Tag Archives: Screens

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.

Saturday Short – Parenting and Growing Up on TV

Blog - Screen time - telegraphPhoto Credit: Telegraph

I missed the bus once because, as a first-grader, I got completely immersed in a TV show. It wasn’t pretty. Both my parents worked, and my younger brothers were already squared away at a sitter’s house. Freewheeling it, a mostly responsible 6 y/o, I spent the day alone because of the power of screens in my life from an early age.

[Sidebar: No shaming of parents follows. You have a hard and important job…especially those who are the primary caregivers, Mom’s usually.]

Spring forward a few decades to my own raising children. I still loved TV. It was then and is now an entertaining diversion from the day’s work, providing a break from thinking, studying, decision-making.

However, my own filter for “not appropriate for children” in terms of content and how much was not very reliable. Finally, one day when our oldest child was maybe 18 months old, my husband made the unpopular decision of recommending we cancel our cable subscription. He came in, when I was taking a break, and watching something (detective show or romantic comedy, can’t remember), and our little one was watching right along with me.

Sigh…I was really o.k. with the intervention.

[Be kind in your judgment of my husband. I could have appealed that decision, but it was the right one, for us at the time. Truly I wanted our children to be able to engage in conversation with adults, and to have varied interests and skills, and to serve others. When my go-to down-time diversion was TV, it was easy for me to disengage from other more substantive uses of our time.]

Josh Squires, pastoral counselor and father of 5, posted a blog today on binge watching and on-demand entertainment. I’d love to hear what his wife says as well, but the piece is fair, reasoned, and compassionate. He talks about what affects our decisions for our children’s screentime – content, time, and (heart) attachment. For you caregivers (Mom’s), there are still times to just curl up with the kids and watch something on TV…or to let them relax with a favorite film while you get something done. Totally.Blog - Screen Time - desiring GodPhoto Credit: Desiring God

I’d rather you read his words than my own, so I’ll close with this. Being a grandmother now, I’m sure there will be opportunities for me to babysit, and already I can see using some sort of screen time as a good diversion when the littles are older… However, having said that, I hope their parents will be able to trust me to model drawing them into thoughtful service of others, talent- and skill-building, and the practice of conversation. That’s my hope for myself for sure.

These days my best naps are when the TV is glowing in the background. Still could miss a bus today…

Parenting in the Age of Binge-Watching – Josh Squires – Desiring God

Monday Morning Moment – Screentime – Give It a Rest – DebMillsWriter

Addicted to Distraction and the Possibility of Restoring a Longer Attention Span

Blog - Addicted to distraction - diygeniusPhoto Credit: DIY Genius

Recently I was at a training event in a remote area where I had no cell phone service and limited internet. It meant I went through stressful training and at the same time experienced a forced exile from screen time. I don’t even have to tell you which was more challenging.

Growing up in my generation was very different than now – playing outside until dark, talking for hours on the phone with friends, falling asleep to the comforting drone of Mom and Dad talking and laughing in their bedroom down the hall. If you’ve ever seen the 1999 film October Sky, it makes me think of Dave’s growing up also – playing in the woods, biking everywhere, building rockets, hunting and fishing.Blog - Playing Outside - jeffs60sPhoto Credit: Jeffs60s

We are enjoying different advantages now for sure…I wonder how our grandchildren will one day describe their childhood. Having computers and the internet have been amazing assets to our lives. The dilemma is when our screen life becomes more engaging that our real life. When “Facetime” replaces face-to-face time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the opportunity to see people via phone. For instance, friends of ours who got married recently had a small wedding, BUT they had a friend live-stream the wedding and all the rest of us got to “be there” via Periscope. Saw the kiss and everything. 2016 March 5 - Megan & Brian Wedding Kiss

There is something to be said about all the electronic capabilities we have today. For sure.BLog - Addicted to Distraction - littleredfrenchPhoto Credit: LittleRedFrench

The problem is when objects take command of our lives. These screens (phones, TV, computers) eat up so much of our day. Also, what about when we start exchanging real time relationships with the barest minimum associations via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? When a friend decided to go off Facebook, I was bummed… At that time, she lived 6 minutes from me. Not like my friends in Morocco or Egypt where I depend most on Facebook to keep up with them. She lives right here in town. We can have real coffee’s and real talks on the phone. Sigh… I had pretty much relegated keeping up with her to social media. Now we’re back affiliated only in real life where I might need to call her. Imagine.

I’ve written about this before (here) and want to manage my life better in this area. Multi-tasking was always something I thought was a strength, but now, getting older, it hasn’t helped me develop much of an attention span (see Charlie Munger’s thoughts on this here). It makes sense that thinking long and hard on something would have a powerful impact on our success or decision-making. Focus. Concentration. These are the things that have suffered in my life with all the distractions.

Kyle Pearce wrote a small piece on being distracted and introduced me to the work of Nicholas Carr (who wrote The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains and The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us). The 4-minute YouTube video below describes some of what he writes about:

Besides managing the distractedness in thinking, memory, and processing information, I want to nurture a habit of deep conversation. Sherry Turkle (author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age) writes about this and gives me hope.

Blog - Distracted - conversations - quotesgramPhoto Credit: QuotesGram

Turkle admits she loves computers because they have helped her make tremendous strides in writing, but they are not people. She writes as if she’s reading my heart. This disconnected connection we experience with one another is so illusory.

“Networked, we are together, but so lessened are our expectations of each other that we can feel utterly alone. And there is the risk that we come to see others as objects to be accessed—and only for the parts we find useful, comforting, or amusing.” – Sherry Turkle
Here’s my hope and vision – to re-learn how to really be connected with people, including myself. To practice solitude. To quit living the excuse of being distractible. To learn how to think and work deeply, and to remember how to have deep, thoughtful conversations again.
I’m not prepared to stop using my phone for information, nor am I able to quit using the internet as a resource for work and life, but it’s entirely possible to restrict connection time.  Also, it’s exciting to think of how I might use that time I waste on the internet to actually be with friends and loved ones…to read more books…to rediscover what is right in front of me in real life…to know what it’s like to have (and enjoy) a quiet mind.

The good news is that the process of withdrawal is simple and the healing is spontaneous; because it is only the continuous high volume consumption of mass media that is keeping us sick. So, at root, the detox programme is merely a matter of Just. Say. No.” – Bruce G. Charlton

What might the next generation be like if our grandchildren are nurtured in this way? How can we help them have such mental muscle and true sociability that they could avoid being addicted to distraction?

It’s something to think about…off-line. Gone to find a real face and give that face my full attention.

Distracted? This is How the Internet is Changing Your Brain by Kyle Pearce

Multitasking – Giving the World an Advantage It Shouldn’t Have – Farnam Street Blog

Are We Addicted to Distraction? by Sophie at LittleRedFrench

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business by Neil Postman – originally written in 1985, brilliantly prophetic of the future (updated in 2015)

Worship Wednesday – Live Like That – with Sidewalk Prophets

Blog - Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

We choose whether our brief lives are misspent or spent well. A few days ago, a dear neighbor, Mrs. Frances died unexpectedly at the young age of 92. I loved her stories of teaching English and serving people God placed in her life. She and her sister walked the neighborhood in the early morning. Just seeing her on those walks encouraged my heart. She had so much joy and was generous with it, lavishing it on all she met. By her own testimony of faith, and evidenced by a life of loving God and others, she is in Heaven. I can see her house from my kitchen window, and her life will continue to affect me for good. I want to live like that.Blog - Live Like That - Frances & JohnnieMrs. Frances (on left) & Mrs. Johnnie – Neighbors & Friends

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd (read whole beautiful poem here)

God has given me so many opportunities in life, for which I’m deeply grateful. Parents who loved God and loved us. A good education. Great friends through the years and across distances. Incredible work situations: teaching nursing at Emory University and then Yale University, working on cancer units in inner city settings and small towns, teaching English overseas, and now writing. I am a wife (blessed with an amazing “in-law” family), a mom to 3 great young adult children (two of whom have added sweet spouses to our family), and a grandmother-to-be. So much joy in all that.

Life has its deep losses as well. My closest life-long friend died this past year. We have lost other friends, family members, and dear colleagues over the years – some dying very young. My Mom, who was always my role model for godliness, died at 75, which today seems so young. My brother, Robert, and his son, Chad, are gone now as well, and even writing this, my heart is pierced again with the pain of missing them.Mom pictures for website 010My Mom, Mildred McAdams

IMG_0017My sweet nephew, Chad Stephens

2007 SepOct 046My older brother, Robert Stephens

So what of all of this? Did those people, through all these years and across all these miles, these whose lives brushed with mine, experience Jesus’ love through me? Today, is it the case?

There are moments of revelation – wake-up calls – that we are meant to hear for our own lives. Life is full of cross-roads, and we choose which way we go. No matter how successful, beautiful, influential, or (fill-in-the-blank), we are, each of us has only this one brief candle-flame of a life. How we live it matters. Will we be remembered more than a generation or two beyond our short stint on earth? Probably not. That doesn’t really matter as much as what we do with our lives – for God and for others. That’s what matters.

Do we live our lives for ourselves? Squeezing all the goodness out of our fortunes to indulge our own desires? Do we hold onto time as if it belongs to us? Do we waste a lifetime on our screens, instead of invested in real people? Uncomfortable questions, especially for me. I so struggle in this. As I write, even if this encourages some, I am aware of a world beyond the door I can see from my desk…where people are, in real skin, and real need. It brings all the more urgency to finish this writing…to get on out there.

“Oh God, I fail regularly. You are not bothered, I’m pretty sure, by our need for downtime sometimes. For recreation. You’ve created us to both work and rest, and You give us leisure to refresh us for the next round of life. Forgive us, when we use that leisure to spend on ourselves and only then want more – more time for ourselves, more toys, more self-directed adventures. Oh God, help us remember how You saved us from ourselves, through faith in Jesus. Help us to see the world with Your eyes. Help me, God, to get up out of this chair…and go out there… ‘recklessly abandoned, never holding back’ – like Jesus lived and shows us how. I want to live like that.”

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Worship with me, with this great call to faith and action by Sidewalk Prophets:

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of us
Was my worship more than just a song?

(Chorus)
I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You
If love is who I am
Then this is where I stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back
I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true?

People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You?

Chorus

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
(I want to live like that)
I’m longing for the world to know the glory of the King

Chorus

I want to live like that
I want to live like that*

*Lyrics to Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets [images from films and news reports you might find familiar – brought tears to my eyes. One distracting typo: In the lyrics, corrected it’s “Was I love when no one else would show up?”

Live Like That – Sidewalk Prophets – Devotional Series

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets (just another lyric video – another set of powerful images accompanying life-changing words)

Story Behind the Song Live Like That

Sidewalk Prophets Website

Photo Credit – Sidewalk Prophets Live Like That album cover Others are my own.

2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 205My Dad, living well, so far, with Alzheimer’s, and me