The Disappearance of Childhood
©1982 Neil Postman
Television is killing your children — conceptually. In 1985, Neil Postman penned Amusing Ourselves to Death, in which he, building off of the lesson in Technopoly that technology changes our culture without our knowledge, examined television’s malevolent effects on political, civic, and religious discourse. The Disappearance of Childhood, published in 1982, is an earlier form of this argument, and one which focuses only on the effects of television on childhood. In it, he asserts that childhood is a social construct, not a biological fact; that it sprang into being with the advent of the printing press and the need to instill widespread literacy; and that the rise of easy-accessible information through the television (and by extension for modern readers, the internet) has killed the innocence of youth. Although its historic claim about childhood is dubious, concerns about the diminishment of modern childhood remain valid, and the connection between the two, the idea that technology is not value-free, but in fact shapes us as we use it, is as fascinating as ever.