There have been a lot of posts lately about the dangers of kids and technology. Biggest danger of kids and technology in my childhood was sticking pointy objects in the plugs. Having five kids we understand the reality of modern technology, oh too much. I would love to say we have it all figured out and have no issue with it but that would be a bold faced lie. And if you have taken the time to read this then I wouldn't want to break our trust as author and reader. Our kids definitely spend their fair share of time on the internet, television and video games. And honestly this is not a brand new phenomenon, as it was around when I was a kid, just in a different way.
Growing up in the 80's we watched tv but it was at specific times when age appropriate shows were available. And, of course, it was only the age appropriate ones, ok maybe not but that's just kids pushing the boundaries as they do. We would play new Nintendo games soon as they came out and I mean play them until we beat them. That often meant days on end in someone's basement playing video games till our fingers were deformed into permanent crooks. Anyone else remember that feeling of your mom yelling to go outside and when you did it felt like you were a vampire walking into the sunlight? The light was so hard on your eyes there was no option but to squint until they adjusted. The reverse feeling is also quite overwhelming playing outside in the summer heat and then going to watch tv in the basement felt like you were a cave explorer without a light to guide your way. The same was experienced for those who also read books, those paper things bound together with all the words. I was just too busy playing to be bothered reading as a kid, Archie and Garfield were my books of choice.
Today my kids are more drawn to the internet and the plethora of options for them. My kids spend more time watching youtube videos and blogs than they do watching actual tv shows. And video games also have their place in my kids roster of technology practices. And if I'm honest I want my kids to experience those things just as I did. So they can look back and remember certain movies fondly. Recall spending time beating the newest video game. And now it will include the best youtube videos and chatting with their friends opposed to talking on the phone. When I say phone I mean the old phones that were wired into a wall with the curly cord between the handset and base. The ones that if you were a pacer like me became a household hazard of getting wrapped up or tripped by the big long cord.
I think for me the bigger issue has always been what are the other things my kids do with their leisure time. If your kids free time is only technology, I do think that is an issue but you're the parent so it is your choice. What is lost for so many kids today is the act of playing outside. When I was a kid, even though we spent lots of time on technology, the majority of our free time was spent outside. We played pickup sports, road our bikes/skateboards, played at the park, played in the woods, swam, hiked, and all sorts of other outdoor activities. Those are also the memories that are most fond to me. While the general memory of video games and tv are good ones, they don't have the same clarity and fondness as the ones outside in activity.
Our parks today by comparison to my childhood are virtual ghost towns. Our children are either plugged in to the wired world or busy with organized endeavours and have no time or encouragement to get out into the world around them. And often it's more of a suggestion rather than the demand it was when I was a kid. Parents didn't ask if we wanted to go out they told us to go out or we went freely. I feel like we have flipped the order of normality from outside activity, technology, and organized activity so that now it is organized activity, technology, and outside activity with technology sometimes taking first place. One of the large reasons we moved to the country five years ago was wanting our kids to go out and play in nature. We had other reasons too because our kids played outside in the city as well but it was a factor in moving. Here at Ever After Acres we have the best of both worlds as they can play in our yard/forest or walk up the road to the school playground so it's not nature or civilization but rather a taste of both. The amazing thing is that they actually do that, sometimes through demand and sometimes freely.
Our two youngest girls have had a very similar childhood experience to mine having their best friend live next door. When school is out they hit the road and are off to play. They aren't scared of rain or snow it just changes the attire, mostly enforced by us the parents. They will grow up having experienced the great outdoors regularly, as kids need. Truth is we as adults need it as well. Doctors dish out recommendations of vitamin D like it was candy because we aren't outside enough to get the required sunlight. Yes winter limits our access to this vital provider of life but not to an extent that we can't get enough required vitamin D.
I think like everything in life we require a healthy balance. My kids get a variety of technology, friends, nature and family on a daily basis. Too often today playing outside is more of a weekly or monthly experience for kids opposed to daily. And as I said we don't have all the answers but I do believe that all of us could use some more vampire/cave explorer experiences when our eyes have to deal with that oft forgotten beauty of sunlight.
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