The increase of screen time the children are seeing is shocking, toxic, bad for mental health, and to me, a bit sad. It’s such an addiction for these littles there are neighborhood kids who don’t want to hang out and play at our house because we don’t allow any video games in the summer. And that’s a problem. Not for my husband and I, but for our kids. While the youngers are usually happy to play outdoors, go to the park, run through the sprinkler, or figure something out to do (I’m in the camp of it’s good for kids to be bored – if you’re in the other camp, that’s totally cool too and I can see that side – idle hands and all that) it’s the olders, the pre-pubescent age group that are seriously unable (or unwilling) to play other than on some kind of console.
Lookit. I get it. It’s really difficult to regulate screens when all the kids have some kind of device or other situation and that’s what all the kids talk about and even when they are playing not on the device they’re playing the make believe version of the game! It’s also really convenient when your kiddo gets to an age they can stay home alone to be able to leave them. And aside from taking the thing with you or locking it up in a cabinet, it’s going to be difficult to regulate screen time whether it be television or gaming on a console, a device, or a computer.
At the end of the last school year, my older son told me, “It’s embarrassing – I have to lie and tell my friends I’ve played it,” (it being the horrible and disgusting Fortnite). To which I replied, “Too bad, tell them your mom is mean and strict.” And that’s just exactly how I feel. Too bad and maybe I am sometimes mean and strict – but they don’t get unregulated access to crap games and they also can’t eat Oreos for breakfast.
Ok, so now you’re like – oh great, another mom mom-shaming and judging and that’s exactly what I thought this blog wasn’t. So I want to acknowledge – I have judged and judged heavily, although silently. The mama I see with her toddler in the shopping cart and instead of teaching the little about the fruits and vegetables or listening to him ramble on and on about hermit crabs, she hands him her phone and plugs him in so she can shop in peace. The families who are on vacation, but are each plugged into their own device, even leaning over to share the screen with one another over a funny video or meme. My judgement in no way makes me right and them wrong. Maybe the mama in the store has a husband who is deployed and she’s so exhausted even getting to the store was a challenge and this is the only screen time the toddler will have all week. Maybe the teenagers on the family vacation are so used to their parents being plugged in they have no other version of normal, and that’s just what they know and if they didn’t have their face in their devices, they wouldn’t be getting any attention anyway.
I don’t know their stories. What I do know is it starts with us adults. I take my phone everywhere – and will turn my car around to go back and get it should I forget it. I look at it while waiting for my cup of tea, or my hair appointment, or if I get self-conscious while waiting for someone. I have pledged when I am out with friends to never have it sitting out on the table and always to make sure it’s not a part of our family’s evening time. But my children see both my husband and I plugged in all of the time, and it’s just showing them this is how the world works, this is how adults are – we’re busy and you don’t matter unless you can post on Twitter or Insta.
The staggering numbers of depressed kids, kids that can’t connect, suffering from ADD, obesity and any number of other ailments comes from us, the parents. While we won’t let them eat Oreos for breakfast why do we let them have unlimited access to Vines and memes? Not to mention elementary school kids with smartphones and Instagram accounts. It’s not healthy for them and it’s eventually going to be not healthy for us.
I want my kids, just like most parents do, to grow up and be engaged, interesting and interested, and have the ability to form real connections. I also acknowledge the world is changing and we have to keep up with it. Hell, most of the young people migrating to our city work in some kind of software position. Maybe the personal connecting and the love of the outdoors and the want to ride on a real roller coaster and not a virtual reality roller coaster will be so outdated by the time they’re setting out on their life it’ll be as antiquated as asking someone out for a drink instead of swiping right.
I don’t know – the whole damn world’s going to hell in a handbasket. But what would it be if you didn’t even try – you have to try – so I’m putting my phone away, keeping the console locked up until the end of summer or maybe until it snows, maybe even giving the shit away. Because that’s all I know to do to avoid all of the pitfalls that seem to come from not being able to just get outside and play ball with your buddies.
And thank you for reading this on your screen of choice, I appreciate the time. See what I did there?