TV, computer games and mobile phones have been a way of life for years in the West. Each decade the number of small screens and time spent on them multiplying like over-friendly bacteria. And as a parent, I’ve felt like an increasingly ineffective and foul-tasting antibiotic as I’ve tried to stem our own kids’ desire for devices and screen-time.
Why bother fighting it I wonder? Everyone’s doing it – hell, I did it! And then this little bit of instinct kicks in over the whining and the sound system.
iPods, iPhones and iCarly give kids great superficial instant gratification and distraction, but not much of anything else. That’s because they don’t prepare our kids for the world they’ll be living in as adults…a world with way more than 7 billion people who are all going to be competing for the same resources and opportunities – just as those resources and opportunities are limited.
So even though today my own kids had Academy Award-winning meltdowns, nasty moments and serious argy-bargy ( a British term meaning “a lively or disputatious discussion”), the time they didn’t spend consuming the screen meant they actually learnt, did and contributed something.
• The 7yo helped in the garden so we’ll be able to eat fresh food a month from now.
• The 11yo cooked dinner for a neighbour in need and the rest of the family (yum!).
• The 9yo spent hours engaged in all sorts of outdoor activity including burying a stranger’s racing pigeon and using a screwdriver to retrieve the bird’s microchip bracelet for the owner! (Yes…definitely a bit odd and a new experience, but if he hadn’t been outdoors he never would have come across it!)
This doesn’t make them angels, and it certainly doesn’t make them martyrs, it also doesn’t make them totally screen-disease free or free of meltdowns…it just makes them contributors.
It’s by contributing, by learning and by doing that they accrue the attitude, skills, capabilities and persistence that will be like bonus points in the years ahead.
Providing our kids with screen-time boundaries means they’ll actually be able to explore their own capabilities and the real world that they live in. It enables them to realise that real achievement takes time – not just hours of button-pressing action.
It means they’ll understand that being able to say iCan and iDid is ever more powerful than iPlod.
And it also means when we parents say “no” to excess electronic consumption, that we have to be ready to hear “iThinkuRtheBiggestMeanestParentInTheWorld!”… and learn to like it.
See Honeycomb Kids for 300+ ideas and activities you can implement with your family along these lines.