I see we’re still talking about screen addiction.
I feel like technology in the Twenty-Teens is the war on drugs of the 1980s. I’m waiting for the first PSA with an egg in a frying pan. “This is your brain on video games.” Or iPhones. Or tablets. Or whatever. Only the ages have shifted younger, placing a bigger blame on the parents. Because when your teenager decides to experiment with drugs, you can chalk it up to free will, rebellion, and sure, parents not knowing what their kids are doing. But when your ten-year-old is addicted to Minecraft, well mom, that’s all your fault.
I’m over it.
I say this as a mother of a family who limits screen time. We’re still using the No Technology Weekdays format we began using a couple of years ago, with a summer caveat that Thursday is included in the weekend. We’ve continued to use this method because it works for our sons. They feel as if they have freedom to choose; we know their freedom is still a bit limited due to our busy family life. In fact, they probably ended up with more screen time during the Winter of Doom than with the extra day in the summer. Between the pool and time with friends and all the things we do, they just don’t sit in front of screens all day long.
But that doesn’t work for all kids or all families. I’m not presenting our way as the only way.
I am suggesting, however, that we all chill a little bit.
“Back in my day, kids played outside, all day long.” Okay, fine. That’s cool. My kids love to play outside. I liked to be outside, but often carried a book with me to the nearest tree. Do you know if that girl over there is playing “one of those darn video games” or reading a book? You don’t.
Today’s children are presented with a large number of options. I’ve watched my kids choose outside time over technology, especially if other friends are involved or a fun game (like Badminton, new to our family since the 4th of July). I’ve also watched my kids use their technology time on the weekend to research things to do offline; how to draw Pokemon or Star Wars characters, requesting books from the library, using an app to find a star in the sky, to figure out what bug is crawling over their foot, to share a picture of their chickens. That last one is the most important one to me, as these kids are learning to forge connections already.
And yeah, they play games. Like their other game-loving friends, they can still carry on face-to-face conversations, eat food, and sleep at night.
So maybe when you read an article or see my kids on vacation (you know, a time with relaxed rules and general awesomeness) using technology, maybe you could look at the big picture. Maybe instead of asking me why my kids haven’t been outside all week with an accusatory tone, you could ask if they’re well. (No, they had strep, but thanks for asking.) Maybe instead of assuming the kiddo at sitting on a bench with an iPad at the playground is an addicted, lazy child, consider whether or not he’s using it to communicate or simply doing what he wants with his free time while a sibling plays.
Let’s quit policing the technology consumption of other kids, adults, and families. We’re not “junkies.” We’re connected to others and those connections matter. Our kids will grow up understanding life is bigger than just what’s inside their small towns by the connections they start to make at an early age than any previous generation. It’s my hope that understanding will help change our world for the better.