Warning: this post is a rant that has been brewing for some months.
Last spring, my attention was called to an article written by Neal Halfon, M.D., M.P.H entitled “Parental Benign Neglect.” You can read the article at http://www.childup.com/blog/childup-bestof-parental-benign-neglect-could-texting-while-parenting-harm-babys-development. It has provided me with months of food for thought, and a number of conclusions of my own.
The first conclusion is TURN IT OFF! There is no reason to respond to every text, email, and notification you receive! As I observe parents throughout my community, I am disturbed by the need they seem to have to pay attention to the little screen in their hands and miss the wonders of childhood right in front of them. Story time at the library is to interact and engage your children as you SHARE the experience. The librarian is NOT a free babysitter so that you can address more pressing matters. Take time in the grocery store to talk with your children about food, meal planning, even prices (depending on their age). Nothing on your phone is more important than teaching your children the importance of the people in your life, and how to treat them. They learn that by example…good and bad.
Second conclusion- they are learning from us! As a society, we bemoan the addiction our youth seem to have to video games and screen time. Where did they learn it? When you take them to the park or playground, do you run and play with them, or sit and become absorbed in a game which excludes them? When you are home as a family, are you reading, laughing, working, and playing together? Or are you all so busy with a little (or big) screen that conversation is an inconvenience? How much are you missing? What message are you sending them? What is really more important to you?
My third conclusion is that our attention span and ability to retain is sorely lacking! If there are no bells and whistles, no flashing lights to hold our interest, we don’t bother to remember. As short as thirty years ago, we learned to read, do math, interact with others, and play without the aid of batteries or electricity. It can be done, and we need to teach our children how to do it. There is a need in everyone to have time to think, ponder, meditate, and be still. Focus can never happen when there is always a blinking screen obscuring our vision.
Conclusion four- People become less and less important as we spend the bulk of our time with programming. So many people around us need us to notice them, help them, love them. We were put here to be the Lord’s Hands. How can the Lord speak to our souls unless we make a quiet space for Him? How can hear and remember the needs of those around us if we never purposely take the time to listen- really listen? Do we think the two-dimensional people we see on the screen are more vital, or more real (or more convenient) than the three-dimensional ones around us?
So…are smart phones, tablets, or other technologies inherently bad. Nope. Just our habits sometimes as we use them. They are wonderful gifts; just not as wonderful as the people around us! So take a few hours, turn them off, and tune into real life. Enjoy!