This is a sensitive topic. Generally I want to tread lightly around topics that are so controversial, but this one has cut me before- so I’m walking boldly and carrying a big stick.
Technology is all around us. I am using it right now to write this blog. I’m sure you are using it to read it. We work, plan, communicate, and pass time with technology. Whether it is your phone, your laptop, iPad, TV, or even your watch- we are tied to it.
But what effect is it having on us? Are we more thrilled with the juicy comment section on some drama we have no part in or by our husbands coming in from work? Are we more entertained by YouTube or our children? When was the last time you binge watched your child jumping with the same enthusiasm you binge watch Stranger Things?
Not only does technology have its claws dug into us as Mamas and the very culture we live in- it wants its claws into our children, more than we can possibly imagine.
The only thing standing between your children and the dark web is you.
The Disadvantageous Side of an Advanced Culture
I was just a kid the first time I ever got on the Internet. I remember it so clearly. My Uncle was one of the very few people I knew who had a computer in his house. We gathered around while he clicked away with this strange object called a “mouse”. After a lot of waiting and empty dial tones, we were finally booted off. I remember my Uncle shrugging and saying “There may be too many people on it right now.” A few minutes later, we finally connected. And I saw- absolutely nothing of interest.
Fast forward 10 years and I was coding to perfect a MySpace page I was too young for and illegally downloading music to my MP3 player.
At 16, my mom gave me my dad’s old cell phone after his job gave him one. It had nothing but calling- no camera, no texting. And this is precisely why when people tell me this is their strategy for keeping their kids safe with phones, I say “Yeah, that won’t work.” Because I know from experience. As someone who never tried to seek out trouble at that age- it found me- through a ‘safe’ phone.
Fast forward 12 years later and more than half of our relationships and conversations take place over social media. People don’t want to get together anymore. They don’t like to answer phone calls, grab coffee, or cook a meal together. Instead we say things like “I hate people” or “I’d rather just stay home” like it is a catch phrase.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m shy and a total hermit. But I want to know the people I talk to. I want to pull them up a chair at our table, not just follow their stories online.
Okay, so we know technology impacts us right? Our social lives. Our mental health. Spiritual health. Our emotional responses. Sometimes even our physical health.
We get that dreaded comparison bug and beat ourselves up because our house doesn’t look like the ones on Pinterest.
We call out for a mental health day and unplug from Facebook because we simply don’t have the capacity to think on it that day.
So why on earth do we not think it would impact our children all the more?
If our fully formed adult brains are overstimulated, imagine how our children feel!
Jim Taylor, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today that heightened technology exposure might actually be changing the way children’s brains are wired. Why? Because, unlike an adult’s brain, a child’s brain is still developing, and as a result, malleable. When children are exposed to technology at high rates, their brain may adopt an internet approach to thinking – quickly scanning and processing multiple sources of information. Developing brains are particularly vulnerable to this, and where previous generations may have spent much more time reading, imagining, or participating in activities that require focus, attention, brains in children exposed to high volumes of technology may adapt to frequent visual stimulation, rapid change, and little need for imagination.Click here for the full link and 10 Ways Technology Affects Children
TV time, online learning, web surfing, YouTube videos, even the simple gaming apps- all of it impacts our children and their developing bodies- especially with prolonged exposure.
Blue light has a direct impact on children’s eyes leading to health issues like headaches and sleep disorders. Click here for information on your child’s eyes and blue light.
Prolonged screen time means more time indoors and less time outside being active.
Screens even impact the quality of sleep which leads to a lowered immune system.
And technology usage is linked to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorders, inability to focus, as well as emotional and behavioral issues.
Technology changes the way our children’s brains develop. That alone should be enough to cause you to step in and cut back. This isn’t to shame anyone, but we don’t get a do over. Our babies have one brain, one childhood- we have to take that seriously as Mamas!
(Note: The key to fixing screen addiction is time outdoors. Isaiah went from needing glasses to 20/20 vision in about 10 months with very limited television time and most hours spent outdoors!)
While screen time does have an impact on our children’s development, the risks don’t stop there. I’m still pretty young, I am a 90s baby. We had a TV and I used it way too much. We had a family computer and I loved playing Rugrats games on it. But it was so different. My mom didn’t have to stand over my shoulder and make sure certain advertisements, videos, or messages wouldn’t pop up.
Mamas, I do not like getting to the dark side of this. I desire for this blog to be beautiful and uplifting- but there is no way around it here. We have to accept that this stuff is out there and it is after our children. It is our job to guard the gate, so we have to be aware that there are dangers on the other side.
There are games, made for children, with messaging platforms where predators are trying to speak to your children in the safety of their own home. The Internet is laden with false ideas, pornography, sinister messages, and twisted users seeking your children..
I know, I know, we all think it can’t happen to us. Not my kid, I trust them. I trust my kids too, but I wouldn’t hand them a loaded gun and walk out of the room. So I will not hand them a device and say I trust you. Please, please- guard your babies. Don’t put the key to the world in their small hands and protect them around other children who aren’t as heavily guarded.
Before having my first baby, I never really planned what screen time would look like. When Isaiah was about a year old I distinctly remember sitting him down in my lap to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse together before bed each night. We watched Sesame Street at breakfast, Peg+Cat at lunch, and if I needed to do anything- I turned on the TV.
It was my go-to babysitter when I needed to mop, shower, or handle anything that was easier done alone. I justified this largely because he was still running around the room. He didn’t just sit and stare. He ran in circles, acted out what he saw, repeated things they said, and even answered questions on the so called ‘educational’ shows.
It wasn’t until he started showing signs of screen addiction that I began to realize I was making a huge mistake.
I know the temptation is there. You need to finish dinner. The house is a wreck. You don’t feel well. They didn’t nap. Everyone is fussy. Listen, I’m not saying never. In fact we have moments where we still turn on Berenstain Bears or a documentary for the kids to watch. We have family movie nights with popcorn or hot chocolate. But we don’t do it everyday.
We cut it out almost completely- and in a minute I will give you some tips on how we did it!
Unplugging From Excuses
Before we change anything in our lives, we have to first acknowledge that a problem exists. Anytime I have sought to change something without a ‘why’ and a plan in place- I have failed. While writing this blog, I have read many articles and webpages and something that I have seen over and over and over again-are statements like “Sure technology causes damage to our children but it has perks too.”
So I have to ask the question: Why do children need to learn how to use technology as children?
We didn’t have it when we were kids and yet we learned how to use it. We aren’t talking about withholding it until they are 50.. My 7 year old doesn’t need to know how to set up a social media page before he is even old enough to read To Kill a Mockingbird. There is no reason for a child to be more enthralled in Ryan’s World than they are their own.
Mamas, I know you are made to feel like if your child isn’t educated by a device they aren’t properly educated. But isn’t it amazing how people learned their alphabet, colors, numbers, and days of the week without an iPad up until about 10 years ago. Why is it deemed better for our children to watch a video on volcanoes than to read a book or build a model one for themselves? Listen, since the beginning of time mamas have handled their days, taught their children, and raised well rounded children without the aid of a computer. Do not let someone tell you that you need this in order to prepare your children for the real world!
Unplug from the excuses, unplug yourself, and unplug your children!
Making Big Changes
So what now?
Anytime we feel called to change something we have to do one of two things:
1. find a way to change it or
2. pretend we didn’t feel called to change at all.
The sad truth is many people will opt for the second. Why? Because it is easier. Ignorance is bliss, right?
No, no it isn’t. But I cannot persuade anyone to make a change they aren’t willing to make. If, however, you are trying to make this change- whether you have failed in the past or simply never tried- you can do this!
Here are 4 ways to start cutting the cord on technology:
- Be the Example- if you start stripping away the iPad, cell phone, and Television from your children while still indulging in it yourself in front of them- well that isn’t going to send a very clear, concise, or fair message. Instead, cut the cord for you too! It is better that way anyways! Teach them the joy of face to face conversations, casual dinner parties, and watching butterflies in the garden instead. They will learn more from your example than anything else.
- Find New Ways to Spend Your Days- Technology is really good at entertaining the littles while mamas work. But as I mentioned earlier, Mamas have always had to juggle little helpers while they worked. Don’t think of it as losing your in home babysitter, but rather hiring a new one who is purely beneficial. For us in the beginning- this was coloring books, board games, and especially puzzles. In fact they almost became an obsession. Now that he is older, he loves legos (basically 3D puzzles). For Iris, art or handcrafts tend to be her favorite entertainment. As for the littles- well for now footprints on fresh mopped floors and shower visitors may just be part of life for a while. (Side note: it is okay- better yet- it is good for children to be bored sometimes. This is where creativity and imagination can blossom!)
- Speak Openly and Honestly- You don’t have to tell your children about the dangers of the Internet or how it rewires developing brains. Instead simply explain that it isn’t good for them. Talk to them on their age appropriate level and make sure they understand you are changing things because you love them and want what is best for them.
- Paint it Beautiful. Just like with anything else in life- paint this change beautifully. Don’t mope around all day bummed and complaining with your kids that this is so hard. Instead embrace this change as an opportunity to find the beauty in your own life. Plus life is much more peaceful without a constantly buzzing phone or flashing screen.
Know Your Target
Mamas, we are aiming arrows. Above all else, this is our job.
What are your goals as a Mama? What are your goals for your children?
Take some time to really ask yourself that question and jot down some characteristics of the kind of kids you hope to raise. There are so many hills in Motherhood, or shall we say so many targets. There are enemies encamped all around us, but they aren’t all worth the Mama roar. And with arrows this precious, we need to line this shot perfectly…
Guard them. Protect them. I know it is hard. I know at times it feels like the entire world is against you. Your kid may be deemed the weird one when they call Mickey Mouse “Paw Patrol” like Ivy does. But I would rather have the weird kid aimed at Jesus than the popular one slipping down a path I wouldn’t choose for them.
Aim on Mamas because these arrows are worth it.
Cut the Cord.
Check out our post 3 Do’s and Don’ts of Homeschool for more info on cutting back screen time and ideas to get your kids off the couch and on to something better!