It’s a digital age, and the debate for and against the use of electronics rages back and forth. We’re told that it isn’t safe for our children to spend so much time online, or behind electronic devices of every kind.
They need to play!
That’s the war cry from every camp.
Proponents of unlimited electronic access claim that this IS playing in the new millennium, while the opposition insists it is harmful for both the brain and the body – not what playing is supposed to be at all.
My approach to life is to take all the views and consider them, then do what I was going to do anyway. Sometimes what I’ve learned along the way influences what I end up doing … This means that, at times, I have seriously held to each of these views.
But now, like a real grown up, I have my own views. So here they are:
5 Reasons Why I Don’t Limit My Children’s Exposure to Electronics
- I don’t want to.
I keep searching my gut for some kind of feeling that says, “No, this is wrong. They’ve fried their little growing minds with too many electronic inputs. Make them stop!” But it never happens. I can’t find it. And, seriously, my “STOP IT!” gut reflex is VERY strong. If I’m not hearing it, it ain’t there.
- Even if they spent all day plugged into some device or other, they’d be spending less time attached to electronics than either of their parents do.
We do this for a living, and we love it. I don’t think it’s wrong or hypocritical for parents to say, “Do as I SAY, not as I do” … I do think that there are times when that response is precisely reasonable and valid. So it’s not that I think I’d be a hypocrite if I gave them less access to electronics than I have.
It’s just one of the ways our family enjoys time alone together … like reading, watching a movie, going to an art gallery, or taking long walks. We don’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time, or even talking, to be having quality time. This is one of the benefits of being an introvert – or a family of introverts!
- I’m interested in them doing what interests them.
And the things they do on these devices interest them a lot. People learn best when they get to follow their interests. My kids have improved their reading and research skills. They have a bigger vocabulary and a wider range of interests generally now.
They have their own tastes – music, hobbies, people, clothes – than they ever could have gleaned from me alone. They have had safe exposure to all kinds of people – people I could never have found and introduced them to. They have career interests that didn’t even exist five years ago. And they have the confidence that comes from knowing they could learn ANYTHING. Between sites like Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and YouTube, there’s nothing you could want to know and not be able to learn. And they’re teaching themselves stuff all the time.
- I wouldn’t ban them from going to school as a punishment, so I won’t stop them from spending time on electronics. It’s how they learn. And it’s what they love. Besides, they don’t really do things that need punishing. #JustSaying.
- These are life skills they’re learning.
No matter what they do for a living, it will involve something electronic, somewhere along the way. In Goldilocks’ case, she’s already using the web to earn a fair amount of pocket money, and she has big plans for a future career based entirely online. The sooner she acquires and masters those skills the better, in my opinion.
I feel that I am empowering my children with the skills to keep up with the future. And if they can learn to do things like programming and design along the way, so much the better. So many doors open up when you have these skills. And no one online cares how old you are. If a thirteen-year-old could give you a great, mobile-responsive website, and you didn’t know the developer as just a teenager, you’d be delighted with the result. And that teenager would be empowered by having learned and used real world skills.
Here are some things my kids do a LOT of, that don’t involve electronics:
- Climb trees
- Climb jungle gyms
- Ride bikes (depending on where we live at the time)
- Make tree houses
- Make wendy houses
- Make fairy houses
- Make doll houses
- Make doll clothes
- Weave complex narratives for their newly outfitted dolls
- Write novels
- Create puppet shows and plays
- Jump on trampolines
- Play in the ocean
- Go for long walks
- Play in the river
- Play in the garden
- Organise their rooms
- Mess up their rooms
- Play dress up
- Try on makeup
- Read stories to each other
- Haggle at the market (and achieve samoosas or macaroons!)
- Do their chores
- Help with the cooking and laundry
- Study for school
- Colour in
- Make things out of clay
- Create complex science projects
- Play the piano
- Play guitar
- Look stuff up in real books – with pages and everything!
And a whole lot more. They choose to do these things – sometimes more often than they choose to use electronics.
We need to guide them to make smart choices – choices that support their goals and their health. But we don’t achieve this by taking away their choices. They understand the consequences of their choices, and by and large they DO make good choices. Their choices are never rooted in rebellion or deceit. They are honest with us, and if we have been firm, they accept that with respect and good grace.
But that wouldn’t have happened if we had kept them away from the things they love to do simply because it seemed like they’d spent too much time on those things. The things they love to do are precisely where I want them to spend their time. These are the things that lead us to the truly joyous discoveries we make in life.