I am seeing red.
My internet is down for the second time in three weeks.
I am furious because I feel trapped and completely dependent on my internet – at this very moment in time, most of the things that are important to me (my blog, my thesis, and video chat with my family *not in that order*) are only accessible online.
How has this happened?
When hubby and I met many, many years ago Facebook was just coming into vogue (I know right!). We both had Facebook profiles and played flirtatious games by changing how we ‘knew one another’ – I think at last count we met through a Mills and Boon novel. We loved getting tagged in random photos from friends and openly shared photos of our recent trips away.
Over time though our opinion of technology changed.
We came to realize the risks to our security when sharing our lives online, and it frightened us how much information someone we have never met can gain about us from a single post.
We also found that we, our family and our friends started communicating differently. We would sit in the lounge room together and instead of talking, we each be on our own devices. We would text not call: we would call and not meet in person. We found that technology made us sadly incredibly impersonal to the people who matter but uncharacteristically intimate with people we barely knew.
This is not the life I want for my children. This is not how I want them to interact with others.
But despite these negatives, we couldn’t ignore the positives.
We live away from our entire family, so Facetime on our tablets and phones has been crucial to ensuring this close relationship. We don’t post photos of our son on Facebook for the world to see, but we have private family WhatsAp groups where our families receive weekly updates on what we are doing.
When we had our son we knew that we had to minimize the exposure to him from the negatives consequences of technology whilst still somehow fostering the positives.
- We wanted him to be fit, healthy and active but not be behind his peers on technological knowledge.
- We wanted him to know how technology works but not be dependent on it for entertainment.
- We wanted to have technology free days where we spent time together as a family rather than being physically present for our child and have one hand on our devices.
- We wanted him to build real blocks and bang real drums not swipe a screen.
Since this time, we have made every effort to minimise our engagement with technology and our son’s exposure to it. A tricky feat when you have a blog, I must say.
- We spend time online when he is sleeping. When its play time, we put our phones, iPads and laptops away and go outside.
- We have a strict no technology at the dinner table rule.
- We got rid of our television.
- We very rarely play videos on the laptop as a means of entertaining him – the only times we do this is when we’re travelling in the car for long periods of time.
- We read him real books and leave the Kindle for our own bedtime reading.
- We do encourage him to engage in Facetime with grandparents, aunts and uncles who live interstate but he is not allowed to touch the phone otherwise (I’ll be honest, monitoring this has been particularly difficult when either parent is away interstate for long periods of time).
Yet despite this balance that we have largely been able to achieve, his curiosity of our phones, iPads and laptop amazes me. It makes me feel as though what little exposure he does have is too much. When I’m being lazy and I give more screen time that usual because it is easy and convenient, he gets irritable quickly, he has poor concentration, and he has trouble sleeping. Come to think of it…. that’s exactly what happens to me when I get too much screen time too!
So given my feelings towards technology and my attempts to alleviate the impact of technology on my son, you can imagine how annoyed I was when I realized just how reliant I am on technology.
It made me reflect upon how easy it is for us all to fall into the trap of relying on technology to entertain ourselves and our kids. It made me reflect on what will happen to our son if we don’t teach him a balance between a virtual world and a real one.
Will he be satisfied simply playing in the park, or reading a book with real pages, or stacking his little wooden blocks?
Will he be an adjusted adolescent and adult, and satisfied with real world experiences or will the important things in his life be only online?
How do I know when he is having too much screen time? And when do I know when and where to draw the line?
I think the answer for my son at least is, less is more!
My point in this article is to make you think about how much screen time your child is getting. Take some time to consider these questions next time you get out your device to entertain your children.
Maybe today is the perfect day to visit a friend or go to the park with the family.
Is your children’s exposure to technology an issue for you?
Do you limit their screen time, and when do you know it is too much?