Kids Succumb to Peer Pressure… from Robots

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This is a little bit alarming, don’t you think?

A study recently published in Science Robotics found that children are vulnerable to peer pressure exerted by “small humanoid robots” ( It doesn’t even have to be from other kids.

The test, repeated on 43 different children, was to sit a child down with three “small humanoid robots” and ask, “Which of these lines is the same length as that one?” When the robots answered first and gave the wrong answer, so did the child–even though he could see, of course, which line was the same length as the other. Peer pressure applied by freakin’ robots trumped the testimony of the child’s own eyes 74% of the time.

It didn’t work on adults. Adults needed peer pressure from other human beings to get them to give the wrong answer.

Do we see in this experiment evidence that our children’s minds can be easily manipulated by whoever’s programming the robots, the TV shows, the smart phones, and the other gizmos?

Of course, we don’t need electronic doodads to accomplish this. The main lesson always taught by public schools, long before anybody had a robot, is that the most important people in your life are your age-group peers–and you’d better conform to them, or be considered an oddball: no friends, no dates. Family, schmamily, your “friends” are where it’s at.

It’s a good thing God has provided us with a Savior, because we need one. Let me count the ways!

Kids Injured, 1 Killed, by Insane New Fad

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You know I say, “Kill the culture, and it will kill you back.” Well, it’s no longer just a figure of speech.

Have you heard of “the Hot Water Challenge”? I only heard of it this morning, on the radio. It consists of pouring boiling water on yourself, or sticking your hand in it, or trying to drink it ( A little girl who took a dare to drink boiling water has died, and others have been seriously injured. The children involved are young–aged 8, 10, 11, etc.

The children say they were inspired by youtube videos. Believe it. As I write this, there are still quite a few “Hot Water Challenge” videos on youtube. No, I’m not going to link to any. I did watch one: some jidrool, seemingly in his early 20s, poured a bucket of boiling water over himself… with totally predictable results. Another video bore the title, “I just cooked my hand.”

Uh, like, maybe these videos should be taken off the site? Or would that be some kind of social injustice?

Who can explain this? Granted, kids haven’t lived long enough to learn much, and when left to their own devices, can do so extremely stupid things. Especially when other kids dare them to do it. We laugh at poor Flick, in Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story, who takes a dare to touch his tongue to a frozen metal post–and his tongue freezes to it, and the fire department has to come to rescue him. But kids will do even dumber things than that.

The lesson taught by public school is that your age-group peers are the most important people in your life, and you’ll do just about anything to impress them, fit in with them, or win their approval. That lesson is powerfully reinforced by our popular culture, and made deadly by a child’s natural ignorance or disregard of consequences.

The only way to counter this is to make the child’s family, and God as Lord over all, more important to him than the other kids. So that if he does try something stupid, at least it won’t be disastrously or even fatally stupid.

But overcoming this aspect of our culture won’t be easy. And you can’t just keep them in a 24/7 supervised bubble all throughout their childhood: because if you do, when they finally grow old enough to break out of it, they will be entirely defenseless.

The Health Tribunal

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A lesson in peer-group poppycock…

At one time, before my marriage, all my friends were pot-heads, big-time. We had a softball team, and we were always up each other’s noses. We were closer than a chain gang. For me, the one fly in the ointment was their constant insistence that I become a pot-head, too. You never heard such nagging. But if my mother taught me nothing else, she taught me how to hold my ground. The more they nagged me, the less I was inclined to join them.

Then another fad was added to the mix–running. They would all go out running together, and then come back and smoke some more pot. I don’t like to run unless I’ve first hit a ball, so I didn’t join them in that, either. More nagging. Somehow it was expected that we had to do everything together.

Someone got the bright idea that they should set themselves up as a kind of health tribunal, to decide who was fit to be on the softball team. They made a big production of decreeing that if you didn’t run with them, you couldn’t play. This was presented to me as an ultimatum.

My answer was tactful: “If you think I’m going to let a bunch of druggies tell me what is healthy, you’ve damaged your brains.”

I’m afraid this led to a parting of the ways, by and by.

Groups of peers can get kind of peculiar. They can wind up insisting on uniformity. Follies get reworked into rigid standards.

It seems to me like a good thing to avoid.