As a child growing up in the 70’s, my family had one television with three channels. Besides the occasional “After School Special”, for many years the only screen time we had was on Saturday mornings. (Saturday morning cartoons were the best!) It wasn’t because my parents were media nazis, it was because that’s all there was. (I know. It’s hard to imagine a world without computers and cell phones, let alone an archaic VHS player . . .)
Fast forward forty years, and my family has one large screen TV with cable, OnDemand, DVR, and DVD options, another smaller TV for the Wii, one desktop computer, one laptop, two iPads, four cell phones, and one iPod. The TV is the least used device in the home.
Boy, have times changed.
And the crazy thing is, technology continues to change. And rapidly. Whereas the big piece of advice for parents five years ago was to keep the computer in an open, public part of the home in order to keep tabs on its use, most homes now have multiple mobile devices floating around, many of which leave the home on a regular basis with different family members. And while many parents feel very strongly about not letting their children have Internet on these devices, I would contend that in another five years you won’t even be able to buy something so unsophisticated.
As the first generation of parents to deal with this type of pervasive technology in our homes and our lives, how can we even know what constitutes a good balance or if we are doing the right thing for our kids? Should we just give up and give in to a life full of screens?
In a word, yes.
Look. I want to live on “The Little House on the Prairie” more than anyone. I’m convinced I was born in the wrong century. But this is the world we live in–an extremely fast paced, tech-savvy world that runs on and revolves around “screen time,” and I for one think it’s time to redefine and rethink our battle with screen time, embrace it, and learn to use it on our own terms and to our great advantage rather than treating it like the enemy.
But what does that look like in real life? Every family needs to make their own decisions based on their own children and individual circumstances, but below are some things I think every parent today should consider when formulating a family media plan.
- Recognize technology is a moving target. The type of technology available and how we interact with it is always changing. It’s safe to assume that whatever your current family media plan is, it will eventually need to change with the technology, and during those transition periods there may be some messy trial and error. As much as we like to think we can control every last bit of technology use in our homes at all times, we just can’t. It’s a moving target, and sometimes we’ll miss and mess up. Recently, my friend’s 6-year-old daughter thought it would be funny to type in the phrase “naked man” into the iPad where she normally watches innocuous videos on Netflix, but what popped up was anything but. My friend was devastated that her daughter was exposed to such images, and quickly realized that even though their oldest child is just a 2nd grader, it’s already time for the parental blocks and controls they anticipated they wouldn’t need until much later. Live and learn.
- Understand the difference between screens as entertainment and screens as tools. Screens aren’t just forms of entertainment anymore, or a way to tune out from real life. Quite often, screens are absolutely vital to real life. My iPhone is the hardest working tool in the house, and my older kids do their homework more often than not on the computer. (My daughter has even completed and submitted her physics homework remotely from her phone.) And really, what is the difference between a group of tweens gathering around a Guiness Book of World Records versus a few well chosen YouTube videos while talking and laughing together? Or using a coloring app instead of physical crayons and paper to entertain a toddler while waiting in a doctor’s office? There are just so many gray areas right now where real life and technology overlap and intersect, so it’s much more difficult to have tight, clean definitions of what constitutes “screen time”. Maybe more than understanding the difference between the two (since there isn’t always one), it’s important to learn to chill out about the gray areas. As in, you probably don’t need to count those 15 minutes on the coloring app in the doctor’s office as part of your toddler’s “allotted” screen time.
- Go crazy with passwords, parental controls, content blocks, etc. You know I had to include this. For the younger kids in our family who don’t have phones, I have passwords on all the devices they tend to gravitate to so they can’t just pick them up and veg out without permission/access from me. For the older kids who have phones with Internet, we use a program called Mobicip, which blocks specific content and websites of our choosing for every device in the home (mobile too), and also tracks and sends me a weekly email of every website searched and whether or not it was content approved. My kids are fully aware of this program we are using, so you can imagine the effect. Knowing there won’t be such tight controls when they leave home and are on their own, we have many formal and informal conversations about self-regulation in personal media use and the good and bad sides of technology.
- Create a habit of doing “first things first”. Whether your kids are in school full-time or not, you can implement this easy principle. My kids know that after relaxing for a little while after school (sometimes with a screen, sometimes not), they need to get their homework and instrument practice done before they can have any more entertaining screen time. Between homework and instrument practice, extracurricular activities, friends, and after dinner family chores, there just isn’t a whole lot of time left for screens during the school week. If your kids are home with you all day and you’re trying to get stuff done, this is much trickier when all those devices are readily available. But again, if you create a habit of no shows or games until they’ve gotten ready for the day, done a few chores, played outside, it’s 3:00–whatever you decide–it will be much easier than fielding the same whiny requests day after day. (And don’t forget those passwords and parental controls to prevent them from getting in on their own!)
- Designate screen free time and space. Have a family docking station at mealtimes and bedtimes (and/or other times of your choosing) for mobile devices so family members will interact with each other and get enough sleep. You might also try designating one day a week or month to be completely screen free. I have a friend who has even gone so far as to buy a hotel safe to lock up the remotes and game controllers (along with the other devices) when she’s really determined to have some quality screen free time with her family. As much as I’ve resigned myself to the fact that we live in a world permeated by technology, there’s no arguing how incredibly valuable it is for kids growing up in this generation to know how it feels to be still, unstimulated, and screen free.
- Don’t give screens any more power than they already have. How would you do that? By making screen time the ultimate reward or punishment. I want my kids to consider screen time just one more thing in their life, not the ultimate thing they get to do with their free time, so I try not to use too often as a reward or make it the first thing I take away as a consequence. Yes, screen time should be limited, but not because it’s necessarily bad in and of itself, but because time is precious and there are a variety of amazing things they can do with their time other than consume media. Because of this philosophy, I don’t punish my kids if they’re on a screen when they shouldn’t be (other than turning it off or taking the device away), I just re-direct them and keep the conversation going about healthy, appropriate media use in proportion to all the other things in their life.
- Stop treating technology like the bad guy. This goes along with #6. I think many parents of teens need to reconsider their relationship with technology and the Internet. I know many parents disagree with me on this, but I’m absolutely fine with my kids having Internet on their phones. Why? Because I don’t want it to become the “forbidden fruit”. I think parents who restrict and control screen time and the Internet too much for their kids actually set them up to struggle with it later on. It’s like the girl I went to summer camp with as a teenager. Her mother never let her eat candy. Ever. So what do you think she snuck into camp with her and ate every day for a week until it was gone? You guessed it: a five-gallon bucket of candy. The last thing I want is for my kids to go away to college and have unlimited access to the Internet for the first time in their lives and be totally overwhelmed by it. Ultimately, my goal is for them to learn to self-regulate their media habits, and I think that takes a lot of practice. I want that practice to happen now, in my home, with my help. (Refer to #3, #4, and #5 above.) Again, I believe we need to embrace the current technology we have and use it to our advantage on our own terms, not only because it is a wonderful tool, but because our kids need to know how to navigate the larger world they’ll be living in when they leave our protective influence.
QUESTION: So what do you think? What’s your family media plan? Do you have one? Has it changed over the years? Did anything in this post influence your current philosophy and practices?
CHALLENGE: As needed, rethink and redefine your family’s relationship with “screen time” based on your individual family dynamics and current technology.
Allyson Reynolds and Erika Behunin, a licensed clinical social worker, were recently featured on KSL to discuss managing kids’ screen time. Click on the video below to watch.
Image courtesy: stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net
Thank you for this insightful article. We Have a young family and are new to multiple mobile devices. You brought out some good points for us to talk about. Thx!
Thank YOU! I often think of young families and wonder what life is going to be like (technologically speaking) when those kids are teens and young adults since so much has already changed in the short time since all of ours were young. Hold onto your hats!
Thank you for all this good advice. We are currently a pretty low-tech household. We have one desktop, one laptop, and flip-phones! So my 6 year old doesn’t have much screen time at all, and he’s currently fine with that. But I know it will be only a matter of time before we have to get smart phones and before technology becomes a much bigger part of his life. So I’m thankful for the guidance from this post.
You are describing our household when our oldest was 6-years-old, and looking back it was wonderful. As much as I love technology and think it’s a great tool, I miss the insulated life we led “back then” (11 years ago). Enjoy!
I appreciate this article and agree with the desire to teach our kids to self-regulate screen time. Believe it or not, we don’t even have a TV! We don’t have an iPad and I don’t even have a smart phone! No one uses Twitter or Instagram or SnapChat around here! These are small sacrifices we are currently happy to make at our phase of life so that I can be a stay-at-home mom. I am sure we will get a “caught up” with technology eventually. I appreciate articles like this that help me plan ahead!
Like I said in response to the comment before yours–ENJOY! I think if you don’t need it for your husband’s work, and your kids are young enough that they don’t need it either and everyone is happy, fantastic. There will be time enough for your kids to learn the ropes when needed, and if you and your husband are happy without it, why bother? It’s a love/hate relationship for me, so I like that I have it when I need and want it, but can “unplug” myself and the family when I’m sick of it. 😀
Brooke Miller says
We are a very tech savvy family. I really appreciated this article. Specifically numbers 6 and 7 were paradigm shifting for me. You are totally right, Allyson. Teaching the principles of moderation and self control really apply to electronics and I have been using them as consequences (good and bad) and I have been the strict controller of all electronic related decisions. I think it’s time to allow my kids more opportunities to practice healthy principles.
I think there are a few reasons to start giving your kids the opportunity to “practice healthy principles” as you put it. 1) to learn self-control and regulation as mentioned, 2) to give yourself a break (it’s exhausting playing media police around the clock and controlling every move they make), and 3) to give your relationship with your kids a break. What I mean is, when you’re constantly playing media police and using it as a reward and consequence, it puts a lot of strain on the relationship and there is near constant tension. Once you lay some ground rules and put some parental controls, passwords, etc. on everything so you aren’t so worried about the content they are viewing (Mobicip even allows you to control what time of day internet is accessible on mobile devices), it’s much nicer to just focus on re-direction rather than control/reward/punishment. I like how you put it–it is definitely a paradigm shift! Good luck!
My husband and I were talking just this morning about revisiting our media policy in the house, so this was a very timely article. I appreciated the perspective, and opportunity to consider how screen use fits into our overall goals for our children as they grow and develop, to accept that it is part of society and decide how much and in what ways we want it to influence our lives.
It’s an important discussion to have, and especially helpful if both spouses are on the same page. Sounds like you’re on the right track. Good luck!
You have such a great, sensible perspective on this subject! Loved your perspective and I too am going to change the “power” that screens have in our home. Great paradigm shift!
We have chosen to go “screenless” three times a week unless it is for school or work. It has given my kids their creativity back. In fact even on days where they can play screens, often times they don’t even ask since doing this screen free time. They helped decide the rules for it so they buy into it better.
Love this comment, Cheryl. I have found that once I redirect my kids to other activities, they don’t seem to miss or want the screen time as much either. Sounds like you have a great handle on things!
The video doesn’t work for me.
April Perry says
So sorry the video link isn’t working for you. It seems to be fine on this end. Perhaps you could try a different browser? Thank you for being with us. I hope the post is helpful if your video won’t play, as it contains the “meat” of the video… Wishing you luck, Shonda!
I was able to watch it on my smartphone. Great article and video. Have you heard of Arlene Pellicane’s new book called Growing Up Social. It covers a lot of what you discuss here.
Jan Francisco says
I like your ideas here and agree that technology isn’t going anywhere, so we had better learn to negotiate the ins and outs. However, one thing that concerns me about kids and screens is the negative effect it has on their brains, moods, and focus. I don’t think just accepting it all is a very healthy practice. There haven’t been enough studies or even generations of people exposed to the effects of glowing screens and cell signals to just let kids go at it. Or parents either!
I totally agree with you–the only thing I failed to put in this post (but the social worker mentions in the video) are the guidelines by the American Pediatric Association for how much time “should” be spent on screens for entertainment. Obviously, even if kids finish homework, etc. parents shouldn’t let them spend hour upon hour in front of a screen. However, because it’s going to take so many years to really understand the long-term effects of all this screen time (even limited screen time today is more than most of us were exposed to as kids), I can’t really think of a reasonable alternative to using computers, iPads, and cell phones since they are part of the existing technology that makes the world go around (and that’s not going to change). Certainly, we can restrict our small children from spending hours a day in front of a screen watching shows and playing games, but once they are teens and approaching adulthood, they start using technology like we parents do (for work, communication, etc.), and yes, entertainment as well. Don’t know how to get around that without taking them back ten years.
Sarah Westover McKenna says
You have made me feel a lot better about allowing my kids to be on screens! #6 really got me thinking, though! The iPad is the ultimate punishment and reward in our house. ULTIMATE. Time for that to change!! Thank you for the wonderful advice!
I have no idea if I’m right about this, Sarah, it just feels intuitive to me. Every family needs to do what works for them, but redirecting attention or hiding the iPad and playing dumb about it’s whereabouts just feels easier to me than having a constant battle over it and making it the center of the universe. Good luck!
I agree with you Allyson, that every family needs to work it out for themselves – but according to many developmental specialists a toddler (0-2) shouldn’t have any ‘allotted’ screen time. The brain develops through multi-sensory experiences – and because of so many aspects of modern life our children are being deprived of brain building experiences that those of us who grew up in the 70’s took for granted. In the past I was worried my kids would be missing out and bought the leap pads when my friends did (and told me how educational they were!) but I’ve realised they actually miss out more by having them! TV has always been an ‘after bath and before dinner’ treat in our family and will continue to be, but handheld devices will be avoided for some time to come.
Yes, Jeanine, Erica mentions in the video about the recommendation from the APA that babies/toddlers 0-2 not have any screen time at all, and again, this post and video are not suggesting parents let their kids have a “free for all” with screens as entertainment. I think what you’re doing with your family sounds absolutely fantastic, but you may find as your kids get older (junior high and high school) they will of necessity need to be on screens much more than they are now and the lines between screen time as entertainment and screen time as a tool will become fuzzier. Again, there is a big difference between screen as entertainment and screens as tools, and educationally speaking, most schools use screens liberally now not just for teaching, but for the simple logistics of effective communication and correlation. My son (an 8th grader), just finished a mock congressional hearing group project for his advanced history class and it was done completely through google docs (other than a one-time group meeting in person). This is how the real world of business works as well, so I appreciate the schools getting my kids ready and want to do my part to prepare them at home as well. But as far as screens as entertainment? An after bath/before dinner treat sounds just perfect, but that kind of clear, designated time slot no longer exists for our family with teenagers who are very busy into the late hours of the evening (and everyone going in different directions) with homework and extracurricular activities that involve computers, internet, and cell phones to do homework, research, and keep in touch with us and their classmates that they may need to coordinate with (typically by text). It really is a completely different ball game once they become teens. (And I’m only assuming your kids aren’t teens yet because they have bath time before dinner. I could be completely wrong!)
I’m shocked this is a Power of Moms video. I totally disagree with this video. I just dont let my kids have ANY screen time except for movies once in a while and that works for us. If I give them a few minutes at all it is a nightmare! My kids dont miss it at all because we dont have it so they dont need it because they aren’t used to it at all. My kids are almost 4 and 7. I dont feel I’m a control freak at all. I would be controlling if I was having to deal with it at home…if I was negotiating how many minutes they could have screen time. It is so addictive it brings out their worst qualities. But by not having it all in our house we have total freedom from this issue. I think its absolutely terrible that 1 – 2hours a day is acceptable! I think thats what it should be a week! Get pens and papers. Set up arts and crafts. Talk to your kids at dinner. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENECE between whipping out crayons at a restaurant and pulling out an ipad. I’m totally shocked by this video. Of course they are going to learn how to use technology. We live in NYC. My kids aren’t going to be too sheltered. I’m fostering creativity and imagination. Technology is numbing and a total waste of time. I love POM but I thnk this video is really really poor advice and lowers the bar BIG time. Sorry if I seem judgmental but I am passionate about keeping my kids awake, alert, communicative, creative…I dont want them to say look what the IPAD can make but look what I can make!
April Perry says
Tricia, I can absolutely see where you’re coming from. We’re the same way at our house–one or two hours a week. We used to have an hour a day after school, but I realized it was just wasting too much time for our family, and my kids didn’t need it. At Power of Moms, we’re ALL about discussion. I really appreciate your voice being added to this.
Regarding the iPad vs. crayons, I was thinking about that, too. I would love to explore more about what the difference really is. Obviously there are things like fine motor skills that are built while holding a crayon. And then there are the points you brought up–like “I just colored something creative” vs. “I just touched a part of a screen and made it turn blue.” I think these are VERY important issues, and I think the most important part is that we, as a community of deliberate mothers, are here to offer new ideas, share our perspectives, help each other to know what is WORKING for us, and ultimately–join together, moving forward on the very best ideas we can come up with to raise this next generation well.
Thanks for your thoughts. Love you!
Tricia Paoluccio says
April. First of all, sorry my initial comment was written so quickly i should have taken the time to craft a more thoughtful response. But I felt so passionately I impulsively replied and hardly checked before clicking submit. I appreciate your gentle (mothering) nudge to keep the discussions here respectful and constructive. I will try to do this now.
I’m really glad we have met and you know me so hopefully you understand where I’m coming from!
But here’s the thing. I look to POM to learn and to be inspired. You have helped me to be a much better mom. I never even heard of that phrase deliberate motherhood before discovering you guys. I LOVE POM.
The video you suggested here, TO ME, seems like a video aimed at helping mothers feel less guilt about how much screen times their kids are getting. Its really a video justifying a lifestyle. And the focus was how to MANAGE (I’m going to say it) the addiction VS healing the addiction. I suggest that this video is trying to normalize something that should not be normalized! And I think its dangerous actually! Because POM has a lot of influence. And I would have loved to see you attempt to raise the bar vs lowering it to something that is sadly becoming so so common.
I could write a novel here April. Forgive me for going on and on.
But I feel one of the most important things we can teach our kids is how to be ok. How to be still and ok when you are alone. When there is nothing to “do”. To be ok in quiet, with stillness, with not very much. To be alone with your thoughts, to figure out what you want to do when you are by yourself, to be self directed, calm, at peace, patient and to be observers or the world. TO be creators and makers and givers and doers.
Technology is addictive and a total time suck. It makes kids zone out. It becomes the go to for so many kids when they are asked to wait. I feel the focus should be on helping kids express patience. I dont think our aim should be to numb kids, but to make them more awake and alive and observant. How does screen time help with this? It makes them focus on a screen instead of another person. Really screen time is a parents tool to give themselves more time and so they dont have to deal with their kids. In my opinion it is the lazy way out. I know this last sentence might make people angry here…that Im not being supportive or judgmental here..but I kind of think we should be looking honestly at WHY this is happening in the first place.
It makes me so sad to see kids in restaurants with ipads! Most restaurants have crayons and papers, and if they dont it isn’t hard to bring a little pad of paper and some pencils in your purse! And meal time should be a time of teaching about food, conversation, manners, getting along, listening to others. Regarding the physical act of art making in my opinion IT IS different to have a child draw with a crayon vs draw on an ipad. It is totally different. Children are born artists with incredible imagination and creativity and you do not need to be a super creative person yourself in order to foster creativity in your kids. I have a million suggestions of how to do this. But encouraging the hands on and home made develops in kids so much more. I’m not really talking about fine motor skills. I’m sure there are (I know there are) so many educational apps out there. It doesnt matter to me really. I still think its not the ideal way to teach our kids or encourage their creativity. I think what I’m talking about here is really more philosophical in nature..I guess what I’m lamenting really has to do with our culture in general.
I can understand how a parent who uses tv to unwind, would naturally assume children need tv at the end of a hard day at school. But I just want to point out that this is the adult’s tool. It is not THE TOOL. It is a choice. Children learn everything from their parents. If they see their parents drinking wine at the end of a long day, then they grow up subliminally assuming thats what you do…if you are busy or stressed there is something you can do to relax or unwind. It is a tool. This could be ice cream. Food. TV. Video games. Texting. There are a million things our culture sells to cope with stress, boredom, loneliness and fear. And I just wish the discussion about this topic was exploring this on a deeper level. Sorry to go on and on. I am sad that my view might be seen as radical or too extreme.
Thanks for letting me vent. I encourage moms who are battling over screen time to go through the pain of withdrawal (which will happen of course because it is an addiction) and help their kids go through the shock and dissapointment for a week or two…and to replace all of that time the kids were spending with their ipads on truly creative endeavors, perhaps with a little more Mind Body and Soul time, with encouraging them to be observant and helpful to others or to you, helping them to develop all the character traits I mentioned above. I truly believe the long terms result of doing this will far out weigh the short term gain of having a few minutes with quiet, un-disruptive ,zoned out kids. You need not worry your child will overdose later if deprived now. I completely disagree with that theory. If a child grows up developing good habits, habits filled with substance, they dont throw those out when they are on your own. My childhood experience profoundly influenced who I am today. I want to pass that on to my kids.
Would love to discuss more April..if you want. Once again thanks for reading this LONG reply.
Tricia, I hope you will respond to my comment as well, and not just April’s. There is a lot of space between what you are saying and what I feel like I’m trying to say. I don’t think it’s a only a choice between mind-numbing technology addiction or being “awake, aware, etc.” As I said in the article, I wish I lived in a time and place without all this technology, but my point is that we DO live in a culture permeated with it, so we need to find ways to coexist peacefully with this reality. I’m wondering if you read the article or if you just watched the video, because it seems like you are just responding to my interview in the video which was extremely limited in time (and I was sharing the time with another person), so I regretted not being able to more clearly and thoroughly explain my perspective–hence, the written post. (And please see my first response to your first comment.) Again, I absolutely, unequivocally DO NOT support or encourage using technology to babysit and numb the developing brains of our children. I am simply trying to suggest that we find ways to make peace with existing technology and use it FOR GOOD and TO OUR ADVANTAGE and not demonize it to the point that yes, mothers feel guilty if they let their child play a game/read a story/watch a short video on their phone for the 15 minutes they are waiting in a doctor’s office that isn’t child-friendly and they don’t happen to have crayons in their purse. (Especially if they just spent the majority of the morning interacting in meaningful, constructive, creative ways.) There simply must be a balance.
Great perspectives, thanks for sharing!
Tricia, you might want to read my reply to the commenter above because I think it has some points that apply to your comment as well. There is a world of difference in the 10 years between your oldest two children and my oldest two children (17 and 13). My fourth and youngest child is 7 and she has no need for screens in her life other than entertainment, so obviously her time on screens is much more limited. While she does watch some form of entertainment or play a game on a screen most days, she is also the most wildly imaginative of my children. She spends most of her time pretending to be a meerkat or a ring-tailed lemur and making elaborate drawings with simple pen/colored pencil/marker and paper (though she loves all forms of art). There is nothing in this post or the video that suggests we let our children spend endless hours numbing their brains on screens for entertainment or replace real life experiences with virtual ones. I think you misunderstood what I meant about there not being a difference between crayons versus an iPad while waiting in a restaurant or doctor’s office. Obviously, for small motor development and creativity there is a huge difference between the two, but I used that example strictly speaking of screens as a tool–those few minutes when you just need to keep your child occupied or distracted and don’t happen to have a stash of art supplies with you. But when it’s time for art work? We do some serious art work in our home. In fact, my oldest daughter (a junior) is an amazing artist who is probably going to major in animation. As such, in her AP art class she is learning to do art in a variety of mediums, not the least of which is digital art since that’s how animation is now created. To say that digital art (one tiny piece of the puzzle under the HUGE umbrella that is “technology”) is “numbing and total waste of time” is a little short sighted, I believe. My daughter spent a good chunk of her hard earned money on something called a Wacom tablet which she uses to create the most amazing digital art. (Wish I could link to it here.) I don’t regret a minute she spends developing her talent through this medium that falls under the umbrella of technology and takes place in front of, yes, a screen. Not only that, but she finds a lot of her artistic inspiration through websites such as Tumblr and Pinterest . . .she showed me that Pinterest isn’t just about recipes and crafts! My daughter’s digital art is just one example. I used my son’s mock congressional hearing group project being correlated and completed through Google Docs as an example in my reply to the commenter above. The examples are endless, really. I completely appreciate and respect your perspective and the way you are raising your children, but I hope you can see the broader perspective I was trying to represent in this post of the bigger role that technology plays–and will continue to play–in our children’s lives beyond the realm of mere mind numbing entertainment. (Though our family loves a good mind numbing, reality escaping movie on the weekends together! Last weekend was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. :D) Thanks for starting a new discussion!
Tricia Paoluccio says
Sorry i just am now seeing your replies to my post.
Here is an essay that articulates the bigger picture better than I can.
IMPROVE YOUR TIME
By Mary Baker Eddy
Success in life depends on persistent effort,—the improvement of moments more than any other one thing. A great amount of time is consumed in doing nothing, and indecision as to what we should do. If one would be successful in the future, let him make the most of the present. Two ways of wasting time, one of which is contemptible, are gossiping and lingering calls; and mere motion, travel of limbs more than Soul, frequenting the side-walk or the street-car, restless, but accomplishing little.
All successful individuals have become such by hard work, improving moments before they pass into hours, and hours that others occupy in the pursuit of amusement, else pass in sheer idleness, talking when they have nothing to say, thinking for a pastime, building air castles, floating off on the wings of sense that drop human life into the ditch of nonsense, and worse than waste its years.
“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
This is one of my favorite little essays. It was written in 1883 by a wonderful woman – Mary Baker Eddy. It really speaks to this issue so beautifully.
I had only watched the video, you are correct. And yes my kids are a lot younger than yours. So I understand that is different.
Today I took my kids to the Whitney Museum and there was a dad dragging his 9 year old boy from floor to floor and the kid was staring at his smart phone the whole time. THIS is what I’m talking about. I see this everywhere and this is an example of what really concerns me.
If you introduce something to your kids that is addictive, then be prepared to deal with the consequences of that addiction the rest of their childhood. Its the epidemic of addiction of young kids that I’m talking about…..and I really worry how it will affect these younger kids when they are your kids ages…remember the ipad was just invented a few years ago…so your kids didnt even have that. I’m talking about seeing babies in strollers with ipads in Central park and little kids with their parents phones everywhere we go. I’m not criticizing the use of technology for educational purposes. I think most people really know in their hearts when they are handing their kids their phone to shut them up or to avoid needing to deal with them and when their kids are creating a congressional hearing or a work of art for college.
I am trying to say to parents you can avoid this drama altogether with a little creativity and (as April and Saren really brilliantly preach) taking time for training. It absolutely can be done. My youngest has really addictive tendencies and I could see how I needed to protect him and help him by being super careful about what I offer to him and teaching him how to use his time in a creative and productive way. And I’m grateful and proud of the result of that training. Its almost sad that it feels like an accomplishment, but when I look around at all the kids on ipads on the subway or in waiting rooms (we take subways in NYC – no car- and I take my kids to a lot of my auditions and they wait for me while I go in)…almost all the kids are watching stuff on their mom’s ipad or phone. and my kids sit there. They might be kind of bored sometimes. But they talk or play or scribble on paper or whatever. This means something to me.
Maybe next time POM brings up this discussion it might be from a slightly different perspective…perhaps aimed at the parents of young kids who still have a choice or who might be unaware of the dangers of what seems super cute and sweet…learning ABC’s on an iPhone! how genius! yippeee!!!! a few minutes of quiet! woohooo!….it DOES lead to addiction in a lot of kids. And it does waste their moments, and their days. It might not seem that way…but I truly think it does. I think it matters how they learn their ABC’s…from a phone with that Siri Voice or from their mom or sister or grandma or teacher….I think the face to face MATTERS…sure it is harmless once in awhile…but the once in awhile becomes harder and harder when kids become addicted and parents become addicted to the free time it gives them. This is my point. I’m sorry my perspective seems dramatic or extreme…I just think its really crucial parents wake up to the reality of what is really going on here.
Just want to send a virtual ‘fist bump’ and thank you for articulating beautifully what I too am so passionate about. I’m so glad to see there are others who’s kids aren’t walking around with their noses in iPads because it’s sooo prevelant and makes me sad every time I see it. I feel bad for your kids waiting around with no one to play with because all the other kids are on their devises… I love that my kids play ‘bubble gum bubble gum in a dish’ when we’re waiting at the doctor’s office. They play with each other. Lets keep spreading our message! 🙂 (Please no one think I’m judging… I’m really not, there is a difference between sadness and being judgmental and I’m really good at knowing that everyone is doing the best they can. It does make me sad though.)
Please see my comment above to Tricia as it applies to you as well. (And we like to do thumb wars or I Spy during waiting times…)
I think I finally see better where you are coming from. I do not see young children on screens everywhere I go (but I’m not taking public transportation in NYC), so I can see why this might seem like such an epidemic to you. (Maybe it’s worse where you live?) But again, if a parent is truly trying to use all seven of my suggestions in this article, the kind of abuse and addiction you speak of would not happen. That was, in fact, my point: How to avoid the ill effects of technology while still embracing it’s usefulness. It’s just very hard for me to read these comments directed at what I wrote when my intent was anything but what is being suggested.
I did read your comment before I replied to Tricia. I don’t want my ‘fist bump’ to be taken as rude, as it seems like you took it from your reply, but I was just excited to hear from someone else who feels strongly about the harm screens are having in our society. Your town is clearly much better than ours about this, but I’m not in NYC and I see kids playing on phones constantly… in restaurants (a couple was having dinner together the other day and the man literally looked at his phone for most of the time he was sitting there, while the woman sat there across from him), at Target, moms on their phone while their child sits across from them eating ice cream alone (I’ve seen this twice at the same ice cream shop), awhile ago I sat in a room with three other people, all on their phones and last month a group of young adults in a port in Alaska (we were on a cruise), sitting near each other, but all playing on different phones. This is the world I see. They have not been taught when phones should and shouldn’t be used, and how to appropriately use them. So I am grateful for the points in your article that addressed this issue! But I was just telling Tricia that I know where she’s coming from, so I’m sorry if I offended you by my comment, that was not in my heart at all. (And thanks to your idea, my daughter and I did a thumb war yesterday while we waited for our food. 🙂 Thanks!)
I can’t help think what a family counselor said to me once. She thought, through what she had experienced in her counseling practice, that handing your child a smart phone was like handing them a loaded gun. Now that may seem dramatic but now having teen-agers myself I see the truth in it. Please remember that a teen-agers brain and decision making abilities are not fully-developed and add to that the hormonal craziness that happens and you have an explosive mix. I do believe that children and teen-agers need to learn self-regulation, but their decision-making abilities are poor. We need to give them the TIME to develop too so that when they go to college and have so many more choices open to them they will be better able to handle the temptation. It’s okay to hold off on a smart phone!! (maybe things will be different in 5 years but I’m raising my children NOW) They are not the same creature at 13 as they will be when they are 20. Let’s not assume they are and hand them a weapon to do permanent damage to themselves or others. (Also dramatic, but you see where I am going)
Now though I feel this way I’m still struggling with this topic as well. I am concerned about making technology the ‘forbidden fruit’ at our house so I appreciate the dialogue. I think we need to remember the developmental growing process of teens and children. (that’s why there is a difference between a crayon and and iPad–I agree with you Tricia and April) but I think we cannot be naive to thinking technology isn’t a real danger.
Thanks for the comment, Rachael, but I’m starting to feel like people are responding to an article I didn’t write!:D Of course technology has the potential to be extremely dangerous, that’s why my main points are 1) to keep on top of the latest technological advances so you know how to protect your children, 2) understand the differences between technology as entertainment versus technology as a tool so they can get all the advantages of using it as a tool, 3) go absolutely nuts on blocks, parental controls, and passwords to prevent them from those damaging influences you mentioned (the program I referenced in the article, Mobicip, is specifically designed to block pornography, language, and violence, as well as alert me to everything my kids are viewing), 4) require certain things be done every day before they can have any screen time (to keep balance–and as I mentioned, with everything my kids have going on, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for it anyway), and 5) create times when technology is off limits (dinner, bedtime, before certain things are done, etc.). I am guessing the comment from this family counselor was referring to a teenager with a smart phone who had none of these internal or external controls. With everything we have in place in our home, and the ongoing dialogue we have with our children, I feel like my biggest concern with technology is that it is a distraction–I really don’t feel like it is a deadly weapon at all. In fact, I am trying to avoid that mindset. Yes, it has the POTENTIAL to be a deadly weapon, but we can also choose to use it for good and to our advantage. I’m not willing to turn the power of technology completely over to the the “dark side” (so to speak), so I choose the latter. Also, I have as much of a hard time learning to control myself with this new technology, so I think it is naive to think an 18-year-old college freshmen will be able to navigate that transition smoothly and easily on their own. I want to teach them how to deal with the current technology that is available NOW while they are under my influence and control. But you know your children better than anyone, so if you feel strongly that your kids would not do well with a smart phone even with these controls in place, and you want them to have that experience for the first time when they are older teens living on their own, that is a perfectly valid option. (But I would still suggest you challenge your paradigm that technology is predominantly a bad and dangerous thing.)
Sorry, one more thing. I absolutely agree about the very real difference between crayons and an iPad if you’re trying to develop creativity and small motor skills. I was referring to using the iPad simply as a tool to occupy a child in a waiting room or restaurant for a few minutes if you don’t want to carry crayons around in your purse or you are somewhere that isn’t very child-friendly. (I addressed this in the comment previous to yours.) I’m sorry that my remarks were misunderstood in this way. When we are at home, my kids are totally hands on in when it comes to art–big time!
JaNae Messick says
Allyson, This article is perfect for me! I definitely try to control too much…which kind of worked when they were younger but it’s a different game as we head into teenage years. It is more about teaching them to self-regulate and make good choices with their time (which you said perfectly!) My biggest take-away: #6 Don’t give screens any more power than they already have. Ugg! I do that and didn’t realize it until I read your comment. Gonna have to work on that–I appreciate the tip! Thanks for your willingness to share the hard albeit “controversial” stuff and for engaging in the tricky conversations that follow. I love the women in this community and appreciate all the different opinions–I think it makes us all better to have to think things through. Good food for thought.
Thank you so much, Janae. Good luck with those teenagers!
Brilliant perspective,just the right amount of control great adviceandfoodfor though there, it certainly isa different world and we need to get the balance right
I think part of the problem is in differentiating between younger and older kids. We are also a zero screen family (except the occasional family movie – about once every couple months). My kids are 8 & younger. At this age, there is absolutely no need for screens. We look stuff up in books. I do carry pencil and paper in my purse, as has been done for generations. When kids are on screens they are cut off from the rest of the world. Instead of talking to the lady next to them about what they are drawing, they are in their own world on their screen. Screens are meant to be personal. Exclusive to everyone else around. That is absolutely not what I want to teach my children when they are out in the world. I agree with everything Tricia said and feel passionately about this too. We’re becoming a disconnected world and it breaks my heart. I also agree with the creativity aspect, the need for boredom and quiet and I’d also add that screens (and all noisy, lighted toys for that matter) are teaching our kids to crave that constant input that screens give. Its way too stimulating. Pencil and paper is not nearly as stimulating, and is much better for the brain – the brain doesn’t need all that stimulation when it’s not used to getting it. My personal opinion is that the amount of ADD in the world these days has direct correlation to how much screen time has been added to our society in recent years. There is actually a lot of research done recently that talks specifically about the difference between reading an actual book and a devise, as well as writing on actual paper vs. writing on a devise and how much better actual reading and writing are. We’re just starting homeschooling so I’ve been very interested in this research, since it’s how I’ve felt in my gut for some time anyway.
I know you said you do lots of real art at home, and that’s great. But I don’t agree screens are a tool at all when children are young. But the article made a lot more sense to me when I started thinking about it in terms of when children are teenagers…. as I don’t have any yet I can’t make full conclusions about this, but I do see how some of these things make sense when they are teenagers, in the right timing in their lives, under the appropriate guidelines. Thanks for the article Allyson, there are a lot of great ideas that I’m glad people will see. I just wish it was prefaced a bit more with the appropriate age group its for because I feel that following some of the advise for young children is extremely detrimental to them and our society.
Crystal, here’s the thing. Depending on how many kids you have, one day some of them will be teenagers while there may still be younger ones in the home. When all your children are 8 and younger, you have total and complete control of them and their media exposure, and I agree, there is no “need” for screens at this age. (Though I would say that our elementary school uses some fabulous websites with accompanying apps for both reading and math which have been very helpful for my kids. If you have a child who is having a hard time with times tables, and doing drills with flash cards or pencil and paper isn’t doing the trick, an excellently designed digital game can work wonders. This is no different than some of the math toys I bought for my older kids when they were younger, but are you also opposed to toys with batteries? Not being sarcastic, I’m genuinely asking because you mentioned toys that light and make noise.) But when you have parents and teens living in the home who are using internet capable computers, iPads, and cell phones as tools for work and school (and yes, entertainment–I don’t know a teenager alive in America who doesn’t use screens to some degree for entertainment, and to be blunt, it will isolate your children from their peers if you don’t let them near screens still at that point), it is not as easy as you think to have those younger children in the home live a completely separate, screen free life. When that day arrives in your home when you have both older and younger children, you may want to refer back to this article. Also, I am curious which of my seven suggestions you feel are “extremely detrimental to young children and our society”? For the life of me, I can’t figure out why some people are reading this article as an endorsement for plopping young children in front of screens for several hours a day. Lastly, I totally disagree with your suggestion that screens are meant to be personal. Screens CAN be personal, but we watch movies together as a family and talk about it after. My older kids and I share cool and interesting videos and websites with each other (both educational and entertaining) and talk about it after watching together. It’s actually easier to share a screen with someone than a book. And why not use an online thesaurus/dictionary/encyclopedia/almanac/etc. with your younger kids? Other than practicing alphabetical order, I really can’t see the difference. Last year, my 9-year-old 4th grader was required to write a weekly report on a current event for the gifted program she was in. I suppose I could have subscribed to a newspaper and clipped articles out like I did when I was a little girl, but when there are news websites specifically designed for kids that leave out the more disturbing news headlines you see in the paper, why would I do that when Scholastic News for kids and Time for kids exists online? (And yes, it had to be news from the week, so using a book would not be helpful.) I will say it, I think it’s an extreme position to take in the world today to completely shun all screens and write them off as not being useful in any way even for young children. Again, I wish I were living on “The Little House on the Prairie” like I said in this post, but I’m not, and you’re not. Sure, strive to avoid the bad aspects and effects of technology in your home in any and every way possible (that was, in fact, the point of this article), but please reconsider the broader usefulness of technology for people of all ages.
Allyson, I don’t want you to feel attacked… I’ve read several of your articles on PoM and very much appreciate what you’ve added to the community… I value your willingness to share and help so many. We actually homeschool and in so doing, educate in a completely different way than many. So yes, I do dislike toys that require batteries and own almost none of them. I know there are great apps out there but I prefer to not make my kids dependent on those things… there are so many other ways to learn that they’re just not necessary. The constant need for stimulation is making this society crazy… quite literally. There is power and beauty in doing things the ‘old fashioned way.’ Slowness, stillness. I’m sure as a deliberate mother that your children have plenty of those things, so I’m not speaking to you specifically, just to about society as a whole. We’ve just chosen to not make that the ‘normal’ for our kids. They are used to it, and don’t crave the constant media stimulation. I know they will use screens more as they grow older, but at that point I intend to teach them that they are tools for writing, research, etc, not toys. And I still intend to restrict the younger childrens’ use of them until they are of the appropriate developmental level of their education (we call it ‘scholar phase,’ based on the philosophy of learning called A Thomas Jefferson Education). At that time, computers are tools for writing for the most part. I don’t spend hours of useless time wasted on screens, and I will teach my children that thats not the best use of their time either. I don’t plan on not giving them a smart phone necessarily (it is yet to be discussed) but honestly I think there are much worse things than isolating them from their peers in some regards… not that I’m not going to let them text or anything, but we already do several things differently than some of their peers and while it’s sometimes difficult and sometimes lonely, it is incredibly important to us and to our view of raising them well. The part I feel is ‘extremely detrimental’ is handing a child a phone whenever they’re having to wait somewhere… not saying that *you* do specifically, but many, many people do… I see it constantly, in doctors offices, in target, after school, etc… I think it’s teaching them the need to be constantly entertained, to not talk to people, to not use their own creativity to come up with something to do or talk about with the people around them. Yesterday I took my daughter (age 8) shopping and while I was trying on clothes it would have been easy to hand her my phone to keep her busy and not bored while I was doing so, but instead, we chatted and it was great… that would not have happened had I handed her my phone to color a picture, using it as a ‘tool’ as you called it… her focus would have been on the phone, and not free to chat with me. But for so many, the default is to just hand the kid a phone, and your suggestion almost seemed to give permission to do that very thing. Also, yes, some screens can be social, we watch movies together as a family as well, but I was mostly talking about the handheld phones that kids are being given to entertain themselves with constantly. They were originally called PDA’s. Personal Data Assistants. I don’t agree its easier to share a screen with someone than a book… We read as a family every night and all have the story playing in our heads. We can lean over a book just as easy as a laptop and better than a phone. Why not use an online dictionary etc… because again, for me it’s more important to teach them to go to books for information, rather than the internet… we’re a very heavy book family… we believe the best educations are gained from reading the classics, and have been for centuries. Again, this is part of our philosophy of learning based on A Thomas Jefferson Education. Information in books (classic books) is time tested and solid. Information on the internet varies in its validity and I will teach them about those variations and finding reliable information as they grow, but for now, I want them to base their knowledge in books that have raised great leaders for centuries. To be clear, we do use the internet occasionally… I helped my daughter with it when she had a report last year in school. But it is not the default. We searched books first. Please don’t mis-understand me… we do not completely shun all screens, but I just don’t agree that for younger kids, the benefits outweigh the costs of having them be a regular part of everyday life. I really don’t think screens are particularly ‘usefull’ at all for young children.
Crystal! I feel you are my kindred spirit! I wish you lived in NYC :)And you know what? I JUST bought all the Thomas Jefferson Ed books and am devouring them. And then I read your post tonight and see you are also influenced by these ideas!…I have long been attracted to what I’m learning from the website Simple Homeschool and even though I live in NYC and we are in a great public school, I just feel like deep down inside I guess I really am more aligned with a homeschooling mom’s philosophy! I just feel so passionate about letting my children be children and love Simplicity Parenting and am so grateful and excited by the results which are sweet and small, but profound (like talking to your daughter while you tried on clothes)…anyway I just wanted to say HELLO and thanks for getting what I was trying to say. And I am just happy to meet someone who is likeminded. Would love to email you about the Thomas Jefferson books if you would be open to it? I truly hope someday to homeschool my kids when my husband has to work out of the country again, but I also want to use the principals now even though they are in public school…is this possible do you think? I’ve JUST begun reading so I dont really know much yet about it…Thanks crystal! 🙂 (my email is [email protected])
I’m really enjoying this discussion, and I’m pretty much all over the fence when it comes to the different viewpoints among the comments. (I didn’t watch the video itself; I just read the post.) As I mentioned in my first comment, we have a very low-tech household. I have never handed my son a smartphone to keep him amused, because we don’t have smartphones (or tablets). Consequently, I don’t sit at the playground texting while my son plays, because texting on my flip phone is very inefficient! My 6 year old watches TV once in a blue moon, and in the past year has started doing 30 minutes/day of PBS kids with my husband. I rarely talk on the phone and watch only moderate amounts of TV (mostly when my son is sleeping). On the other hand, I am on my laptop a fair amount of the time. I sometimes worry about the example this sets for my son. I limit him to 30 minutes/day, but I’m on much more than that. And the lines between entertainment and tool are very blurred. This article, for example. The discussion is very interesting to me, and that could be called entertainment, but it is also a tool to help me with my motherhood. Certainly my screen time comes second to my motherhood duties. My son is an only child, and I spend a lot of one-on-one time with him. I also work part-time and go to educational workshops, work with his school a lot, and do the normal mommy things like couponing, housework, cleaning, laundry, etc. But in between all that I log on a good chunk of the day and again, it’s hard to quantify how much of that is entertainment and how much is “work” (also, I don’t have much of a social life, so the internet serves that function to some degree as well). I have explained to my son that sometimes Mommy is working on the computer and sometimes it’s for fun, but I still worry that he sees me on it too much. Anyway, my son is very intrigued by anything with bells, whistles, etc and definitely has the propensity to become addicted to technology. Which is why I agree with Tricia that introducing it too early isn’t always a great idea. On the other hand, I see Allyson’s point that once a child reaches a certain age, it is impossible to avoid technology, and I’m grateful for the guidelines about how to introduce it, monitor it, and teach kids to manage it in moderation.
Great comment, Clare. Thanks for sharing your struggle with balance. Most of us can relate. I have been on the computer and phone for the last three hours planning out my week and catching up on on old digital communications that have piled up (several teachers I need to discuss things with regarding end of term, making a variety of appointments for different family members, calendaring/planning, friends who need help with a few things, etc.). My kids are all in school today so I don’t have the mommy guilt associated with being on screens in front of them, but the point remains that I’m spending a lot of time on screens doing work (absolutely no entertainment). It’s just a different world that we live in now as compared to a generation ago. Technology really is a valuable tool that has replaced many of the inefficient ways we used to work and communicate. I choose to utilize technology in this way, but you also mentioned using technology to socialize which brings up another great point. Much has been said about technology disconnecting people from each other, but in many ways it absolutely connects us. The ease with which I can communicate now with a variety of important people in my life as compared to when I was a teenager and young adult and would have to write letters or pay money I didn’t have to make a long-distance calls is just amazing! Obviously, time spent on Facebook etc. should be limited when kids are around (and in general based on your daily to do list), but I agree with you that for those people who live a somewhat isolated life, being able to socialize through technology is a wonderful blessing. My family lives over 1000 miles away, so that is how we stay in touch.
Thank you for this article, it was very timely for our family. I have 4 kids, my oldest is 11 and I feel we are on the brink of needing to give our oldest a phone for communication and school purposes. We are actually in the middle of a family experiment. I loathed video games. I have two boys ages 6 and 9 and their lives revolved around video games. “When can I play?” “I can’t stop now!” I felt like they couldn’t enjoy the moment they were in because they were thinking about the next time they could play. They fought with each other while playing. It was truly a source of contention in our house. I used it as a reward for homework, which was very motivating for them. I tried restricting it to only the weekends. My kids didn’t want to go anywhere on Sat. because it was their only screen time day (Sunday in our house is a no tech day.) I was at my wits end. My husband and I went on a little anniversary getaway and while we were out of the thick of it, we discussed what we were going to do about it. He too saw it’s effects. We decided not to make the children feel like we were taking video games away as a punishment. It wasn’t their fault. These games are made to be addictive and I let them play them (all of their friends were). So when we got back, we sat down with our children, and some ice cream, and talked about why we’re here on earth. Some of the best answers were that we’re here to learn and grow and to build relationships with those around us, and to serve others. Then we asked if there was anything in our life that got in the way of this… THEY answered TV and video games. We told them that we thought the same thing and that we wanted our family to do a 4 month experiment where we had no video games, iPhones, iPads, or Xbox. They were reluctant. But we told them we would help by buying new board games and by taking them fun places. We also renting baby chicks and hatched eggs for 1 month. They said ok. It’s only been a month and a half, but I already see the changes. We as a family talk more, my boys are reading more, coloring more, writing more . My children fight less. It’s been amazing. My house is noisier and gets dirtier, but it’s worth it. My children still mention and ask about video games and are a little nervous that their friends will be bored when they come play. I make sure they have fun things to do. I do allow them to play at their friends houses and we do still watch movies when we have time. Now I need to decide what our media policy will be after the 4 months is up and how I will handle the teenage years. Thank you all for your comments and thoughts.
Thank you for this article! My kindergartner, 2nd grader, and third grader attend a school that adopted a 1 to 1 technology initiative and issued every child in the school district an iPad. I feel your article about training children and nit letting technology supersede everything else is so timely for us. We are concerned about the dangers, but feel the best protection for our kids is to be involved, learn all we can ourselves, talk, talk, talk about things, and help our family navigate the media and tech world together.
I just read every word of this discussion (and read the article and watched the video), and I just want to say this was time well-spent. Far from being ready to “embrace” technology, I cringe when I think of the way it pervades our lives–the way it has become an imperative. The oldest of my four kids is 9, and it’s been pretty satisfying to see the ways that he has developed for the better (“better than he would have been”, NOT “better than other kids”…) precisely because screens have been remote for him. We don’t have tablets or smart phones around. I really like this article, though, because it offers a big dose of reality–a glimpse of what’s ahead, especially with schoolwork, and how to manage it. IMO, parents should always maintain a healthy resistance to technology as much as possible, precisely because it is pervasive and NOBODY knows its full effects. While “healthy resistance” is indeed implied in several of the points (#5 & #6), and clearly Allyson in her home has figured out how to resist technology in favor of non-tech activities (a point that is made most clearly in her comments), healthy resistance is just not explicitly written into the article, and I think that’s why the message feels a bit unsettling overall. Still, she’s bold, and very helpful. A pioneer. She’s navigating a rough terrain in a way that she has confidence in, that her kids are clearly thriving with, and she’s inviting/preparing the rest of us to be able to do that in a deliberate way too. So thanks, Allyson!
Thank YOU, Shawna! I so appreciate this!
(To clarify, “healthy resistance” would be the position that, whenever possible, we opt out of being technologically-dependent in our activities… not suggesting a person shouldn’t be a computer programmer or a digital animator… I’m talking more about what we do with our time in the interim. And I definitely think that kids should know HOW to do some things the “old-fashioned way,” like look up info in books or an actual newspaper, even if they usually, for convenience, just use their phone)
If it makes you feel any better, our kids are required to go to real libraries and find/use real books for their middle and high school research projects. I’m guessing most schools are the same?
Here’s another way of explaining the concerns I have with technology…
Technology is not just some neutral/inert tool, like your hammer that just sits in a corner waiting for your need to arise so that you’ll use it. It is a tool, but it’s one that actually creates a need for itself by its very nature. Either by creating a neurological dependence on overstimulation (i.e. addiction) or just by seeming to have and answer/app for everything we do in life, technology leads us to develop new, strong habits and dependencies. And I think we should just be a bit wary of anything that can overwhelm our natures and our habits so suddenly like that (by “sudden,” I mean over the course of several months/years). I’m not saying shun technology entirely, but I’m saying maintain a healthy resistance: Use it when it really suits a purpose, but also decline to use it sometimes, even when you might.
In order to demonstrate a healthy resistance to our kids, I think parents need to be *extra* conscientious to demonstrate a life where technology plays just a small part. Like, in writing this comment, I actually wrote it with pencil and paper first, just so my girls, who are home watching me, wouldn’t see me zoned out in front of a computer for 30 minutes, trying to get my wording right! And again, I’m not saying anything about working with computers in your day job. I get it that most jobs require computers–my husband, who would definitely be in the anti-technology camp, is also a writer, and so he literally spends his entire work day staring at a screen–I’m talking about the kind of life we live with our families outside of a day job. To that point, I LOVE this article, totally worth a read: http://www.inquisitr.com/1468612/steve-jobs-didnt-let-his-kids-use-iphones-or-ipads-heres-why/.
So, here’s my bottom line. This kind of acknowledgement, that we should all make an effort to keep technology from taking over our lives, is not really made in the original article, but it is also not the purpose of Allyson’s article, so I understand why she didn’t give it much airtime. Her purpose is to give us tips to use in the times/places where technology does fit. So I appreciate the commenters for speaking out against the pervasiveness of technology, which I think is a very important message, AND I appreciate Allyson’s article for giving us practical ways to be smart with whatever technology is a part of our family’s life.
Wonderful clarification. Thanks again, Shawna. To the point of technology dependence, Claire made a very interesting comment below . . .
Even before the digital age, technology was something that lent itself to dependence. The other night I watched a show about homesteading on the Alaskan frontier, and a young mother was washing cloth diapers in a creek while her baby watched from a backpack frame carrier parked in the snow. I can’t even imagine being in that situation. It made me realize that all throughout the day I am using technology (not just screens) that I would be lost without.
What an interesting perspective to throw into the mix! Thank you!
Julia M.L. Whitehead says
Thanks Allyson. I read the article, then we watched the video as a family. It was the perfect springboard to us discussing how to revamp our plan for the moving target of technology.
Great article and discussions.
I feel like our family struggles with not having technology be the ultimate punishment of reward. I think food(sugar) is another easy ultimate reward but I don’t want to be a message I teach my kids either. Ideas for other rewards?
We like the way you think. I use the Stridepost app as a tool to manage my children’s screen time. The app allows me to add in kids chores. When they complete the chores, they can earn additional screen time or other incentives. It was a great way to use technology in my favor!