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Through the Looking Glass

The rise of digital media consumption among young people has inspired no small amount of research, writing and hand-wringing of late. And with good cause—a growing body of research has rather conclusively tied its overuse to a host of negative outcomes for children and teens alike. Much of this research is summarized in the opening sections of The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids and is well worth a read.

But an editorial by Lawrence Downes in today's New York Times, which examines the growing use of e-books by kids, raises an interesting question: where do we draw the line between preserving the power of imagination and fostering cultural literacy in our children?

You might say that a clay tablet, a book and an iPad are very different media that serve the same essential function—each allows the user to read words on its surface. But we know intuitively that these tools couldn't be more different—and that we, in many ways, couldn't be more different when we use them. Why? Because our tools shape us as much as we shape them.

The devices themselves may be new, but the dilemma seems as old as modern civilization—how do we embrace enough of our past to preserve our spirit, and enough of the future not to be left behind?

For more, check out The Children's Book Comes to Life Electronically from the New York Times.