I am preparing to take a technology break – no email, texts or social media, nothing that requires me to look at a screen – for the next 5 days. I am setting up “away” messages and scheduling posts. I am letting family know how to reach us in the event of emergency. Thinking about not using technology has caused me to notice how much it is being used around me. I must be more aware because it is on my mind. It is like when you buy a car and you start to notice all of the same makes & models on the highway. I walked through a store today and noticed all of the children using technology. Parents were shopping and children were looking at screens. Children were swiping, poking, touching and listening. They were being read to, challenged and entertained. They were sitting so still with their eyes on the screens.
This ability to entertain children with technology is fairly new. It didn’t exist when I was raising my boys who are now 17 and 21 years old. I remember carrying bags of books and toys. Parents developed an uncanny ability to read, play and shop all at the same time. As soon as they were big enough, they were out of the cart and nothing I could bring in my bag would entertain them enough to keep them from running in the aisles. We tried to contain them by letting them stand on the back of the cart as we ran. They must have felt like they were flying.
Do you remember being that child? For as long as I can remember, I was a people watcher. People fascinate me. I remember shopping with my parents and watching the people. I remember my father holding my hands and swinging me in the air. I remember that whenever I had to wait and be patient, my mother would have her bag of tricks. My doll was in it. She had books to read to me. There was a lot more interpersonal contact than there is today.
What are our children losing by having so many screens? I cannot help but wonder how different their manual dexterity will be if they spend more time swiping than turning pages or holding pencils. Will they learn to take social clues if their heads are buried in gadgets instead of watching people? There is something so impersonal about technology reading to children instead of humans.
I understand that technology has permeated our lives. I know that parents need to help their children to wait or to be patient when on line in stores or sitting in waiting rooms. It is unrealistic for me to tell people that children should never be using electronics. It is more than I expect of myself. But sometimes – every now and then – perhaps on holiday weekends – we should all take a break and teach our children to do the same. Thanksgiving is in two days. Families will gather. Daily schedules to come to a screeching halt. The days of conversation, family time and personal interaction that we so fondly remember can happen for children today. It just takes more effort because we aren’t used to it. Join me in pressing the "off" button and teaching your children the value of technology breaks.
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