The year is 1979. I'm a wee one…just a few years old. My mom is sitting on the floor with me, playing patty-cake, watching my chubby hands gleefully clapped together.
The year is 1985. I am a happy 8 year old, running the streets with my little neighborhood girlfriends, giggling over Kirk Cameron's newest poster one minute and playing Red Light Green Light the next.
The year is 1993. I am officially the most coveted babysitter in my neighborhood. People book me months in advance. Kids love my jumbo bag of goodies I always bring with me. Art supplies, games, blocks, puzzles, and playthings for all imaginations! My little charges cannot wait to see what I have stowed away in the bag-o-fun. We play and laugh all night whilst sitting cross legged in the living room, forgetting all about bedtime!
The year is 2000. A college graduate, I am working in the afterschool program at the nearby Salvation Army center. After homework is complete, the fun begins! Sure, there is a computer lab. But it gets largely ignored in favor of tried and true favorites like Duck Duck Goose, Charades, Red Rover, and every sort of arts and crafts project we can dream up! Storytelling is also much in demand!
The year is 2013. I walk into my friend's house. Tiny and I stay for a couple of hours. I chat with my friend. My friend's children stay firmly planted in front of the t.v. Her youngest, not all that interested in t.v., has not come up for air from some plastic toy with all kinds of lights, sounds, voices, and fancy buttons that do just about everything. Tiny whines about how bored she is and how no one wants to play with her.
I'm sorry, what? Three other children, all within your age bracket, would rather sit in front of the t.v. than PLAY? There is something deeply disturbing about that.
When I was a child, I played. Constantly. I played with things I found around the house. I played with things I found outside. I played with real live children. I played with my pets. I played with my toys. Toys that didn't “do” anything but entice me to use my imagination. I colored. I created. I dreamt up wild adventures. I was rarely bored. There was always something fun to do. Things that I came up with on my own.
Sitting in front of the t.v., the computer, a video game, or other electronic devices wasn't an option. We just didn't have all that sort of media available back in the “old days.” (HA!)
Sure, there was Alfie, a talking Robot from 1980 that taught me things supposedly. But he drove my parents nuts so Alfie would often go on hiatus. And of course there was Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt and Zelda. But gaming wasn't the big deal that it is now and my friends and I always had better things to do than to sit around and play video games. We would do things like hang out and talk. Or as youngsters, we played. Hard.
Tiny' world is very different. Children are surrounded by and immersed in technology. And while I know that times are a changin' and with that comes lots and lots of technology, I truly am saddened by the toll it has taken on our youth.
Childhood is so very sacred. We only get to be children for a very short period of time. The opportunity to play with reckless abandon is stripped away from us far too soon. Even without technology. Why expedite that?
We have become far too busy for our own good and that of our children's. We have to do this and that in order to be fulfilled. Going here and there at breakneck speed is the norm. Keeping kids quiet and out of our hair is par for the course. Most parents sing the praises of technology. After all, it raises their children for them. Why mess with something good?
Sorry – was that judgmental? Good. I meant it to be.
We all need to open our eyes when it comes to our children's childhoods. How much time are they spending outdoors, frolicking, getting dirty, connecting to the earth? How much time are you engaged with them in good old fashioned imaginary play? How often are they running amuck with their friends, being active, being a kid?
When you glance over to see what your child is doing, is he or she covered head to toe in glue and feathers or is he or she zoned out in front of a screen? Which do you honestly think defines a healthy childhood? (Hint – I am not looking for a response that includes technology).
I am not at all knocking the role of and importance of technology. It allows to me quickly find the answer to Tiny's endless stream of questions. Looking up facts, directions, images of things we are curious about can be fun, a great way to connect with your child, and educational. Technology has also allowed many parents the opportunity to successfully homeschool their children. It has it pluses. But….
Technology should not define childhood.
It really shouldn't. Sitting in front of a screen is not what childhood should be about. At least not from where I sit. In front of my screen. (Oh, the irony right?).
Technology can be a tool used by parents during their children's early years but it should not be the main source of entertainment, education, or human modeling for any child. Studies back me up on this one. But you all already knew that.
I strive to provide Tiny with every opportunity to play and be a carefree, dreamy, creative child who views technology more as a “treat” at this point in her life. It is there when we really need it (like on days when the entire family is sick) or when I HAVE TO make an important phone call.
What I find really interesting is that while Tiny's technology loving friends can spend an entire day watching t.v., playing video games, or messing around on the computer, Tiny tires of it after about 30 minutes. She becomes antsy to play and be active and engaged with the children around her. I credit this to my not raising her in front of the t.v. For Tiny, t.v. does not equal entertainment. Dirt, water, blocks, silks – now THOSE are good entertainment.
And this mama could not be more proud. It warms my heart to know that Tiny is experiencing childhood as it was meant to be experienced.
How does technology look in your home? Similar? Different? Do you regulate it or do your children have free access? Please share as I find the use of technology to be an interesting conversation!