In my last Digital Loitering blog post I revealed my biased towards the act of playing a video game over the act of play a musical instrument. I admitted feeling that somehow playing endless hours of video games felt like a timewaster, while spending the equivalent amount of time play an instrument somehow felt like a more useful endeavor.
I observed both exercise the brain, both take skill to master, both are sedentary activities, and both bring joy to the time passer. However I couldn’t explain why I feel differently toward the two activities. Why do I admittedly have a prejudice against a mastery of a video game over the mastery of a guitar? I have since had a chance to think about that and believe I have identified the reason I feel this way.
As we go through life we receive a continuous stream of inputs. Whether we read a book, watch a movie or listen to a teacher lecture on a specific topic, we receive information through our various senses. These inputs are essential to our education and growth as a person.
However, I don’t believe this is enough to be a complete person. If all you ever did was read books and study you would be very knowledgeable indeed. But if you never try to do something with that knowledge, i.e.; to put that knowledge into practice then why have the knowledge at all?
I believe people need both input and output (I/O as it’s known in the computer world) to feel useful, to feel complete. Output is what results from the creative side of the human brain. I think you need to produce something – anything – to be a whole person. It doesn’t have to be unique in the world to have value. It’s the act of creating something yourself that is empowering.
Creativity grows. The more you practice it the more creative you become. At its essences it is free thinking. A person surveys the set of inputs they have received on a particular subject, finds inspiration, and then expresses that inspiration in an original (to them) expression. Whether it be writing a short story, drawing a picture, making a craft, singing a song, developing a computer program, or simply expressing an opinion, creating output is essential to our personal development.
So when I compare passing time learning to play the guitar vs. learning to play a video game, I find the latter void of any kind of output, whereas the former creates something – that is there is an output - music. And this simple difference makes, for me, learning to play an instrument much more valuable than learning to play a video game.
Creativity takes energy and courage – because failure is much more noticeable with outputs than inputs. As a result kids are more inclined to opt to receive inputs rather than produce outputs. It’s easier because they can be passive observers rather than active participants. There is no need to put themself out there with inputs.
However, I believe that as parents it’s our duty to encourage our kids to find activities that have an element of creation to them. Sometimes that means limiting the “inputs” that kids would otherwise spend their time with. And today, there is no greater source of those timewaster inputs than the internet. It’s the reason we created WebCurfew, our internet parental control service. I hope parents find it a useful tool in helping to provide responsible boundaries around their children’s online time in order to promote a healthier balance between their input and output.
Until next time…