The essay prompt can be found in Test 3 on the College Board's practice test page. (click here).
In the persuasive essay , The Digital Parent Trap, Eliana Dockterman uses ethos (authoritative opinion, facts, and conventional wisdom) in the form of quotations from professors, other educational professionals, and medical associations, as well as survey statistics; pathos (appeals to emotion, strong language and rhetoric) in the form of arguments showing computer usage as practically the best way to help children learn; and logos (logic) based on the idea that two things that are shown to be different, such as passive television watching and active online interactions should not be expected to have the same effects, to support her argument that there are benefits from children’s early exposure to technology.
Among the examples of ethos used in The Digital Parent Trap, we find liberal use of statistical evidence, such as the fact that 80% of U.S. school districts are “on the cusp of incorporating Web-enable tablets into everyday curriculums,” the fact that the majority of children from age 3 to 18 use some sort of electronic device – “27% use tablets, 43% use smartphones, and 52% use laptops.” These statistics would be better if Dockterman actually cited her sources, but they are nonetheless persuasive enough for a Time magazine opinion piece. The editorial also cites research by SRI stating that children who played puzzle games did 12% better on logic tests than those who did not, as well as several studies cited by MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) that playing the game “Civilization” led to students’ increased interest in history, and that while students remember only 10% of what they read, and 20% of what they hear, and 50% of what is shown to them, they recall 90% of things they do, including what they do in video games and other digital-world exercises. These statistics certainly support the contention that video games and other time spent on computers can and does improve student learning.
Dockterman uses pathos in the form of strong, effective word choice and appeals to emotion in her choice of words to describe the counter-argument against students spending long hours on computers- referring to the “Parental Adage [that] the less time spent with screens, the better,” citing to the problems of “cyberbullying,” children becoming depressed by seeing others who appear happier than they are, and the specter of too much online time having the identical result of excessive television watching – “obesity, violence, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” Dockterman notes these fears have led to a “fundamental aversion to [children sitting in front of] screens” among parents.
The author uses similarly strong descriptive language to detail why children’s use of computers, while causing them to spend much time in front of screens, is actually a good thing- citing to U.C. Irvine anthropologist Mimi Ito, who states: “Online, kids can engage with specialized communities of interest. They’re no longer limited by what’s offered in school.” She presents online screen time as “way more brain-stimulating than vegging out in front of the TV.” The use of “brain stimulating” to describe online activity in contrast to the “vegging out” activity of watching television sets up a huge emotional contrast between the two activities, which supports the idea that online time can be far healthier for the brain than TV is.
Finally, she uses the fear of technological ignorance and non-tech-savvy children’s falling behind their technologically-skilled counterparts in the workforce, which increasingly demands familiarity with technology, citing to the principal of Chicago’s Spencer Tech school for the proposition that not only are the good jobs of today and the future tech-related, but even the applications for such jobs must be completed on a computer. All of this language provides emotional and rhetorical support for the idea that technological knowledge obtained by extensive computer use is not only not unhealthy, but actually necessary for children to become part of the workforce of the future.
Of course, these citations to authorities such as professors from the University of California at Irvine, a school professor, and the like are all examples of ethos – information from authoritative sources. Dockterman even cites to ethos in support of the counterargument to her argument – she cites to the American Academy of Pediatrics as the source of the long-established rule that children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a television screen, but in the same paragraph, explains why computer screen time is much different from, and much more beneficial than, time spent in front of a television screen.
The author also cites to a Los Altos, California Waldorf School official, Lucy Wirtz, for the proposition that online activities are not as useful as students’ making arts and crafts, skills learned in Waldorf schools nationwide, but also rebuts that argument in the rest of the editorial by noting that computer skills are necessary practical skills today, and will be increasingly necessary in the future, as noted above.
The logic (logos) used in Dockterman’s article is simple – if something is pleasurable in limited quantities but possibly harmful in larger quantities, children should not be exposed to it in quantities large enough to cause harm. That logic is the reason pediatricians have strongly recommended limiting television watching by children for decades. She then shows that much larger amounts of computer exposure have been shown not only to be harmless, but actually helpful to children, so the logic used by pediatricians for limiting television watching should not be applied to computer usage.
In the essay The Digital Parent Trap, Elisa Dockterman effectively uses ethos in the form of quotes from authorities along with statistics showing online time actually greatly helps children learn, pathos in the form of effective language and the presentation of scenarios from the present and future with which today’s students have or will have to deal, and finally, logos in the form of showing that digital pursuits are not the same as passive television watching, and cannot be expected to have the same deleterious effects as excessive television watching.
Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
I'm the proprietor and only tutor for this business; that's why I named it after me.