Every generation sees their share of modern advancements. From a technological standpoint we have never been at the pinnacle we are now. Electronics and gadgets are everywhere you look. They consume the attention of people walking, driving, working, and being. Anywhere you go you see faces glued to screens. Attention diverted. Non-stop entertainment. “Social” media.
So how is it that you raise a child to not be socially awkward when they engage more with the television than other human beings? When do they get to utilize their imagination if they spend more time on their gadgets than in their room or at the park?
It takes a lot of effort to raise a child that is in tune with life around them because the reality is, it’s easier for them to be entertained while you get stuff done if they have a tablet in hand or a television on. My daughter can easily spend the entire day on the television, computer or tablet if I let her. Take that away and have her play with her toys in her room and she’s bored in 5 minutes flat. Suddenly she’s wondering what I’m up to, wanting to help me make lunch and clean up around the house. Seriously? Cleaning is more fun than playing?
She often asks me what I did for fun as a kid much like I used to ask my mom when I was her age. My answer is always the same, I used to play- a lot. Ride my bike, play in the yard, make forts in my room, hide and seek, make believe in the spare room upstairs. In her defense I understand that playing alone isn’t nearly as fun as playing with a sibling. Her sister just turned 1 and while she tries to keep up and laughs until she cries with her big sister, constantly telling her not to rip the coloring book, eat the crayons, or not to rip dolls heads off can’t be much fun for her 7 year old sister.
I’ve gone back to my electronic elimination for the time being because whenever she gets to the point she’s too mouthy and headstrong, I hit her where it hurts and her gadgets do the trick every time. The first few days are the worst and make me want to give up. The constant following me around the house, hundreds of times she tells me she’s bored in a ten minute period followed by insisting that I play with her wear me out. You’re grounded which means it’s a punishment, which means you’re not supposed to like it-live with it. By day 3 she doesn’t care anymore. She comes home, puts her backpack away, strips her clothes off (that I have to tell her to pick her trail of clothes up and put away) and she gets a book and reads, or a coloring book to color, or a doll to dress up and style their hair.
She definitely stays preoccupied with her electronic devices but I can just picture her brain turning to slush up there with nothing other than mindless entertainment to keep it working. She’s got such a beautiful mind, full of great ideas and funny thoughts, she just doesn’t realize it because she’s not exercising it. The more she uses her imagination the more she wants to and the less she thinks about her gadgets. We are back to Saturday night family night and we’ll rent a movie to watch all piled on the couch eating popcorn with M&M’s. She’ll be ecstatic for the movie, then go to bed and go back to playing with Play Doh on Sunday.
Even though she is entertained with her gadgets, there are important skills she is missing the opportunity to pick up on if she is distracted with a screen in front of her. Social interactions, social ques, sympathy, empathy, are all things to be gained through observation and interaction. I find myself often repeating two things-
1. She needs to live in the moment. She is always trying to figure out what is going to come next without being present in what is going on now, like she’s trying to fast forward through the commercials.
2. Pay attention to life. She often gets so caught up in whatever screen is nearby that she completely loses focus of what is going on- walking into things or not hearing me talk to her. This lack of focus happens even when there are no screens around, doing homework and her mind is on something completely unrelated.
The best thing I can do to raise my children in this digital age is to be ancient. Not caveman ancient, but just back to the basics. Continue to have meals together that we actually engage in conversation with one another, go for walks, go to the park, spend quality time together.
Is it just my child that has this gadget addiction? Can you relate? Have you eliminated or moderated usage significantly? What are your thoughts and experiences with raising kids in this gadget crazed world?