Oh! How I do love thee technology. I can find out anything I need to know — and also what I don’t need to know -- with a quick inquiry to the Google. I can map myself to anywhere I want to go. I can find out things about girls my brothers are dating before my brothers even know the poor girl’s last name. I can arm the alarm to my house from anywhere in the world. I can incorrectly diagnose myself with any medical ailment you can think of. I can stalk where my husband is at any given moment (not creepy at all). And finally, I can waste a perfectly glorious day holed up in my room binge watching Downton Abbey episodes until I’m speaking in a British accent.
You see, technology and me? We’ve become quite close.
Unfortunately, this relationship has enacted unintended consequences on my offspring. My daughter has been a first-hand witness to all the texting, googling, talking to Siri, and “there’s an app for that” behavior of mine. Despite my attempts to limit her usage, she has noticed that technology plays a very present role in her parent’s everyday life and naturally, it is beginning to take a prominent role in hers.
We recently took a trip to Arizona this winter to make sure that temperatures still exist over 30 degrees. We were relieved to find that in fact, they do, and warm sunshine still exists. In addition to that very important finding, it was this trip I began to notice my daughter’s reliance and desire for all things technology. For example, when we boarded the plane, one of the first questions she asked me was “Does airplane have WiFi, Mommy?” Whoa. First of all, no it does not and it absolutely should! But second, how do you know about WiFi 3-year-old child of mine? Back in my day, when I flew in an airplane as a child I was most concerned about being the one who got to sit by the window and how many bags of peanuts the flight attendant would surrender to me.
But, gone are the days of peanuts, and gone are the days of window watching for children growing up in this generation. Afterall, who wants to look outside when we have information, entertainment, and distraction available on our technological devices? Therein exists the conundrum. As it is so readily available, are our children relying too much on technology? Am I, the relatively perfect mother (blatant lie), relying too much on technology? And, while I am at it, what happened to all the bags of peanuts?
I read a report the other day that said it would be beneficial to limit any type of screen time for children to 30 minutes and under per day and to never use it as a “babysitter”. I immediately thought to myself, “another parenting fail on my part; we watch at least two Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood per morning. Oops.” But, I put the study to the test and limited my daughter for one day to only 30 minutes of any sort of technology (phones, Ipads, TV, computers, etc.). The result? We played together, we colored, we imagined, we danced, read books, stared at each other, and napped. When it came time to prepare dinner, I turned on her favorite PBS show and turned it off right as it was over. So, all that to say, limiting screen time to 30 minutes is not completely impossible, but it definitely takes dedication on my end.
The next day, however, was a different story. I wasn’t feeling good throughout the whole day, so we watched movies. I let her scroll through pictures on my phone. Dinner that night was out with family so I turned on YouTube at the dinner table so we could talk and eat in peace. And at the end of the day, I cringed at how many minutes of screen time she probably logged on to her little brain. In fact, how many minutes had I logged on to my little brain?
Whether you are a parent or not, the technology-life balance struggle is real. How many people do you know cannot be parted from their phone for longer than a nanosecond? Are you one of those people? As a parent in our technology ridden age, how do we showcase a balance to our children with technology in our own lives? How do we harness the power of technology and not let it harness us or our children?
I don’t have the answers. But, wait! I bet there is a YouTube tutorial out there about it … I’ll let you know.