Do Your Kid Use Electronics in Public?
My beautiful daughter had attached a pink silk flower to the top of her head so she would be visible amongst the other penguin-attired, middle school orchestra members. Standard issue white shirt with black bottoms clogged the stage. When I saw the flower appear, I knew where to keep my focus.
Lights dimmed and a hush fell. The silent crowd awaited the first piece of music.
The quiet was thick. But then, the darkness was interrupted. Lightning bugs appeared to dance in the auditorium.
The all-too-familiar glow of handheld screens flickered as children escaped the apparent torture of an hour-long concert.
Admittedly, school concerts can be painful at times, especially when beginners take a turn in the spotlight. But despite the less-than-symphonic mastery emitting from the stage, my younger two kids either listened or spaced out (who knows?) without the option of watching a movie or playing a game.
My children’s screen time takes place either at home or at a neighbor’s house, rarely in the van (even on our 18-hour drives to Florida they get to play their normal 30-60 minutes a day. Can you imagine the awful parents they think we are?!), and rarely-to-never in public places like restaurants, doctors’ offices, stores, church.
Here are four reasons I limit my kids’ screen time:
1. It is good to be bored.
I suspect there is research on this. But since I haven’t looked beyond my own nose on the topic, I’m not going to quickly scrounge for a study to back me up. Because in my mind, it’s common sense.
I believe the brain should get practice at being sedentary. While stimulation (trying new things, learning, reading, problem solving) is what strengthens the actual physical brain (right?), a constant barrage of this has to be detrimental.
If kids are never allowed to be bored, how will their attention spans increase? How will they learn to sit still? As an adult, there are many opportunities for me to be still when I’d rather not.
What if I had not toned my “dealing with boredom” muscle? What if, as a 40-something-year-old woman, I could not sit through staff training, or a sermon, or my child’s concert?
What if I didn’t know how to focus on the teacher/preacher/stage and pay attention unless I was interacting in some way?
If I allowed my children to interact with games and media anytime and anyplace, I would be depriving them of the gift and ability to calmly focus and learn.
When I find myself with a free moment to relax or read or think or pray, sometimes I make the mistake of grabbing my phone, thinking I will just check texts or email real quick. I can easily get sucked into the vortex of the shiny psychological agony of endless clicking. Just one more link. One more click. One more article. I might come up for a breath an hour later and realize my relaxation was not calming at all.
I am a grown-up and I occasionally struggle! I do not want to make it easy for my children to develop an addiction.
While I think games and texting and being able to look up everything online anytime is okay, it just feels wrong to never step away from the device to give the brain some downtime.
2. Situation awareness is healthy.
We can learn a lot about society and human nature by observing the behaviors, quirks, interactions of other people.
At an orchestra concert, do people sway to the music? Do they tap their feet? Fall asleep? Sit with arms around each other? Smile? Cry? Yawn? How old are the people around me? What are they wearing? How are the families structured? How full is the auditorium?
Again, no research to back me up, but I completely believe that observation is vital to understanding and learning about the world.
3. It’s rude to be disengaged from context.
The theme of my daughter’s concert was American music. One of the ensembles played the official song of each branch of the United States military. The orchestra director instructed the military veterans to stand when they heard the song from their branch of the Armed Forces.
Had my kids been playing games on their iPods, they would not have noticed the service men and women in the crowd. As it was, they observed what was going on. I won’t claim they will remember any of it, but I will assert that by paying attention, we showed honor to the veterans.
Additionally, the orchestra director, who teaches grades four through high school, deserves respect from the audience, as do the students who practice their instruments daily.
4. It’s okay to be alone with our thoughts.
Even if my kids weren’t engaged by the performance, it was okay for them to just think. To be inside their own heads.
I think brains become stronger and more stable when given adequate time to think.
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