Tag Archives: computer

Kids on Drugs….I Mean, Screens

Photo Credit: Flickr

I have a confession to make.

There’s a precious little girl in my life who calls me “Ga” (because she can’t yet say “Gram”). Not even 20 months old, she has learned well how to use her tiny index finger to point for us to take her wherever in the house or yard she wants to go. She demonstrates her mastery of body parts by pointing that finger to her eye, nose, mouth, etc. when we call out the word. Just recently, she holds up that singular wee finger when identifying the number “win”.

My heart melts.

Unfortunately, I am a culprit contributing to the delinquency of a minor…no, no. Not that…but I have contributed to her developing that index finger further in playing with my smart phone. She knows how to scroll through pictures and she knows how to tap the “play” icon to start up videos.

Is that so horrible? What’s the harm?

[Here’s the disclaimer. There is no judgment here whatsoever for the sleep-deprived moms out there who hand their preschooler their smart phone or tablet while nursing or dressing the baby…or trying to get dinner prepared…or (fill in the blank). I remember the years of small ones myself, so many years ago. In fact, the TV as babysitter was my go-to device to get stuff done or maintain my own supposed sanity. Not just for the little ones but for myself, just to watch something for my own relaxation. Of course, they were watching with me…so I had to consider the possible impact of that then, as I’m writing about screens now.]Photo Credit: Pexels

My confession comes from a place of discovery. The problem is not that this toddler likes looking at pictures of her family on my phone. That has to be a morally neutral (even positive) thing. Also not a problem is her fondness for her Uncle Nae’s music videos. She has her favorites and daily asks to see those (Dayman and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas)…among others…several others.

The problem is when she doesn’t get her way. When Mommy intervenes or when Gram comes to her senses about the amount of screen time she’s facilitating. Then this funny, sweet, curious little girl flings her head back, attempts a body-slam, and emits a piercing angry cry against those who would keep her from her screen(s).

Morally neutral or even positive goes out the window at that point. Given her reaction, when does something soothing and enriching like family photos and videos cross a line…out there in a few kiddie years…to a screen or internet addiction?

I don’t think I’m over-reaching here. There is balance absolutely, but if we don’t even consider the risk, we won’t take steps to keep screen use healthy for our children/grandchildren. I’m dealing with this in my own head right now…and in my habits.

Many parents intuitively understand that ubiquitous glowing screens are having a negative effect on kids. We see the aggressive temper tantrums when the devices are taken away and the wandering attention spans when children are not perpetually stimulated by their hyper-arousing devices. Worse, we see children who become bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

But it’s even worse than we think.

We now know that those iPads, smartphones and Xboxes are a form of digital drug. Recent brain imaging research is showing that they affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic — as much as sex. – Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

I was reminded of when our boys were middle schoolers. A friend of theirs came over to spend the night. They played video games for hours. When we finally told the boys to take a break, the friend actually became more and more anxious, even to the point of not being able to get his breath. We had to take him home.

Now all toddlers are not going to end up heroin…I mean, tech junkies. Again, there is a balance in how we determine what’s a healthy use of electronic devices and where limits need to be set.

It’s just something to think about. My confession here relates to the personal struggle I have with internet dependence. I was a late adopter of smart phones (my first being in 2013). At the time, my job was a communications strategist for a new work team. Managing a blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, and other office communications kept me online most of the time. Online and distracted by it. Still a struggle for me to have balance in this area.

I don’t want to have that sort of influence on this darling granddaughter, our tinier grandson, or others who will come after.

Before smartphones and Wi-Fi, I was a people-watcher and a people-engager. I read books more. Had people over all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong…those things still happen…but screens are a huge distraction for me. I would love to be one of the nurturers for our grandchildren of a different sort of life… Screen time is going to happen every day, sure…but not to the point where they don’t prefer talking face-to-face with people nor be a part of great adventures or discover the world (in real life).Photo Credit: Flickr

How are you handling your own electronic version of life? Please share in the Comments section. You will find helpful links below – articles and books. All the articles are practical and empowering. [I have not yet read the books; they are recommended by the authors of some of the articles below.]

As for our little one’s love of her uncle’s videos? She will still be watching them, just not over and over and over. Fortunately she can also enjoy the music (without benefit of the screens) because we are Patreon patrons of her uncle with his MP3s as perks). Those music files were a great help recently to this tiny girl enduring a long roadtrip. Listening to her favorites, she finally fell asleep.

Peace.

Power Down & Reboot – Our Family Gets Out of the City For a Re-set of Life – Oualidia, Morocco

 Morocco Casablanca Grande MosqueSomehow, we raised a set of city kids. Over the course of nearly 20 years, we have lived in medium to large cities across two continents. They don’t require a lot of space to enjoy life…a cozy bit of couch for our daughter and her book; electronics for the boys; a movie shared with friends; games around a table. Our world can become small in the city…maybe as a defense against all the noise and craziness outside our door. Or maybe home, at the end of the day, is that place of respite for us…it’s all we need.

For the husband/dad in our family…a wider, less-peopled place is required, from time to time, to take that deep breath and remember a larger world out there, beyond the city. He has to get away from email and phone calls and appointments sometimes…just for a few days…and we all are the better off for it.

Ten years ago, while living in Casablanca, Morocco, we discovered a well-kept-secret, revealed to us by some of our local friends. Just a two-hour drive south of Casablanca is a tiny town by the name of Oualidia. It’s a fishing village, beside the Atlantic Ocean. Unique to Oualidia is a lagoon alongside the coast, protected by natural sea-walls. It provides a lovely space for families to picnic, swim, and play. Fishermen cast their lines off the rocky cliffs or take boats out into the open ocean. Young people gather for surfing or soccer, or in couples to properly court in this open public area. It is a magical place…Oualidia.

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These were the days before we had smart phones, and internet connectivity was spotty. Leaving the city, heading out into the countryside, slowed down our lives the farther we got from home. Getting outside the normal can be a bit unsettling, especially for 13- and 14-year-old boys. Surely, there would at least be satellite t.v. in the hotel rooms…or maybe not. I didn’t always know what they were thinking, as our eyes got used to a different view outside the car windows. Winter wheat fields now golden, the occasional sheep herd, and people walking along the desolate road…to who knows where.

It would take us a few hours  to recalibrate fun to a much more fundamental or even primitive level than what we were used to in town…with all our electronic supports removed, as well as our friends now more than just a phone call or taxi ride away.

As we settled into our shared hotel room (no t.v. after all), something  extraordinary began to happen. The simple beauty of Oualidia and even our hotel, L’Araignee Gourmande, began to settle us down like a gentle massage. Our communication/entertainment choices in the city would keep us attached to screens (email, internet, computer games, t.v., phones). We could do just fine for hours on end, not looking at each other or engaging the world. In Oualidia, there was no other option but. After an early awkwardness, we made peace with our situation and each other. It happened on the walk to the hotel restaurant and over dinner that first night.

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It was always fun for us to vacation in North Africa, especially not being tourists really. We lived there and we spoke the language. This always surprised the hotel staff and the servers in the restaurants and stores. We met kindness everywhere we went. And especially in this little hotel/restaurant. This tiny establishment was known for its fresh seafood brought in daily from fishermen just down the beach. And we ate like royalty – all types of fish, crab, mussels, oysters, and even sea urchins. Every meal was an adventure.

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For that long weekend (and others after it), we  let go of the city. In place of all our electronic devices and constant city friends, we found each other again. The boys played together, and with their sister. We took long walks on the beach and played for hours in the water, finding creatures in the tide pools we’d never seen before. We talked to strangers with abandon. We quietly soaked in the goodness of God through His creation of this beautiful spot and all its richness.

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Late each day, we watched the fishermen cleaning their nets on the shore (just like they must have in Bible days).

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Every evening the sun set into the Atlantic, with us watching, and we retired to our little hotel room to our books and thoughts. Apr 04 154

By the end of the weekend, we would giggle and be silly in the dark of the room with a daddy who had repaired from his city life, along with us.

In those days, we loved our lives in the city, and returned quickly to the routines of life there…but a few days in that little fishing village changed us…reset us again to what mattered most.

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