Kids, Technology, and Me

I’ve been thinking about technology and social media use for myself and my kids A LOT lately. In fact, it’s a topic that is never too far from mind. How can it be? We hear about it ALL. THE. TIME. For me, I’ve had a hard time wrapping my mind around it all because a) I tend to react negatively to any extreme argument and b) both sides make some valid claims.

But recently, I listened to a podcast from Culture Matters about The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch. First, let me just say that Crouch has one of the most balanced and reasonable approaches to this topic that I’ve ever heard. He wrote this book (which I plan on reading) not because he saw his kids struggling, but because he say how technology was infiltrating his every day moments as an adult. He decided to consciously make some changes in his own home for the benefit of everyone – NOT just because he was a fear monger who was bemoaning “kids these days.”

I loved that he talked about technology use in general. The lessons he learned and the tips he offered are just as relevant to the single adult as they are to the mom raising little ones or the family with teenage kids. 

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The big take away for me about technology use right now is that it has it’s place, and like anything, we need to keep things in their place in order to avoid chaos – either literal, emotional, or spiritual (or all three). I can see how all consuming technology use is, and that is coming from someone who has a less than average amount of screens in their home. It is far too easy to be mindless consumers of technology.

In order for it to have it’s place, we have to thoughtfully choose to use it, and then just as thoughtfully, choose to ignore it.

One common concern that I’m reading and hearing about over and over is that we as parents are raising little ones who are incapable of navigating frustrating or boring situations because we are constantly shoving a screen in their face. Throwing a tantrum in the car? Here, watch a movie. Bored waiting with mom at the doctor’s office? Here, play with her phone. Etc, etc. I’m learning that it’s a crucial developmental milestone for kids to navigate the turbulent waters of boredom and frustration. They NEED to experience those things and learn how to cope in healthy ways. What we are subconsciously doing is telling them YOU COPE WITH LIFE BY TURNING ON A SCREEN.

Whew.

That thought really bothers me.

As I was listening to the Culture Matters’ podcast, one of Crouch’s first points kept coming back to me. He said that if you read his book and choose to because a tech-wise family, you are actively choosing a more difficult life. He talked about our addiction to doing things the easy way.

Sure, it might be easier to set our kids in front of a show, but is that the best way to teach them how to handle the situation?

Let me stop here and say that I am in no way or shape against watching tv. I ADORE tv and so do my kids. I think its a super amazing thing and I’m so grateful to live in the day and age of Netflix. It all just comes back to my earlier question – am I choosing to use technology in my home thoughtfully, or has it just become a forgone conclusion? Am I using it, or abusing it? Am I teaching my kids and doing the hard work of parenting, or am I leaning on a clutch of convenience?

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These are such personal questions. I don’t raise any of these questions to point the finger. These are simply the questions I’m asking myself, and wanted to share in case they resonate with someone else.

Which brings me to the most personal part of all of this.

In the podcast, Crouch was talking about how technology gets in the way of our solitary moments. Whenever we have a free moment – whether waiting in line or sitting in the drive through – we turn to our screens to fill up that moment. I’m guilty of this.

Am I loosing the ability to remain in my solitude — and be ok?

Think about what happens in solitude, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Solitude is where we reflect, we ponder, we question. It is in solitude that we turn inward. This has huge implications for our emotional intelligence, our spiritual connectedness, and our creativity. It also speaks to our ability to simply BE.

Crouch mentioned this weird paradox where technology simultaneously deprives us of connectedness while making us incapable of experiencing solitude. To me, that sounds like an extreme. I tend to live in the extremes, and I’m learning that part of growth and maturity is taking steps to come towards that center line. I don’t want to thoughtlessly allow technology to seep into every moment of my life, but I also really freaking love Instagram so I don’t see myself giving it all up, either.

For me, I want to be all in when I choose to be with people. I want to connect, be present, and enjoy community. I also want to be ok with solitude. I want to be able to let my mind wander and ponder the stirrings of my heart without the distraction of scrolling or commenting. And, I want to choose to use technology in a way that is both fun and useful.

I want to continue to enjoy my Netflix and Instagram, by choice, not by habit.

Starting today, I’m committing to simply practicing a little more mindfulness when it comes to my technology use. I’m not going to worry about the kids yet – as I said, we are fairly low tech at this point. I want to start with me, with my use, with my choices. I want to get comfortable with my choices, and I want them to BE choices, so that eventually, I can make mindful decisions about how we use technology as a family.

I’ve decided that I’m going to start a morning ritual of getting up, settling the kids, starting coffee, and stepping outside for a few sips of fresh air – regardless of the weather. (This is something Crouch does.) I want to incorporate that physical act into my morning of connecting with my kids and my environment before I ever pick up my phone.

I’m also committing to turning technology off during nap time. My two littlest ones nap for two hours each day. For those two hours, I’m going to be 100% undistracted by my phone and laptop (which doubles as my TV). These two hours are a gift and it’s stilly to waste them on technology. I can save my show watching or Instagram scrolling for later that evening. During those two hours, I’d rather read, get outside, or complete some household chores.

That’s it. I’m not “fasting” from anything. I’m not panicking and saying my kids can’t watch anymore tv (Heaven help me). I’m just deciding that I’ve invited technology into every aspect of my life and I’m not comfortable with that anymore. I want to be more thoughtful and intentional about how I use technology, and it starts today.

Who’s with me?

2 thoughts on “Kids, Technology, and Me

  1. I think about this a lot too. I agree, it’s all about being mindful. I’m usually pretty good about staying off my phone when I’m spending quality time with people (date night, hosting company, visiting people). I also love to watch tv when the kids are sleeping and I am not looking to cut back on that. Except when I have a good book to read, then I don’t miss it.

    It’s the day to day moments that get me. When the kids are playing nicely, or otherwise occupied (ahem, tv) I always find myself reaching for my phone. I guess I look at it as a little break. But then I find it hard to pull myself away. It’s a problem I need to be more mindful of for sure.

    I like the idea of staying off my phone the first and last hour of the day. I think it’s a good way to set the tone for the day.

  2. Yeah, I hear ya. Although, I’ll be honest – not to toot my own horn, but because I’m sort of a Neanderthal when it comes to technology – I don’t use my phone or the TV much. I’ve only had a smart phone for a year, but we purposely limit ourselves to 1GB of data so we don’t use our phone (although we’re not ones to use internet on the go anyway). I have these habits because I’ve seen my friends overuse their phones for years – TOO much when we’re out together – as well as see strangers sit there and fill their time with their phones. Yuck. I carry a book (sometimes) with me and a notebook and my wandering brain.

    I do spend too much time in the evenings on my laptop, though … I’ve tried to correct that by doing mutual activities with my husband like doing puzzles etc. It takes a very conscious effort .. and sometimes the help of an alarm.

    Love your no-tech naptime idea! Good job on being aware of this issue and consciously making a change.

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