I recently polled moms in our Facebook Community Group and they use their smart-phones as a parent for any or all of these reasons:
Calendar / Scheduler
Recipe index (thanks, Pinterest!)
Podcasts / Audio Learning
…and not to mention, community connector! (social media)
Wow, that’s a lot of stuff packed into a little box. We’ve definitely come a long way, but what I want to focus on here is how technology has changed our parenting. Now that we can do so many things at the tap of a screen, it can become our main focus of attention. Smart phones have effectively replaced individual management systems, made our lives more compact.
Hey, I am ALL FOR efficiency, but what makes this new lifestyle a cause for concern is how often we’re using these magic apps and whom they might be replacing.
Then we give kids their own iPad… why? Because it keeps them quiet? So they’re not always in our face?
I get it! It’s so hard to keep young kids distracted, and we need a break.
And it’s great that there are so many educational apps out there – innovation is a beautiful thing, but at what point to we stop living our lives, raising our kids via an electronic device? There still has to be meaningful human connection. Facial expressions, tone of voice, personal logic, reasoning, & explanation. My point is, technology can’t replace everything, and we have to recognize when to cut back and why.
We Still Have to Parent
“Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.”
Thank you, Kristina, adulting IS hard, so so hard. Raising kids and giving them guidelines while we watch our own tech intake is a lot to handle! But it doesn’t have to be impossible. Let’s use tech without letting it take over our lives, so here are 5 guidelines to think about to avoid tech overwhelm:
5 Guidelines to Avoid Tech Overwhelm
1. Notice Your Triggers
The Catch 22 of the benefits of technology and the time-sucking vortex that it creates comes back to one simple thing: choice. We have to choose when enough is enough, and if it takes re-training our brains to live on less, then that’s what it takes.
It’s similar to the idea of buying more stuff to be happy. We take in and take in, and all of a sudden we forget that we need to actually connect to other people. The “stuff,” even if it’s information, clouds our mind and there is no free space to rest and react appropriately.
For many of us, constant contact with everyone else besides our kids, and attention to the devices puts the gap further between us and our family…. and this can create unexpected angst, frustration, and short tempers.
I’ve felt my blood pressure rise when the kids are trying to ask me a question and I’ve been on the phone for a half hour since I got home, not wanting to break my gaze. I had to put myself in their shoes and ask, “What is so important that Mommy can’t even look at me?”
“Well, it … I mean, I could see on my children’s faces and that was not the only time that my life of “overwhelm” was taken out on them. And there was a look of fear in my child’s, my older daughter’s eyes, because I did get to the point where I was not a positive person. I was … became a yeller and that was not me.”
Take notice when you start to get more irritable with the family, it’s probably a sign that it’s not your kids that need to be shut down.
2. Trade Efficiency for Connection
I was talking with a mother of eight kids, some young adults, some younger (blended family Brady Bunch situation). She keeps a large calendar in their kitchen, color coded for each family member. Being a lover of office supplies, the concept was exciting to think about! I had migrated from a personal paper calendar to Google on my phone. You know, easy access and all. I asked if she had considered that option and then syncing to the family’s individual phones.
Her answer was profound… “I guess I could, but then they wouldn’t have a reason to come home.”
She felt like she was losing her family as they grew older and became more independent. In effort to keep them together, she keeps up her hand-written calendar, in the most central area of their home: the kitchen.
What I realized about myself was that I had spent so much time trading efficiency for real connection. It’s quicker to do it this was or that, so why “waste time” and do it the old fashioned way?
Karen Ehman writes in her book Listen, Love, Repeat about the importance of cultivating a gathering place. Hers was the kitchen, where she focused her energy on doing what she did best: cook! The teens brought their friends and her kitchen became a beautiful place of connection and togetherness. I want those memories for my kids, to know that they can bring their problem and joys to the heart of their home, and that mama always has time and focus for them.
3. Cultivate Creativity
‘A 2016 Nielsen report calculates that the average American devotes more than 10 hours per day to consuming media—including radio, TV, and all electronic devices. That constitutes 65 percent of waking hours, leaving little time for the much harder work of focused concentration on reading.’
How were we educated before the internet and social media? Book, right? Libraries with encyclopedias, and the time to sit down and pour over pages, or sit and listen to the teacher or professor. Now that technology has made information so easily accessible, we need quick answers to solve problems quicker.
It may not feel like it now, because the thirty-year-olds still remember that time, but the long-term effect technology may have on the way we’re educated may catch us by surprise.
Andrew Pudewa, founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing says that “technology will atrophy the skill that it replaces.” You know, when you don’t use your muscles for a long period of time, they atrophy, or degenerate. They decay and are soon useless. We can see this in the areas of:
- Writing – why know how to spell or construct sentences when there is spell check?
- Communicating – why learn how to speak correctly or communicate emotion when there are emojis and texting?
- Math – why learn how to do mental calculations when there is a calculator?
- Memorization – why bother remembering key dates in history when you can Google it?
The homeschooling curriculum we use is based on the Classical model of education, lots of memorizing and mental exercises including handwriting, and public speaking. Check out our resource page here: Classical Conversations.
We have to encourage our kids to master basic skills first, and as Andrew says, “don’t eclipse their development [with technology].” For example, toddlers don’t need to be on iPads, they need to use all of their senses to learn about the world around them. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends no screen time for kids 0-2 years old, and age 2-18, 2 HOURS of screen time per week.
Before we hand out kids an electronic device, make it a priority to cultivate natural relationships, teach them to serve people, talk to adults, communicate effectively. They can’t practice those skills with a screen in front of their face.