Mom was not so wise. Mom was not paying attention. Mom takes full responsibility. I fell into this trap of believing that because it was a computer and not a television, it was educational. Being only a word processor user myself, I was out of touch with the vast forms of entertainment the computer offers — music, movies, games and shopping. Leaving them in that room to do their homework was like leaving them at an amusement park and expecting them to study on the roller coaster.

I will now have the tedious job of setting limits on the computer and then following through with the monitoring of all the newly imposed rules and regulations. They will all have to return to their own separate spaces to do homework and there will be no communication with the outside world until it is done. The good news is they will rediscover the wonderful academic resource they have in their mother. G2G. Somebody please, hit the escape button.

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