Saturday, April 2, 2011

Simplicity Parenting: Step 3: Screens of all Sorts, or What Else Could I be Doing?

That sums up my main gripe about tv time, and computer time and gaming time and the rest of it. What else are you missing out on when you are stuck in front of this completely engaging and compelling thing with a screen? Sure, you were out for a walk at some point in the day, and you did your school work, your chores are done, but could you not be outside playing or practicing an instrument of making up some lovely world in your imagination?

As I was driving to the Waldorf conference a couple weeks ago, I thought about the difference between Arthur, six going on seven, and his older siblings at his age. Granted, Arthur is not the same as any other child in the family, and I would not wish conformity on anyone, but it does seem to me that he does not play the same way, with the same utilization of imagination and creativity. What was different about the environment he is growing up in as opposed to the one when the first two were small? Number of siblings, older children in the house, age difference, and...a game console. Could this be it? Could the very presence of the dang thing be causing my little Arthur to beg to play it every day and be encouraging him to use the "b" word?

I believe what I discovered at the conference was both a yes and a no to this question. Opening up the door to technology and screens in one's house is a little like peeking into Pandora's box and letting it all go. However, the lid is still on its hinges and you have the remote to open and close it and decide at what times it is appropriate to do so. I think we can make good use of technology (it does have its benefits) and still live a mindful, balanced life. The key is remaining mindful.

The amount of screen time an average child is exposed to is staggering, close to 10 hours a day for children ages 8-18.  When parents questioned the statistics presented, we were directed to an asterisk explaining that some of these ten hours a day were simultaneous. Playing with a cell-phone or i-pod or Nintendo while watching tv is given double time. Perish the thought.

Texting was an interesting topic too. I'm not too up on the problem because no one in our house texts. My kids do not have cell phones (because your mama is a dinosaur and convenience is not everything). Here is the thing: texting provides an instant rush, a little high comparable to getting a gift. Each time you text and someone texts back, it makes you happy. It is quick, easy and immediate, it is addictive.

One last observation of Payne's; he worked in refuge camps in different war-torn, poverty-stricken countries. He found, of course, that the children suffered from post-traumatic-stress-disorder of the severest sort. They were jumpy, lost interest in things quickly, had sleep disturbances and did not react normally to temperature extremes (like going outside in a t-shirt in very cold weather). He later set up a practice in London, and then in the US, and was astonished to see the same pattern of behavior in normal to affluent children in the western world. His diagnostic; all of the pressures, from schedules to too much stuff, along with excessive screen time, was waging a war on today's children. An invisible, non-intentional war, but causing the same effects on children nonetheless. 

We have everything, we can offer our children everything, let's just remember to dose it and not forget the gifts of quiet times, nature and boredom.


  1. Hey Angela! We're totally on the same wavelength lately. I just attended a workshop, "Not seen on t.v, the effects of media on children" by Dr. Douglas Gentile. Six hours of staggering information. Please search him, as his website is filled with research and valuable information. Love to you all! Allison

  2. Haven't attended the work shop but I'm a TV dinosaur etc too. We aren't allowed TV during the week unless it's a documentary or science programme AND it's raining outside, all work is done, instruments practiced etc… We don't NEED mobile phones - we homeschool and there are no consoles. I imagine everyone pitying my kids as they have no Nintendo or PS etc.
    They are however starting to develop a more intense interest in everything that's happening around them and outside. I am getting questions about how things work.
    Life is wonderful - even if they nag me for the computer/tv. We do love to watch a movie together on Sunday evening. Having said that - spring is here and we may all just spend time outside instead :)
    Looking forward to seeing your photos!


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