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A couple of years ago when I was getting a haircut at a salon, a couple came in with their 4-year-old son. He sat down to get his haircut while his parents waited nearby. He had his earplugs in connected to his iPod. The whole entire haircut he sat perfectly still looking at his iPod. He didn’t seem to notice anyone else in the room or acknowledge that he was even getting a haircut. His parents commented to the hairdresser how great it was for him to have this iPod so he wouldn’t be fidgety (or moving at all) during the haircut.
It looked to me (the observer nearby), as if this was becoming more of a common thing. At every opportunity that we as parents have, we “plug in” our children in various technological ways so as to make them “behave better” or “be quieter” or “calmer” or completely silent and robot-like. I see this “plugged-in” child everywhere: airports where the wait can be long, airplanes where nobody wants to hear a child’s voice, Walmart sitting silent in the shopping cart. Any time there is an opportunity for possible excitement or exploration, discovery or boredom by children, we as parents can now “plug them in.”
Instead of helping our kids learn patience, self-control, creativity when boredom arises or just learning about new places: “What happens at the post office or the bank or the supermarket?” We seem to want to make life easier on ourselves and find a lot of reasons to “plug our kids in” with iPhone apps, videos to watch “educational games etc.”
My daughter has used an iTouch at school and now wants one from either the tooth fairy or Santa Claus. My son, who doesn’t even know what an iTouch is, asks for one too. “What?” I scoff. “What about Barbie dolls or Star Wars figures?” Neither one of them will be getting anything starting with an”i” for birthdays or Christmas. I don’t plan on buying my kids an iPod, iTouch, iPad, or iPhone any time soon. One main reason is because neither I or my husband has any of these. However, there are more important reasons why:
1. My kids are 4 and 6. I want them to act their age. Technology is great in many ways but I want my young children to be kids. I want them playing outside a lot, playing with toys: blocks, dolls, Lego, dress up, pretend play, books, coloring, painting, exploring, riding bikes, swimming, creating, being with friends, making childhood memories!
2. We live on a beautiful island. I want my kids to have a childhood full of nature and the outdoors. I want them to see the ocean every day when we drive by it on the way to school and not be glued to an iPhone app. I want them to walk and run and explore Maui. I want them to go in the ocean and the pool so much that there is always wet swimsuits hanging in our bathroom. I want to see sand and dirt and mud and grass and evidence of outdoor play on their clothes at night. I want them to fully live their childhood on this island.
3. I want to hear my children’s voices. I want to hear them asking questions about everything. I want them to talk and argue with each other: figuring out how to get along. I want them to play and interact and sing and put on shows and play the drum set too loud every day. I want to know how my kids are feeling. I want them to share about their day not just unwind by playing video games or tune out in front of a screen.
4. I want my kids to be bored. I want that boredom to lead to creativity and play. I want them to figure out within themselves or each other how to cure that boredom with tangible objects within our environment. I don’t want them to fill the boredom immediately with a surreal world. I want them engaged in Life!
Recently there has been research on technological devices and how they may affect kids. In this article, Nancy Carlsson-Paige who has written the book: Taking Back Childhood, discusses this subject. She writes: “Kids need first-hand engagement — they need to manipulate objects physically, engage all their senses, and move and interact with the 3-dimensional world. This is what maximizes their learning and brain development. A lot of the time children spend with screens takes time away from the activities we know they need for optimal growth. We know that children today are playing less than kids played in the past. Researchers who have tracked children’s creativity for 50 years are seeing a significant decrease in creativity among children for the first time, especially younger children from kindergarten through sixth grade. This decline in creativity is thought to be due at least in part to the decline of play.”
There has been much discussion and research on television too, and how too much screen time hurts children. I took a drastic measure and got rid of our TV completely a few weeks ago. The kids have not asked for it or asked about it once.
Read more from Nancy at Less Stuff More Happy.
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