For a while now I’ve been concerned about the use of electronic devices in our everyday lives.
I notice more and more people staring at phones while out to eat together at restaurants, while sitting next to each other on the sofa (yes, even in my own family!), and even while the TV is on with a shared program. I know I’ve seen parents staring at their phones at the playground, mumbling a half-hearted, “Um-humm” in response to “Watch me!” from their active child, and I’ve heard of parents absorbed in a screen while their child plays inside right in front of them.
I get it. We’re busy, we live in an electronic age, and kids are learning fast with computers. We are interacting with far away friends and family in a way that we never could before. I’m not down on technology, really, but I see trends in early development and what we’re teaching our kids that are disturbing to me.
It is disturbing to me for a few reasons. One is that research shows that communicating via text results in people feeling less supported than communicating in person or by a voice call when calling a friend or family member when they were feeling down. I wonder if communicating via social media is similar to text, and what we teach our kids about communication and the value of direct attention when we prioritize our electronic devices over each other. Do they learn they don’t matter as much? That they have to perform to get attention?
Another reason, similar to the first, is how disconnected we have become. There is an epidemic of anxiety and depression in our youth, and when we know personal connection increases positive feelings, I wonder if we are encouraging and modeling behavior that factors into higher rates of mental health issues in our kids.
Yet another concern is that we, as adults, have seemingly lost much of our ability to play and give attention to our children. Instead of engaging with our kids, we take photos and post them, with hashtags and quippy captions. We’re watching our kids with an eye for a good Instagram photo, or what will present well on Facebook, but not really seeing them. And many parents I talk to tell me they really have no idea HOW to play with their kids.
Screens have reduced our attention span as well, so it’s harder to be focused on something non-screen for longer periods of time, and our kids move a slower pace and take longer to move through their world and transition from one thing to another…
…and I think it’s time to really work at giving our children our attention, without thinking of posting a photo, or checking in at the park, or putting up a status of what you’re doing as a family.
Our children look to us for how to be in the world, and I wonder if we even realize how often they look and see us – and others – engaged with a screen, and then want a screen for themselves. And isn’t that the easy option when you’re busy and want time to yourself? Yep, have them sit with the iPad…
I propose you challenge yourself to put your phone away when you are with your kids – at the park, watching TV with them in the evening, playing a game, or supervising them. Notice how many times you reach for your phone when you feel “bored” or your attention drifts.
Just notice…And then let’s talk about it.