Well yes, I am a bit of a Luddite.
I know. There are all manners of contradiction in this statement – a blogger opposed to technology? – yet I can’t help but feel as if, often, we’re squandering our time on lesser things in the name of false connectivity.
Our attention spans are shorter. Our waistlines are wider. Our news is fragmented; we pass around headlines entirely void of context. (We call viral a good thing.) We are distracted, quick-tempered. The world feels larger, more connected, more robust than ever – so large in fact that we haphazardly become overwhelmed in our own small (actual) world, forfeiting our own small (actual) role within it.
I want to know my neighbor by his name, not by his Twitter handle.
When friends visit our home for dinner, the conversation often drifts to technology. Kids and cell phones – yay or nay? (My friend Gabby has a great post about this here.) And at what age? And for what purpose? Safety, security? Responsibility? The teaching of healthy boundaries?
While Bee and Scout are far too young for us to consider any real stance on phone usage, I do often question the broader topic: what role are we offering technology in the rhythms of our home?
My relationship with this answer is far less about what we might gain and far more about what we might lose.
It’s not about how much time we’re spending on technology; it’s about how we might have spent that time elsewhere. Might we have done something productive? Inspired? A spontaneous walk in the neighborhood woods to fend off boredom and restlessness? Reading BFG on the sofa while the dogs snore? The chance to serve someone else? A craft, a snack? A rousing round of Uno?
Here, then, are a few current technology boundaries in our home with two littles 5 and under— both the standards, and the exceptions.
(After all, in parenting and in life, we’re offered both.)
Standard: No TV.
When Bee was younger, she watched her fair share of Daniel Tiger while I’d make/burn dinner each evening. But as soon as she was old enough to entertain herself safely, I ditched the TV. I find it far easier to remove something than to manage it, so setting a firm boundary that we simply don’t watch TV was an easier transition than attempting to negotiate 30 minutes (which all too often turns into 60). It’s been over three years since TV was a part of our daily rhythm and Bee has found some lovely alternative ways to spend her time.
Exception(s): If she’s sick, or if we’re hosting a playdate/dinner and the kids are all in need of some downtime together.
Standard: No iPad.
Ken and I introduced the iPad on our (loooong) flight to Singapore and Bee fell absolutely head over thumbs. For a solid year, she’d start her day with a few games or a show while she snacked on cashews or raisins. But I started to notice the after-effects of her usage: moodiness, increased whining, lack of focus during the day. Instead, we reclaimed our mornings with a short walk through the neighborhood or a simple craft, and slowly, her iPad time was replaced with reading, tower-building or helping with morning chores (begrudgingly, the latter).
Exception(s): If Ken’s facilitating a math or Chinese app, or if we’re on a long road trip or flight.
Standard: No Phone.
This one’s a non-issue, as we’ve never offered our phone as a toy. Often, my phone is out of sight unless in use for music, and in that case, Bee’s got a wide reign over Spotify (the girl’s a killer DJ).
Exception(s): If we’re looking up information together (yesterday: wombat poop) or if she wants to borrow the camera to snap a photo.
Of course, there is only one true rule we keep, one that trumps any of the aforementioned standards, and it is this:
The Rule: People first.
Want to borrow my phone to call your grandma? You got it.
Want to look up craft ideas for a gift? Absolutely.
Want to dance to The Trolls soundtrack with your friends? Just hit play.
Want to add the neighbor’s favorite snack to our grocery list? Let me know if you need help.
Last week, Bee’s friend came over to play. His mother and I shooed them out into the backyard for muddy feet and rosy cheeks, and the pair returned twenty minutes later, Bee’s friend white in the face from too many trips around the tire swing.
And so, it was confirmed: a short rest on the sofa, snacks to replenish, and the little boy’s favorite TV show.
If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far, in parenting and in life, it’s this: We adapt.
We grow, we shrink. We form habits; then bend them. Our days become our lives. Our choices become the story. We will either rise to the occasion, or we will crumble beneath the weight of it. We get to choose which, and we get to practice it until our feet bleed.
The trick? We must practice.
We must practice good habits for ourselves before we can model them for our kids. If I want my kids to choose books over TV, I can choose to forgo the latest Netflix original series. If I want my kids to find freedom from devices, I can choose to leave my phone in the kitchen drawer, to “forget” it during errands. If I want my kids to choose eye contact over distracted listening, critical thinking over passive scrolling, open hands over jittery thumbs? I must model these for them first.
I don’t know what the future holds for technology, what the long-term ramifications will be for a life lived with such speed and connectivity. But I do know we can consider the costs wisely, both blessing and curse, and we can model our own fight for the former.
Tell me, what are your own technology rules, standards or boundaries? Exceptions? I’d love to hear! Plus, a few of my friends are sharing their perspectives right this way: Alex, Jen, Catherine, Erin, Megan, Natalie.
p.s. My stance on (young) kids and social media.