I use my computer and phone a lot at home. For work, primarily, but also for researching prices, checking movie reviews, digging up how-to articles for home repair, looking at weather forecasts, performing rudimentary mathematical functions I'm too dumb to do in my own head, and checking in with friends and family.
Look, I'm typing now. Clatter clatter type-y type-y click clack. My face is slightly illuminated via MacBook screen, my finger is poised to hold upright in the air when my kids inevitably interrupt me: just a sec.
Given how relentlessly plugged-in I am, I suppose it's pretty hypocritical of me to rage against my children for their moth-like attraction to electronic devices.
This has been the summer of repeatedly telling my kids to go outside, dammit, and quit asking me for another Looney Tunes episode. Once they realize I'm not going to cave on the TV, they switch to the iPad: can we play the Ninjago game? Can we play Angry Birds? Can we watch cartoons?
No, I say. No, no, no, NO. NO MORE SCREENS! GO OUTSIDE IN THE FRESH AIR! BUILD A FORT OR SOMETHING! STOP ROTTING IN FRONT OF THINGS THAT RUN ON ELECTRICITY!
I often say these things, of course, while hunched over a laptop or hurriedly swiping through email messages on my phone. Hypocrisy, there's an app for that.
A few weeks ago we were visiting with some friends of ours, staying at a cabin on the Umpqua river in Oregon. It was a beautiful sunny day, the water was warm and inviting, there was a canoe to paddle and fish to catch. Our friends' preteen son, however, would have greatly preferred to sit inside playing games on his tablet. Or listening to music on his phone. It seemed like any reality delivered via LED display was a better place to be in than the world happening around him.
I didn't blame him for being bored around all the adults and younger children, but I felt a little chilled by this brave new middle-school-aged world. Smartphones and FaceTime and texting, kids who continually disappear from family life via earbuds and flying thumbs. A child who so clearly would rather lose himself in bits and bytes seems no different to me than a child in the grips of a insidious drug addiction.
Our kids aren't quite at the age of phones and iToys yet. When I tell them to turn off the devices and go outside, they do so, and they don't sit around sullen-faced and visibly bored, counting down the moments until they can pick up a controller again.
I'd like to keep things that way, you know? I want my kids to grow up with a sense of balance. I want them to be happy. I want them here, present and accounted for.
I don't always lead by example, though. That's a downside of working from home, but I know I could do better. Technology-free Saturdays are something we're thinking about -- a complete family moratorium on screens big and small. I could put the phone away more often, so I'm not tempted to sneak a peek during playtime. I could confine the majority of my non-work Internet time to when the kids are in school.
But maybe none of that would make a difference anyway? I don't know. What do you do? Do you limit your own technology time, or your kids'? How do you encourage older, tech-savvy children to prefer the carbon-based world around them?
Image via Linda Sharps