Electronic media consumption and children is a widely discussed topic. No parent wants to think they're doin' it wrong. This job is so important. The stakes are high. The choices we make now are the foundation upon which an entire human life rests. The entire human life of a person we love more than we ever even thought was f*cking possible.
I take this 'mom' job pretty seriously; I do my homework. I've read shelves of parenting and child development books and even more on the web. Just like with art and photography, I'm a work in progress... the learning, the growing, is never going to come to a point of completion. I'll continue to read new information as it's presented to me. I'll spend our date nights discussing what the children most need from us, what best suits each individual child in helping to guide their spirit and their education, and I'll remain open to changing my mind when presented with new information.
I don't know about your house, but here at ours, media consumption is a topic we revisit with regularity.
The level of consumption readily available is unprecedented. We are charting new territory and it makes sense to be a little nervous as we navigate. What are they consuming? And how much?... from what resources and at what hours? And for what purposes?
Technology is just a fact of life now. To deny them access is a detriment to the future they are sure to inherit. And on the other hand, too much technology can be harmful, especially to a growing mind/body/spirit. Where is the balance? How do we help our children achieve that balance?
These are questions we're all asking, and I think the best we can hope for is a good discussion. As we move through this new era, we will come upon new information, new science, new ideas and a new way of relating to the world.
Here at the LightInMyHands house, we try to keep an open and honest dialogue going with one another and with each of the children, in regards to this techno reality. We prefer to let them make their own decisions when it comes to their personal media consumption. For the most part, the kids are allowed the freedom to pick and choose when they watch television or game or otherwise interact with a 'device'. There are occasions where one of us will let the big ones know that it has come into our awareness that they're not "self-regulating" well. More often than not, that is sufficient for them to stay more conscious of their "devicing" for a time. And there are of course times where O must be reminded that the outdoors exists and he will, in all his almost-four-year-old splendor.... likely head outside to dig a hole or water his garden.
We are a techno household... our lives... our livelihoods depend on computers and the web. Computers permeate their existence. And yet the littles bore of technology so quickly. My theory is, if given equal access to exploring their real life surroundings.... more often than not they're going to choose reality over technology. They're new to this human gig, the big wide world is extraordinary to them. They're still trying to fill in the gaps in those base levels of understanding. They're learning from interaction, from cause and effect. From a 3-D, kinesthetic place.
My theory is, if given equal access to exploring their real life surroundings.... more often than not they're going to choose reality over technology.
If we limit those surroundings, they will veer towards choosing television or other tech options. I've watched this happen: "mom, can i paint?"..."No, that's messy"...."mom, can I go outside?"..."No. It's muddy out there." When all her desired explorations were stopped short due to inconvenience, the child went and plopped onto the couch in front of the television. But given options, I've seen it play out in my own family and other, like-minded families before..... they will moderate their own usage, with only the occasional, gentle reminder.
Let them be kids.
Let them explore their world and drink up every delicious drop of this life that we are all sharing. Let them breathe it all in and then let it out with a wriggle and a joyful scream. Let them be...while gently guiding them and having meaningful discussions on important topics (like self-regulation).
We are big fans of the magic eraser, all clothes are paint clothes, and we've resigned ourselves to doing what we can to combat the sandy dirt (Thanks, Florida!) that covers our floors as they explore the backyard...often with water. We're learning to breathe deep and be at peace when we've reached the end of our capabilities to clean up after them. They are only small once. In retrospect, I am positive this time will seem far too brief. They take a lot of energy and a lot of love and a lot of patience but the more freely you give of yourself the more beauty you receive in return. My kids trust me, they trust all of us.... they trust us to know about life and to share freely with them what we've learned. They trust that we have their best interests at heart and that we know it is in their best interest to learn to navigate their own lives. They trust we will offer a hand to hold when they reach out for us, as they stumble on those wobbly legs that come with each new stage of independence. They trust that we trust them. And from this foundation of mutual trust and respect we can move forward and learn from one another on this epic journey we call our life.
So when we say, "hey, you haven't been self-regulating with your media consumption so well recently,"... they'll stop and consider how much time they've spent "devicing". They will either display a good argument for why they've been so techno-heavy...and sometimes that's as simple as 'from time to time we all get swept away with devices/tv/gaming. I am aware of it and I want to keep watching/playing.'. Most of the time, however, they'll realize it's kind of slipped their awareness and they have been interacting with computers more than they would like, and they'll modify their own behavior willingly. Happily. They gain confidence and we remain an ally. No push and pull necessary. Only support.