Nomination For Worst Gift Ever: The Time Tracker
from the sounds-awful dept
It used to be that a bad gift as a kid was something like socks, or maybe some other piece of clothing. However, the NY Times is writing about a very popular gift this holiday season that sounds like something only a parent would love to give as a gift: the Time Tracker. Yes, it’s basically a timer, with some lights and stuff. The product is being pitched to parents with kids as young as four years old to get them to have a better sense for how long it takes for time to pass, so they’ll be able to do better on their SATs. Yes, we’ve become so focused on standardized testing that a colorful timer is now considered a toy. Are there seriously any kids anywhere clamoring for such a thing?
Comments on “Nomination For Worst Gift Ever: The Time Tracker”
Snedecor F distribution
Why not let kids view their own actions as a simple Poisson process, and compare their variance as a Snedecor F distribution? All the timers could be viewed as a Borel set, and they can experience firsthand the difference between convergence by probability and convergence by near certainty. Of course, that’s if the kids wouldn’t rather get a math workbook and brocolli sticks for christmas.
While I’m generally not fond of excessive utilitarianism in gifts, I should point out that days were when spinning/whipping tops and gyroscopes were acceptable donations, to say nothing of Simon (http://www.hasbro.com/simon/pl/page.newscelebrate/dn/default.cfm) decade or two ago. Of course, it’s possible for such a thing to be cheesy or tacky, but don’t confuse that with geekishness 🙂
I just read the TIMES piece, reprinted in my local paper. I am a harsh critic of testing mania and was struck by the fact that the demand for this product seemed to focus on making kids “more fit” for the kind of life their Social Darwinist parents envision for them.
Interestingly, I was attracted to this product for a different reason. My son, 9, has a hard time recognizing the passage of time. I’m not concerned with how this might effect his ability to compete for an elite spot at some hot-shot college. I am concerned about how this impacts the way he becomes engrossed in video games, cartoons, etc. and honestly appears to have no sense of the vast amounts of time he spends if left to his own devices. Of course, I can impose external limits and I can be the timekeeper, or I can ban TV or video games, but I’m not inclined to take those latter absolute measures. What I’d like is for him to be more aware of the decisions he’s making, and if getting a better sense of time will increase his conscious choice-making, I see that as a positive thing. Whether something like the Time Tracker will make a significant difference in that regard I’m not sure, but I think it’s worth considering.
Re: time tracker
I am a college student studying psychology writing to let you know your son is not the only one who has trouble pacing himself w/TV and video games, as quite frankly many students I have met (including those at the Ivy League school I attend) spend hours engrossed in both those activities. The key is to have other activities which he can enjoy or needs to do lined up so he WANTS to pace himself. The next best method after having activities he enjoys to positively reinforce time management is to show the negative consequences of not pacing himself: failing to complete important activities, etc. Good luck and hope you post whether or not the Time Tracker helps.
I agree…if this is what toys have come to, I want my red fire truck back. What a hideous development.