Recently, my mother-in-law shared an article with me about the impact of technology on the developing child, complementing us on how we don’t keep it on all the time in our family. It was definitely an extremist viewpoint, but it made me think, and of course, my comments to my mother-in-law were lengthy enough I started envisioning another blog post. So, here you go, my friends!
In the article it talked about a study done in 2010 by the Kaiser Foundation. Now, crazy that this is already five years old, but the study showed that elementary aged children use on average 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology, 75 percent of these children have TV’s in their bedrooms, and 50 percent of North American homes have the TV on all day. How extreme is that?? When my kids are sick, we oftentimes allow for just vegging out in front of the TV, and it is pretty crazy how quickly hours can pass when they want “just one more” show. I have every. single. line. of every. single. Daniel Tiger episode memorized, I think. To say my two-year-old loves him is a wee bit of an understatement. (Special shout-out to Daniel for making potty-training so much easier, and encouraging little miss BrightEyes to “STOP! and go right away!”)
I have definitely experienced houses where the television is on all the time. I hold no judgement because I definitely know a) how crazy and chaotic it can be to get anything accomplished with small kids in the house, and b) how quickly you can lose track of time when you’re in your zone and they are in theirs…involved in shows that draw them in to “just one more.”
It’s not just TV. Think of all the ways technology is in our faces – there are the iPhones, the iPads, the iPods, the iWatches…good grief- that’s just with one company! I, I, I….I get sucked in. I can get lost behind a screen, and we joke that we don’t do TV because PapaGray’s and I would not be able to complete a sentence – I lose the ability to talk when the TV is on. Which is absolutely crazy because if you know me at all, you know it’s extremely rare for me to ever be at a loss for words.
On top of the entertainment and bunny trails you can go down with all of the technology, there is also the noise – it’s not just visual stimulation. I’ve become more and more aware of the background music I play as well. I used to have it playing all the time, and then started to notice the dynamics in the household at certain points of the day, and how PapaGray’s “chill out” music put our kids into a frenzy!
Now we do enjoy music, but we are selective about the tone it sets, and spend a lot of time simply creating our own sweet music. And, (gasp), enjoying the silence as well! When I wrote about awareness at home a few weeks ago, I talked about having a moment of silence before dinner. Just that one little step made a significant impact on our ability as a family to allow silence as a part of our daily lives. Sit back and think about how often you allow yourself to just sit in the silence.
I think this article is a great reminder to keep the focus on real-life personal connections and not get sucked away into a screen world. I am not anti-technology, and I so appreciate the awesomeness of the internet in unschooling the girls – youtube videos have been lifesavers in figuring out all sorts of things! When we use technology as a tool to do something together (researching, family movie night, cuddle/sick time), it can be wonderful and a way to let us learn and imagine in a way we might not have expected. When it simply becomes a babysitter and replacement for actual conversations, that’s when it can be damaging. I love that the girls get just as much excitement about playing outside as they do for movie night, and we have the beauty of enjoying them both!
So use your tech time with moderation. Never let it take the place of personal relationships, and be conscious of whether you simply have it in the background as “filler.” Our lives are so drastically full all the time. Allow for space. Allow for silence. Listen to the beauty that silence brings to our noisy culture.