A couple of events happened to me this month that made me think twice about parenting in the age of technology:
First, I have noticed that three out of four of my children are entranced with their electronic devices. My son has found himself needing to check the status of his eggs and/or fight other creatures on a dragon game that he is playing. He is absolutely hooked. As soon as he gets home from school, he disappears. To where? Some corner of the house to be left alone until, hours later, he realizes that he has not eaten anything.
Daughter #1 is kicked back in her room watching stupid (so, so stupid) Youtube videos that challenge viewers not to laugh (I laugh) on her Ipod (Yes, an Ipod. She is the only one in her class that does not have a cell phone – and believe me, she is pissed; but that is for a different post). Meanwhile, Daughter #2 has watched every kid Netflix movie and/or show that ever created and has now started to re-watch them.
They are totally different people when those devices are in their hands. Heaven forbid their dear, loving parents ask them to do any chores. Those requests are met with tears, eyerolls, and under-breath mumbles as they begrudgingly fulfill their duties that are their only requirement to be granted sustenance, safety, and sustainability by us. I understand that there are stages of child development, but this seems like something more.
So, as a trained researcher, I take to the computer to do discover a fix. I know, How ironic — I use technology to fix the technology problem in my home. Save it. Anyway, I came across a multitude of research about both the positives and negatives of technology on children’s brains.1
So, what are you going to do about it, you ask?
I am going to take all of their devices away, at least for now. I’ll take charge of my household. I’ll show them.
Genius! On its face…
What ensues is both interesting and sad. My kids, as multi-talented as they come, had no idea what to do with themselves. Seriously! They either walked around the house like lost puppies trying to find their owner; or, they stared at us parents with those big, sad eyes that screamed, “Help us!” I did not know whether to feel sorry for them or send them to bed. Each suggestion we gave was met with wailing and the gnashing of teeth.
Luckily, by the end of the night, the drama subsided and they found marker and paper and started drawing, not well by any means, but drawing nonetheless.
The second event involved me stopping by the local hobby shop to look for a possible Christmas present for my son (Afro #3). When I walked in the store, I immediately knew that I was going to blow a lot of money. I was totally overtaken by nostalgia – remote control cars, boats, planes, slot cars, and model sets – all things that I grew up with. Things that defined my childhood!
THE THINGS THAT MADE ME THE NERD THAT I AM TODAY!
But, as I was reliving my childhood and contemplating my future credit card bill, I notice something – there were not many people in the store. In fact, for the thirty-or-so minutes that I was in the store, I had notice 3 other people (not counting me and the two employees) in the entire store. One of them, I am sure, walked in by mistake but pretended to look interested out of pity.
“Slow day?” I asked.
“This is how it has been since the ‘beep, boop, beep, craze.” (gyrating his thumbs in a Gameboy motion).
“Wow, that is sad. There is really a lot of cool stuff in here.”
“Yeah, these things are just not as popular as they used to be.”
It then hit me… My children have no hobbies for themselves. They don’t have that one thing that they depend on to keep them busy when they have nothing else to do and are bored.
If you are reading this article, you are most likely old enough to remember a time when your parents told you to “Go away and find something to do.” Full disclosure, I have not researched this thoroughly, but It seems as though our parents were giving us the gift of finding our inner nerd when they would tell us to “get out of their hair.”
Don’t act like I was the only one!
When my parents were too busy to entertain me, I built Legos, played with my action figures, delved into my collection of comic books, or played with my remote control/slot cars. All things that are not as popular now as they once were. But why? Where did all of the nerds go?
Did technology kill imagination? I mean… I don’t think so, but I do think that technology cannot survive without discipline. It seems that it is way more than a coincidence that my kids were hooked on technology and once that was taken from them, they were in a state of confusion.
Here is the conundrum:
- Hobbies help kids learn by doing, test the limits of their success, and provide an remedy for boredom.
- Electronic devices help kids research, provide instant answers to questions/issues kids may have while also combating boredom.
Where is the balance?