The trouble with texting

Last night as I was mindlessly flipping through television channels trying to find something interesting I happened upon a show in which young children were being interviewed by a journalist while their parents watched from a room nearby.  The kids were between the ages of three years old and six years old and the journalist was asking them about cell phones and texting.

“Do your parents ever text?” she asked.  The children nodded wildly and raised their hands to speak.  One little boy talked about how his mom was “always texting, texting, texting.”  Another child shared how she hates it when her mom takes phone calls instead of playing with her.  One child shouted, “I wish phones were never invented!” And another little girl talked about how she sometimes plays with six or seven toys at once because she likes to “multi-task” just like her Daddy.  Whoa.

The parents in the next room were a little bit shocked at how strongly the kids felt and ultimately shared that they felt embarrassed that they had prioritized their phones above their children in many instances.  One of the parents was perplexed though, because apparently her job requires that she be available and on call.  She wondered how she could be on call and still let her child know that he’s important to her.

I don’t have any answers for that particular parent, but the show got me thinking.  How much do we really NEED to be at the beck and call of our electronic devices, and how much have we unconsciously fallen into the trap of our shiny, fun toys?  And, considering that our children learn by imitating us, how much do we want our kids staring at screens and pushing buttons to communicate with friends, co-workers, and family members that are hundreds or thousands of miles away?

That doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of time we spend surfing the net, and watching videos online, let alone hours of television viewing.  We live in a modern technological world that is almost completely unlike anything previous generations have experienced.  So, now that we’re here, how will we prioritize our time, energy, and other resources so that our children know that they are treasured and that electronic devices, while useful, are not the most important parts of our lives.

At our house we’re doing our best to follow the guidelines that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for screen time which is to discourage screen time for children under 2 years and no more than 1-2 hours per day for children over two.   In fact, we’re trying to keep our daughter away from screens altogether for at least her first two years of life.

As soon as my husband and I agreed to our no screen policy for our little one I began to notice just how many screens I have in my life and how often they are on!   As I’m writing this, my daughter has woken up from her nap, and is listening to music in her room while I’m on the computer.  And now the phone is ringing, but I think I’ll let it go to voicemail.   We have even set up a visual barrier in our living room so that my husband can watch football but our daughter can’t see the screen.  Mostly I think we should just turn off the TV (although that’s much easier said than done).  It can’t be much better for us than it is for her, right?!

Your challenge this week is to take stock of the screens in your life and really consider which ones are necessary and when and how much you will use them.  I recommend setting aside daily playtime with your child that is a no screen and no phone calls or texting time.  Let your child know that he is cherished by getting down on the floor to play and by  giving him your complete and undivided attention.

I would love to hear all about your own experiences with technology and how to co-exist with it intentionally.  Have a wonderful week, Shelly

4 comments
Erika Willaert
Erika Willaert

Hi, we have one tv and one laptop in the house, plus my cell. My kids are so busy during the week with homework and classes that we only watch on sat morning for an hour after breakfast and a movie on sun afternoon before dinner. My children get to see my computer or cell screen if they wish to see a video on YouTube or an attachment someones sent me. I am proud of the rules I've set and adhere to. We do not need to rely on technology. It dehumanizes us.

Andrea
Andrea

I never gave my kids my cell phone or car keys to play with. They are not toys and it can be very irritating to search for them in the whole house when you need them. I actually barely ever use my cell phone and I usually don't pick up the phone when I'm in the middle of something with the kids...unless I'm expecting an important call.

I do how ever check my emails many times a day and sometime get sucked in (hello facebook). I have two little boys (3+5) who play most of the time together. Therefor they're not needing my constant attention anymore, but I also notice that I could get more done around the house and have more focused attention to my boys if I wouldn't feel the need to "check out" by checking my emails.

My husband and I never watch tv during the day and the kids are allowed 30-60 min. of recorded PBS shows per day. I think I have a lot of play time with my boys when they're not at pre-school. What I lack of is preparing art projects in advance. So my self assigned home work this week is to not watch tv one evening and prepare some fun art projects we can do in the next few weeks. Shelly, thank you for your ongoing inspirations!!!

Amos Miller
Amos Miller

It pains me to have my attention drawn away from my daughter for sake of technology. I have experienced the addictive fascination with technology. It's hard to resist.

I feel a little confused with this issue. I don't want my daughter growing up feeling like she owns my time and attention solely. I don't plugin as much as many people, and still it seems like she hates me every time I take my attention away from her. she's 5 by the way... and only stays with me on weekends.

I have done my best to keep screens out of her life. I haven't owned a television in years....yet I use my computer and Iphone often. Due to her grandmother's influence the movie thing has become a consistent part of their time together. I spent a lot of energy trying to draw boundaries around all of this in the beginning, but have caved over time. Now that she is not living with me most of the time, I have little voice and power in this dynamic.

I appreciate the spread of information that is here today, yet somedays I wonder if we can be informed by everything that's truly important just by paying attention to nature and what arrives to us, as we fully embrace each moment.

I feel like I mostly use technology as a means to find answers I could find within, and to be living in some future time.

Julia
Julia

Thank you for this post. I have been pondering this a lot lately. I have a flexible job that lets me be home with my kids in the afternoon after school, but I still need to be responsive to emails during this time. Finding a balance is so hard and I would dearly like to have a family time that is completely unplugged. For now, if I am too absorbed on the computer, my older daughter will shut my laptop and say, "mom, your family is important, not computers!" And my youngest daughter loves to pretend to text and email. I believe creating some daily and weekly time that is unplugged for our family and children would be a tremendous gift. Right now all of our lives are so manic, and it doesn't have to be this way. I found this essay to be very thought-provoking as well: http://www.sunset.com/travel/anne-lamott-how-to-find-time-00418000067331/.

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