Lost childhood of tot.com toddlers

14th April 2000 at 01:00
ONE of the unexpected pleasures of the weekend's television was Channel 4's Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness, in which writer Alan de Botton set out to explain the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus.

There are three esssential ingredients to the Epicurean

recipe for fulfilment: friendship, self-sufficiency, and an "analysed life".

By far the most interesting part is the philosopher's emphasis on analysis. Long before the days of Woody Allen and psycho-babble, he preached the virtues of taking time out for quiet contemplation and self-analysis.

In the age of the Internet, the mobile phone and New Labour, time for oneself is increasingly scarce. Teachers, of course, know all about this; and even ministers, who have much to answer for when it comes to imposing on others, often seem far too busy to think for themselves.

So what are we to make of the latst money-making wheeze by Ryde College, a private crammer in Watford, which is offering computer lessons to children as young as 18 months? Two years ago, the same college set a record when a six-year-old boy got a GCSE in computing.

Should we be encouraging children who are so young to get hooked on computers?

New technology has simply meant that more external pressures are being put on far more children - at an ever earlier age.

By the time they become teenagers, today's tot.com toddlers will be utterly dependent on technology. Even today, according to a new survey, more than a quarter of eight to 13-year-olds own mobile phones.

It may be good to talk, but the idea of being constantly wired to the outside world, forever at other people's beck and call, hardly amounts to self-sufficiency. Whatever happened to the freedom of childhood? What price happiness?

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