Let me begin by sharing that I am FAR from all-or-nothing when it comes to technology. Most of my kids play video games daily. Laptops are often open during meals. Ipad games or movies occasionally babysit while I am getting work done in the next room. And I am just another parent who oscillates back and forth from “not healthy” to “helpful”, trying to find that screen time sweet spot in between. But no matter where I may be on a given day, I’m always honest with myself. And am confident that technology is affecting both our kids’ creativity and connection.
INTENTIONAL SCROLLING, OR NOT
Being a digital creator myself, I LOVE the fact that technology has made skills like graphic design and video creation approachable to even the novice. There are countless ways kids and adults can use technology in our everyday lives to be creative. But that is, if we are intending to do just that: be creative. While much of the world is using these super cool apps to feed their creativity or help answer a question, there are many more of us (adults and kids alike) mindlessly grabbing our phones, scrolling away and forgetting what got us there. The only problem with this innocent habit is that we are raising children who (by example) are rarely forced into boredom… and have little to no understanding of how to unearth their own creativity.
One GORGEOUS day last week, while noticing the neighborhood kids enjoy the splash pad and listening to happy screams from our nearby playground, I found my own kids playing video games in their rooms. I lost it, and once again, called for a digital detox. They were then quickly creating “cities” with chalk, the puzzles were being dusted off, snap circuits connected, old book series were pulled from the shelves and countless pieces of art were being hung. The creativity spigot opened back up, and few things make me happier. YET. Time and again, I let the technology creep back in. Remember when I talked about the creep in my blog post “ 6 Ways the Pandemic Changed Me?” It’s just so easy to do so.
In one of my favorite chapters of “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle, Glennon shares how her once creative teen’s phone use slowly replaced just about every one of his artistic hobbies. After years of having given him a phone, she simply took it away, cold turkey. Last year for Mother’s Day, I asked my (not yet phone owning) boys for one thing: to sit on my bed, and quietly listen to this chapter of Untamed. And after much eye rolling and whining, one son said to me as he said goodnight, “I get the phone thing Mom. I really do.”
CONNECTED WITHOUT CONNECTING
Then there’s the issue of connection. When one son asked this week (about the most recent school shooting) “How could anyone do that Mom?”, the first thing that came to mind was to discuss the importance of connection. I shared the fact that we have become more and more disconnected with each other, often a result of being behind screens. We chatted about the fact that the children growing up in today’s world have fewer “close relationships.” When I see kids at our local park, not climbing the structures or playing pick-up, but gathered around a circle looking down at their phones, I feel a heavy heart. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are the FIRST to look over their shoulder and see what all the excitement is about. But they’re likely consuming the content of a stranger, or engaging with someone not present. In other words, missing the opportunity to play freely, and connect with those around them.
THE UPHILL CLIMB WORTH TACKLING
I understand that technology, smartphones and social media aren’t going away any time soon. And I know that when the time feels right, I will slowly allow my kids to join their smartphone and snapchatting peers. But I do feel that even though it often feels like an uphill battle and is ALWAYS inconvenient, we must intentionally break from technology so our children can appreciate both creativity and connection. Two things that have and will continue to bring so much joy into our lives. And two things that bring authentic happiness to anyone who creates the space for them.