There was that time
I saw a new mom in Chapters
pressing her cell phone to her infant’s head like a taser gun ~
playing white static noise to put him to sleep.
And felt righteous indignation mixed with horror.
And there was that time
I listened to the impassioned young father declare
that if only he could
he would have a computer chip installed
right into the brain of his 5 year old daughter;
so much better off would she be
with her technology directly imbedded in her head.
And again I felt horror, indignation, superiority.
I could not even begin to understand.
I want to.
Today I want to bite into both sides
of this strangely enchanted Apple
and just see…
maybe I won’t actually die.
The soapbox I call home is the techno-wary world of the techno-minimalist.
Here is my 10 year old daughter on our new (and first ever) i pad.
The reason she can’t even pronounce the word technology is because it is such a foreign concept in our house.
And in her school too, for that matter.
My kids just don’t have exposure to devices, computers, smart phones, ipads, ipods, or video games.
(I let them play with some old walkmans and cassette tapes for a while — that was fun…)
I’m not sharing this as a badge of honour or shame, but as a conversation starter…
My 4 year old calls our new contraption “the pea pod.” He’s drawn a few cool pictures on it. And for someone who’s never touched a device, he figured it out faster than I did.
My 8 year old son has no interest in it at all. Someday I’ll write about all the non-video-game video games Brayden has invented out of string, water, brick, paper, bottle caps, etc.
Yep, I have purposefully kept my kids pretty much pre-1980 when it comes to tech, and I have kept myself as techno-illiterate as long as possible as well.
(When I see something about an icloud pop up I want to pull out my umbrella and run for cover)
Such an interesting feeling — swimming against the tsunami of the world wide web.
Honestly, I have loved every minute of snubbing the virtual dimension and I have no regrets.
But these days, as I’ve been logging more and more time on the computer, launching my own online presence with Parent by Magic, I’ve had no choice but to turn and catch the wave.
Values and actions at odds with each other = cognitive dissonance and it should feel pretty funky. Like, funky bad.
But….have you ever noticed how techno-jolly casts such a warm and consoling welcome that soothes right over any sense of compromise…
I mean, all of us would say our kids are priority #1. We don’t want them to have this picture of us glued to our iphones promising “just a minute, just a minute, I just have to finish this…” as we reluctantly struggle to wrap it up and free our attention to be with them.
Like my daughter pointed out, “I hate it when you’re on the computer mom. It’s like you’re not even here.”
My kids see the dissonance.
They know what I stand for, and they see me love-tapping the keys a little too much lately.
So I want to reckon this thing out.
I’m feeling unusually provoked to turn over my favourite soapbox and inspect it for rot.
Why do I have such a hate-on for technology?
…and is it valid??
Having gathered a ruthless assortment of tools, I am ready to pry apart my techno-phobic soapbox
And maybe even rebuild it into….well, something else made of wood 😉
Either way, I plan to sit inside my flipped-over soap box for a while, so I hope you’ll throw me your two cents on the topic.
What do you think about kids and computers?
(Be brave and respond with your comments at the end!)
If I am willing to admit it,
I think I know why I fight the tech.
It is very likely
that I am afraid of it.
Because a) we tend to fear what we don’t understand and b) because it is just too good, too smooth, too sexy and powerful in all its ways.
I fear its ability to seduce and consume my consciousness, let alone the minds of my kids.
I am wary of how ‘technology immersion’ works like french immersion on supple, young brains.
I have no interest in raising digital natives, where wifi is as intimate as their primary language and data has mated with their neurons, reproducing…. what?
Reproducing minds whose version of reality is saturated with convenience and control.
That’s my fear.
In our family mission statement we have a big clause against Compulsiveness. We do what we can to starve it out of our kids.
So, letting in devices that supply instant gratification and endorphins through the finger tips? Not so much.
Welcoming in silky-smooth apps that train brains to interact with “life” in hyper-speed, slot-machine ways? No thanks.
Looking at myself again, I realize that I actually resent techno-jolly for making life easier.
Or, I resent myself for letting it.
I resent that I do admire the intoxicating sleek of the shiny white apple, so bewitchingly held out to me.
The idea of joining in the mad love affair with technology makes me feel weak, behind, dependent, and bought-off.
I do sincerely hate it, and I do genuinely panic at the thought of handing my children over to it.
That is my confession!
Now that I’ve done my little dance for you…
What do you think?
Am I denying my children their 21st century birthright? After all, what’s wrong with a little supervised, balanced, middle-of-the-road acquiescence and submission to the machine, right? Everybody’s doing it!
Will our austerity measures and techno-deprivation backfire in the end? Will they struggle like cavemen lightyears behind their peers, embarrassed they can’t even make Mario jump on a mushroom?
I personally doubt it.
But I am willing to wonder.
I am willing to be wrong.
“Which is a really big deal….for me”
(as the little clown fish says)
it’s not about the apple.
It’s about the crate.
I have had my days standing on the corner soapbox-dancing, waving self-righteous arms around.
I have had my days judging blue streaks up and down many a toddler’s poor mama when I’ve seen the iphone in the ‘wrong’ hands.
And I have had those bloodiest of days — being the gladiator mother bear — when I have torn most deeply at the ones I love because they do things differently.
Let’s face it, Parenting is that kind of arena.
Doesn’t matter if it’s technology, immunization, food choice, or any other nuance of this choose-your-own-parenting-style adventure, there is this to-the-death fervor that rages at times.
Why do we get so riled up?
Because we care so much.
Because to be ‘wrong’ in this arena = we’re messing up our kids.
Which feels worse than death.
It’s a primal thing.
And for me — I am also realizing — it is a tribal matter.
Pulling others to my side means they will be with me, in my tribe, we will all be together, (sing it) “and the world will be as one.”
That’s what I want.
But my tribe-gathering impulse has been more divisive than not because unifying parents around an extreme only entrenches the smugness of “we who know better.”
Which is why, at this stage of the game, I’m calling for a new crusade.
As a recovering zealot myself, I feel particularly qualified to call on the revolution!
I am inviting ALL OF US to overturn our soapboxes, and…
take an apple,
leave an apple,
profess your undying love for Apple…
Whether you’re techno-jolly,
a die-hard technophobe,
or one of those blessedly balanced folks —
whatever your bent,
I invite you to speak, share, and taste without fear of poison.
Parent by Magic is about many things
and one of them is this:
Creating a different tribe – a borderless tribe – of parents
who are “taking it to the Soapbox” in a new way ~
With humble, tinker-tools of experimentation and trust
We like to keep them open and empty,
ready to hold new ideas….or just open space!
Welcome to my fairy tale tribe, where we don’t ask “who’s the fairest.”
We love our fellow mother and ditch the dark witch itch to one-up the other.
Here, equanimity is the new enchanted apple.
So here’s the task:
We need to figure this screen thing out.
It is a massively important topic.
Where you are right now on the journey/spectrum is less important than where you’re headed, and in what spirit.
The challenge, the choice, and the unique privilege of our parenting era is to face into the whiplash winds of change with:
-hope rather than helplessness
-and the spirit of experiment.
Rather than go binary, we could go deep and wide.
We could model all the things we are hopeful for.
For me, it’s showing my kids the whole mixed bag of my own human example:
“I’m letting in these new tech experiences….but not full throttle, willy nilly”
“I trust you as we try this….yet I expect us to keep our values of moderation and self-control”
“I am open….yet see how I am a master of my compulsions”
“I want you to have this common ground with your peers….but my hope is that you will be a shining example of balance.”
I love the spirit of experimentation because it involves frequent variation, checks and balances and reflection.
We take note, we observe the effects. We check in as a family — how is ‘this much’ video game time feeling. What should our new system/schedule be?
Seen this way, it’s an opportunity — for them to develop consensus building skills, self-reflection, and responsibility.
The greatest fruit is they are the ones saying, “We should have less time on the screen.” They are the ones who regulate and modulate each day with self-initiated exercise, reading, outdoor time and chores.
Right now it is an hour and a half of video game time a week. They set their timers and there’s never any begging or bartering or arguing.
My job is to keep a strong core tribal remembrance of what really matters —
the stuff that could easily be lost along the way.
I want to actively nurture and provide space for the capacities that are special to me.
-ever-growing capacities for boredom, putzing around, discovering real life
-big fat attention spans
-freedom from addictive patterns
-self-empowered good choices
In a nutshell, I would recommend a few guiding principles (because they have worked exceedingly well in my little family experiment!)
Less and Not Yet. Keep it at bay as long as you can. We did not start devices until age 5, 9, and 11. The important foundation of a screen-free childhood is HUGE. I would not do it any other way. My 3 year old does not have screens.
Less and Not Yet. I know I already said that. But that’s really it. Do as little as possible. Do less than anyone you know. Let your kids feel proud of that fact. None of my kids have their own devices yet; my daughter is 13.
We’re in this Together. Consensus-build. Compromise. When they feel their input and desires matter, they are more likely to respect yours.
A Spirit of Experimentation. Nothing is written in stone. Ebb and flow. Re-write the rules frequently, not out of exasperation, but out of a playful relationship with life.
Guard the threshold. Be Scrupulous. You are the filter. You choose the content.
Be honest about the results. As a parent scientist, if the trial is flunking out badly you’ll have to admit it, pull the plug, modify the plan.
Less. Not Yet. Wait. Stretch it out, break it down, offer less. Start as small as you can. A slow, spacious childhood must be actively preserved. This is my number one guiding principle for parenting. Actively contend against the spirit of muchness and manyness in this generation and you will have a rare child indeed.
Lastly, I have written a beautiful children’s book that celebrates the idyllic old-fashioned play that I wish for every child. It has gentle messaging about leaving the screens aside and finding a world of imagination and wonder outside with natural loose parts, knick-knacks, vintage treasures, and real friends.
A Whole Other Magic is a beacon that has rallied many families to this ideal, and it stands of the shelf as a tribute to the family culture they are consciously creating.
It’s available on Amazon.
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