I've been thinking about this topic for a while, and I've got quite a few thoughts swirling around in my head, so hopefully I can pull them together and get them all out clearly.
A while ago (can't remember exactly where or when) I read something that said, when it comes to technology, we are immigrants but our children are natives. It really made me start thinking about my kids, and how they will interact with technology and how it will shape their lives. It will definitely be different than my own experience, no doubt about that.
The other night a friend and her husband were over for supper, and we got to reminiscing about how we were introduced to computers and the internet. We talked about when we first got our own email addresses (I believe I was about 16). We laughed about the sound of the dial-up (beep boop screeeeeeech), and how you had to get off the computer if mom or dad wanted to use the phone. How we'd get home from school and go on instant messenger to "chat" with our friends, even though we just saw them and there was really nothing new to say, but just because it was such a novelty. How now we are so attached to our cellphones that we feel almost naked without them (not me though - I have a very basic cellphone which is usually dead in the bottom of my purse. :P However, the day when my internet wasn't working for half the day.... that's a different story).
These days, kids are exposed to technology far sooner, and at a sometimes alarming rate. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is all that screen time really a benefit to them?
We've purposely tried to limit the amount of "screen time" (TV, computer, etc) that our kids are exposed to (please note, this is just our decision for our family - I know that everyone will make their own decision for their family and I'm not judging or saying you need to do what we did. This is just what works for us). We noticed something when Annika was just a little baby, maybe around 2-3 months, that helped make the decision for us - she was absolutely captivated by the TV screen. She would stop crying, stop fussing, completely tune out the rest of the world if she could catch a glimpse of that screen. And we didn't like it. She became a little zombie, even at such a tender age. So after noticing that, and discussing it, we decided to keep the TV off when she was awake (or, when she was still little enough, we would hold her so that she couldn't see the screen). This worked for us, and for a while, when Annika got bigger, she didn't even take notice of the TV when it was on. I remember when I tried to watch "Charlie Brown Christmas" with her, an all-time favorite of mine (she was just over a year and a half at the time), and my somewhat-disappointment that she had no interest in it at all, and wouldn't even stay sitting on the couch with me.
So for about the first 2 1/2 years of her life, Annika didn't watch TV. That all changed when Emmett was born, and Annika decided that that would be the perfect time to stop napping. That did not make for a happy mama. I needed a little sanity, a little break, so I started letting her watch TV after lunch, which usually coincided with when I would feed Emmett. Once we got into the routine of it, she started sitting still and paying attention to the TV. At first it was just a half hour that she would get to watch, then we started watching Sesame Street and it was a full hour. She's "outgrown" Sesame Street now (at 4!!), but she still gets to watch an hour of TV after lunch, once Emmett goes down for his nap. Usually it's Dora the Explorer or Strawberry Shortcake. Occasionally she'll get to watch a movie (she's a big Shrek fan, although not as much lately). Her TV "repertoire" is fairly limited, but she seems to be okay with that (I'm the one who usually pushes to find a new show, when I can't stand hearing the same ones over and over again!). As for Emmett, since the TV is only on when he's asleep, he's still blissfully unaware of such things. On the few occasions when it is on and he's around, he's just like Annika was, and pays little attention to it.
Little by little, technology is starting to creep into our little girl's life, and I have to admit, I'm still a little uncertain about how I feel about that. It's undeniable that one day she will be immersed in it, but does she need to be already? Should I be trying to preserve these screen-free (or rather, screen-limited) days, or should I be preparing her for what's to come? Am I doing her a disservice by not teaching her about computers? Will she be behind the rest of her classmates when she enters kindergarten in a year? I know that sounds sort of silly, but is it true? Things have definitely changed since I was in school. Computers are now an integral part of the classroom. Just the other day I read on a friend's blog about how she created her own QR code for her students' parents to scan with their smartphones to access her contact information and the class website (she teaches grade 1). A little while ago there was a news article about a high school near our place requiring students to have laptops. I'm not saying that the influence of technology is bad, but it's definitely changing things.
And how does my own screen time affect the kids? I don't have the TV on during the day, but I certainly spend time in front of the computer. Usually it's not much - just replying to an email, checking Facebook, looking for a recipe, pinning something to Pinterest... harmless stuff, right? Or maybe not. I'm sure most of us have read this article - "How to Miss a Childhood" (if you haven't, it's worth a read). For me, it's not a phone that distracts my attention, but my computer. But really, is it any different? Maybe a little more limited, since I don't always have my computer with me (I never go on the computer while driving ;) ). But what am I missing in those brief minutes when I'm just "checking in"? What message am I sending to my children about what's really important? I'm not quite prepared to say that I won't go on the computer when the kids are around (because sometimes I really do need to send an email before I forget, or get a recipe from online for making supper), but I'm going to try to consciously cut down on the number of "quick checks" that I do.
Wow, this ended up being quite the post! Thanks for taking the time to read it. Hopefully all my ramblings made some kind of sense. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic - how does your family deal with things like screen-time and technology?