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