Oh yes!! The greatest time of the year, summer vacation! I am not one of those moms who dread summer. In fact, I love having my kids home with me all day. My kids are awesome! We stay up late, have wii ‘just-dance’ battles, go to the beach, and generally enjoy ourselves sans-rules until September comes.
But there is one tiny problem. Screens. As in, computer screens, television screens… kindle, mobigo, ipod, etc. screens. There is something about seeing my beautiful, healthy, intelligent children zoning out in front of a screen that just makes me cringe.
I am old enough (late thirties) to have grown up in a time before screens. There was one screen in our house, and it held little joy for us. A few channels, mostly news and boring adult-centered shows. My neighbor had an atari, and I thought they were so lucky! We played it sometimes, but mostly we were outside, running around unsupervised. I think I was in 6th grade when we finally got cable, and could watch MTV. That summer my friends and I all sat in front of the television, mesmerized, then went outside with our boom-box to copy Madonna’s dance moves on our patio. Aahh, good times. I still think that is the way childhood should be.
Gradually, as I entered my teen years, there were “word-processors” and more advanced video-games. But I was so past that! I was drinking in the woods, painting in my room, reading, chasing boys, smoking pot, whatever… but I certainly wasn’t in front of some box for hours on end! As I entered college, the internet became a thing, and there was myspace and e-mail, and I tried to keep up…but again, I just never cared all that much. Now, I’m at an awkward age where I’m too young to be tech-ignorant and too old to have the natural understanding that comes with being raised by technology. I try.
But back to the issue… summer and the screens. I am of two opinions.
First, I want my kids to run around and play, for their mental and physical health. I see a real problem with the way kids are constantly being entertained, as opposed to entertaining themselves. I think a certain amount of boredom can result in creativity. Do we really need to have a DVD player in the car, a tablet at the ready for games and videos on the go, a television in every room? When do they learn how to play? When do they learn how to even talk to each other? Is watching the adventures of fictional characters really a substitute for having your own adventures?
So, I try to limit the minutes. I set timers and make arbitrary rules. “no television when the sun is out!” “no computer games on week nights!” I sound ridiculous. And hypocritical, because as I say these things I am sitting in front of my computer, typing away on my WIP, or laughing at facebook and tumblr, instead of having MY own adventures. And because my kids (and I) have become so screen-dependent, I usually cave and allow them to watch something so I can get some work done without listening to whining and fighting. It’s a vicious cycle.
On the other hand, is a certain amount of screen time good for them? We live in a world dominated by computers of all kinds. Technology is literally everywhere. How much of this ‘screen time’ is actually training for the future? Already I see my kids (ages 6 and 8) have a much more intuitive knowledge of technology than I do. They actually get pissed off when they encounter a screen that isn’t ‘touch’ sensitive. They know how to use new programs and devices almost instantly. Am I doing them a disservice by forcing them to step away from the computer?
I don’t know. I guess I’ll just keep sending mixed signals and flip-flopping. My love-hate relationship with screens will rage on, and the summer will end much too quickly.