Today while out for an amble at a beach by the bay, I was talking to a friend about how many top execs here in Silicon Valley (just down the road from where I live) chose to bring up their kids in low/no tech homes.
I don’t see it as a contradiction, quite the opposite, it makes a lot of sense to me. We are not ‘Silicon Valley Executives’ but still I can relate. We are a pretty tech-oriented family. I spend a lot of time online blogging and managing my facebook page and my husband is a Software Engineer. I think we (people immersed in technology but who chose to emphasise other things in early childhood) are saying we trust our kids to pick up all that fun stuff, in a snap. We feel confident to be able to guide them through the world of technology in a few years and that they will be soon teaching us… but in the meantime, we want them to have a chance to build up a real, enduring love for some of the things that are not so ‘easy’ to form a lasting relationship with, like nature, social-games and free-play, literature, crafting and silence. These are the things that NEED to be cultivated now, imo. These are the things that take time, energy and effort: to create our own fun (in free play), to learn to interact with others joyfully and respectfully and to *want* to spend more time outdoors. These things don’t come automatically. They need to be nurtured.
For me it is a given that kids will love cartoons, for example. No effort required on my (or their) part to ‘learn to love’ TV. Plus research shows that even seven year olds never exposed to technology catch up with their computer-savvy friends in no time, given a chance [I read this but cannot for the life of me remember where - but there is plenty of other juicy stuff in the links below]. But to develop a life-long connection to the environment, to cultivate the ability to be at ease with oneself in stillness, to practice being truly creative by leading in our own projects, to learn to think critically and independently – these are things we need to put our conscious attention into, if we want these qualities and skills to flourish in our children. Technology will always appeal. It is the other stuff that needs work.
At the same time, while I understand some of the unhelpful effects of screen-time on young kids (especially under the age of two) I do not think TV, video games or phones are evil. Far from it – I love them. But I think they are ‘easy’ and sometimes it is the slow, silent, natural stuff that gets left behind in the rush and it is those things I want to honour for now. I want my daughter’s childhood memories to be filled with picnics and family time, great ‘construction projects’ and little theatre shows she put on for us – the kind of stuff that you really only get to when the TV is off – most of the time, at least.
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How about you, what balance works for your family and why?
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