Screens:Eye Magnets and Connection Killers

Oh…thank you grocery cart makers…thank you for the tv carts for kids.  Thank you mini-van designers…thank you for the five-tv-screen option. 

Thank you Apple for ipods, ipod nanowatches and smartphones for the tv and movie apps so the screens can be handheld…or hand worn. 

Thank you almost every kid-family restaurant for having at least 100 screens positioned around the room and for the portable screens you can check out for your table.

I just don’t think it’s enough.  There needs to be more. 

Maybe one already exists, but there should be a crib mobile with spinning screens for the exhausted baby to catch the latest programming. Please tell me there is a stroller company designing a stroller with a screen for the front.  I expect the sunglass companies to quickly follow suit with the miniest of mini-screens so when kids put on their sunglasses, they have a portable, wearable screen to watch. Surely the smartest nano-technologists can invent a contact that serves as a screen you can put directly in your eye.

Does it make me old-fashioned that this bothers me…a lot? I could rail about how “When I was a kid…” how different life was, but that would be whiny. It’s true though…with the invention of more and more screens to watch we are losing sight of what matters.

Screens pull us in.  They are the mesmerizing machines that are magnets for our eyes.  There is the tv screen, the computer screen, the ipod and smartphone screens. They are used for television shows, movies, video games and communication via email and texting.  Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy these things.  I LOVE my phone and computer.  I use them for networking, staying connected to family and friends and, of course, entertainment.

 We are spending so much time looking at screens and devices, however, we are hardly looking at each other any more. What are we going to do with a generation of kids who cannot look someone in the eye? Can’t we tell that there are problems with the screen approach to parenting?

Kids are becoming more comfortable with screens than they are with real-life people. The screens make them brave.  They have more courage hiding behind them. Cyber-bullying, anonymous emails (yes, there really are websites devoted to sending vicious and cruel emails…anonymously) and inflectionless texts, give people power because the screen provides a barrier.

 Screens should and can be used to connect people, but I fear they are being misused as a way to stay as disconnected as possible.  It is easier that way.  It is easier to sit across the table from a texting teen than it is to try to engage in uncomfortable conversation.  It is easier to shop for food while the toddler is distracted by a kids’ cartoon, or to drive from event to event with the kids glued to the tv in the back seat.

God forbid we would have to talk with our kids about the week they’ve had at school or the friends they wish they were texting. What a travesty it would be if a shopping mother, with small children, spent time talking about fruit and colors or singing nursery rhymes for distraction.  That would just seem weird. And it’s totally annoying to sing as a group to songs on the radio in the car or to play a stupid car game because there is nothing else to do.  We wouldn’t want to use those few moments to actually connect! Relationships are hard, and I think it is so unfortunate people would choose the easy way out.

I don’t really know what I want the solution to be. A ban of all screens? Absolutely not! (as I slide my iphone behind my back)

A full unplug for six months? I am not there yet, but I am inspired by Susan Maushart, who wrote about doing just that.

Consistent awareness? I guess that’s it. Paying attention to the time I lose to those screens. Do they connect me to those I love or do they put a wedge between us?

 I just know I don’t want to be the only one left in the room who cares about it. The best I can do is to seek out more real hugs than cyber ones and more face-to-face conversations than texts.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go snuggle with our girls and our puppy while I throw comments at the boys watching hockey.

13 thoughts on “Screens:Eye Magnets and Connection Killers

  1. We unplugged our 8 y.o. from his PSP. It was the best thing we ever did. He’s been “sober” for five months and hasn’t stopped chatting up a storm since 😀

    • Oh how I wish we didn’t fall off the wagon so much around here! Definitely time to start a 12-step electronic abandonment program. “My name is Meagan, and I am addicted to screens…or at least the one that brings me great comments like this one.” Thanks for commenting.

    • oooo… you think so? My kids are so out of that stage, their brains would be saved….(seriously pondering) If it makes me my millions (pinky to my corner-mouth) nah…I just can’t do it.

  2. Argh–screen time is an everyday battle. I know my kiddo watches too much tv, and I know I let him do it out of guilt and convenience. He is an only child and having it on as background while he plays makes him feel less alone. Not a great excuse, but it gets me through the day.

    I absolutely refuse to have a tv/dvd in our car though. He has driven through half the country and regularly drives over an hour to visit grandparents with only music, scenery, and now books to keep him entertained. Santa brought all his friends a DS but our Santa is mean and won’t allow one. I know 4-year-olds on their 4th hand held gaming devise. When is it enough?

    Great topic! I’m done with my rant now.

  3. Great post and you know I was JUST thinking about this today!! GET OUT OF MY HEAD! LOL…but it’s true. I want my kids to know that in person conversations, in person hugs…heck, in person anything will always be more fulfilling…I feel this way about books too. As I watch more and more folks grab a Kindle or a NOOK my heart aches…is there anything like the feel of a real book? The way pages age, the smell, the way you can fold it back and read on the beach….it’s important that we keep these things alive….Meagan you’ve got such spunk I’m nominating YOU to start a movement! I’ve got your back….I’ll even make signs and bring chocolate to keep all naysayers quiet 🙂

  4. Great post. I feel the same way. In fact it is because I was thinking this that I posted the discussion about what kids play with on Mommmy Writers on the She Writes page. It has been really reassuring to see that we aren’t (yet) totally electronic, that there is such a thing as ‘free play’ with dolls, leggos, toys and that kids are still actually reading on their own. Granted we are a select, literate group, but it is still reassuring.

    Great post, I’ll come back for more.

    All the best,
    Meryl Jaffe, PhD
    http://www.departingthetext.blogspot.com

    • Thanks for your comments Meryl. I just found them in my SPAM…why the heck does my filter do that?!? Anyway, I appreciate your input, and I am glad to know you are invested in preserving some of the “traditional” ways to grow children.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      MMF

  5. A mom after my own heart! Just tonight my hubby and I were talking about how grateful we are that we stuck to our guns and avoided the DVD option in our vehicles. It wasn’t an easy task – my hubby works for a company that helped make the in-vehicle DVD a part of our culture – but we were so committed we even passed up a couple of vehicles simply because they had that option. And while we were discussing this, our just turned two-year-old was chattering away in the back, “Look Mommy! I see the tuxedo store! Look at the snowflakes! Look at the cars!” The JOY of screen free car rides. So glad you enjoyed my post on the great grocery shopping experiment. Following you and looking forward to reading more…

    • Good to know there are at least a few of us hold outs. Clinging to traditional parenting can be exhausting…it is so much better if there are other moms I can point to for reinforcement. Let’s team up on them, okay?

  6. I completely agree. My mother has always hated tv. With my daughter now, I make a point to keep the tv off for long periods of time.

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