Oh my lovely Millennials, how we love you, and shake our heads at you. My generation knows full well that we were the brainchildren of all that is glorious in your fast little lives. We grew up on video games and built the interwebbing for you obnoxious interwebbers. I believe we created the most intelligent generation and molded the laziest as well. Your brains work faster than our, fingers scrolling at the pace of five-hundred images per minute, while processing everything you see. We have taught you how to interact without actually having to interact. We have taught you instant gratification, and more importantly self-entitlement.
Before you get all testy and defensive, we love you. You are our children and a product of what we shaped you into, but we know where we went right, as well as wrong. It began with a television, a gaming console (or four), a computer (a desktop with dial-up), and a cellphone (A.K.A. the brick). Take all of this with a grain of salt and the experience of what we wished we had done different. How ridiculous was my generation to have televisions in your bedrooms? A VHS replaced bedtime stories, and that never went without our parents berating us. Now, however, we understand why our parents shook the proverbial finger at us, as we do the same to you.
Here are the reasons why your devices can never take the place of you:
1. Quality V.S. Quantity
One of the things I have learned, was that I gave up quality time with my kiddos when I allowed cartoons to be the comfort for them at night. It was easy, and quite honestly, after a long day at work I was okay with it. This made my life so much easier, but at what cost? I missed out on evening snuggles and cuddles. Perhaps, this was more difficult because, I had four, or maybe that was just a great excuse. I often think that had I huddled them all up in the evening for story time, my children might have been closer. Sure, there would have been different levels of reading, but I could have had my eldest read to my youngest, or found a creative way of bringing them all together before bed. I should have been their comfort, not the T.V.
There were many things I coulda, shoulda, woulda in this scenario, but I chose not to. It was indeed a choice to be lazy. Wrapped up in “me” was where I was. I was not present in these important moments in my kiddo’s lives. I was living in the “poor me I had a rough day and just need to rest” life. All the while I missed out on great opportunities for bonding, teaching, and learning with my children.
When you use devices to replace yourself, you give way for the internet to parent your children. When things go wrong will you own it, when things go right will you boast about it, even if you had nothing to do with the right and everything to do with the wrong? Accountability is a cold hard truth that most of us ignore and brush off as some fault of another thing or person. I own it now. It is too late though, my kids are raised, and they have been taught to raise their kids the same way, but now that same way has become more advanced. It is faster than ever, vastly improved from the interwebbing of the past. You do not have to teach your children wanderlust because, there is no wonder in what you can image search. Reading about a foreign land is a thing of the past, when all you need to do is pull an image up in two seconds. There goes curiosity right out the window. No need to want to experience anything outside of their reality. Realty becomes skewed at best in these situations.
There is such a significant information highway that exists now, so that your children, and our grandchildren, will never have to leave the house. The quantity of experiences will never match the quality of the experiences. Sure they can scroll faster than you and process more than you could ever imagine, but at what cost? Will they ever have the will to experience the brisk ocean spray upon their face, the smell of salt water and seaweed, the waves crashing against their feet, while the sand squishes between their tiny toes? Sight alone can never replace all human senses. These experiences are vital to not only the bonding moments, but also the quality of the experiences lived. Making memories is more important than living through an LED screen. Do you want those little ones to live through someone else’s perspective or their own?
2. Hind Sight Is 20/20
Wisdom and experience always come a day late and a dollar short. I know all too well the feeling of wishing for do overs, to which they never come. We can’t go back in time and change anything. The only thing we can do is move forward and change as we go. The problem is that the things we look to change are built on the foundation of yesteryear. The years will fly by and you will have felt as though you blinked.
Think of all the times you walked past your child, while he/she was on a device all the things you could have done, said, or accomplished until you sat down next to him/her and opened up your own device. The inherent knowledge that can only come from the past, will surely determine your future. You will set in motion the idea that life revolves around a tiny mobile device, rather than the life buzzing around you. This is what the next generation will see.
3. Parental Controls Will Never Be Enough
Well, this actually speaks for itself. How many of you actually set the controls? I believe most parents these days feel the why bother phase of this portion to parenting. “The kids will learn in school anyway,” is what I hear a lot of. Kids grow up way too fast as it is, but the internet has your children growing up at the rapid rate of light speed. Your generation was light years ahead of ours, but your little ones will far surpass you. I wonder though, is this a good thing?
Parental controls are your friend. These are your ally and an asset. It is not good enough anymore to just set your streaming to the kid’s mode. Have you actually looked to see what some of the children’s shows entail? Next time you are streaming take a better look.
While some are educational, and others are just entertaining, your children lose their ability to reason out the why’s and the why nots. Rather, your little ones learn nothing of their surroundings because, they are oblivious. They must learn the skill of observation, or they will never understand danger, outside of what the device explains danger to be. They will never learn directional skills, or landmarks. They may lose the ability to socialize without their device, or even what to do when your children do not have one.
4. Losing Independent Thought
The more you shove devices in front of your kids to keep them calm, the less you allow them the independent thought that they will need to survive in the real world. Yes, the new world will be digital and your little tikes must be able to keep up, but your devices should never be an alternative to your discipline and teaching. How to act in a public place, is being replaced with cartoons all day long.
Can you go anywhere outside or inside your home for an entire day without giving your child a device to keep him/her quiet? Probably not, and while keeping them quiet is nice for your sanity it may not be a good construct for a good behavioral model. Reasoning between right and wrong has been lost among this younger generation of yours.
Does your child fully understand how to have a thought of their own that is not driven and motivated by something they saw on the device five seconds prior to you reading this? You did not give birth to a herd animal, so why then would we treat our kids and grand kids like they were? You may disagree, but ultimately as your children grow up and cannot think for themselves you just might consider why. Of course my grandparents said the same thing about the news media on T.V. and I believe that they were correct in their acknowledgement.
5. Deductive Reasoning & Problem Solving
I remember the best days of my life were spent outside with my dad hammering away at nails. I learned how to extract rusty nails and worked diligently at it for hours. These small actions created greater life lessons. This taught me the three “P’s” (in my dad’s words) perseverance, patience, and problem solving. Sure you have videos online that can teach you how to do anything, and how convenient and wonderful is that? However, it was not just the learning experience that was valuable, it was the time spent with my dad, who I eventually lost at the age of thirteen. I was grateful for the memories he created, but more importantly the lessons he taught me. I can problem solve and troubleshoot just about anything I set my mind to. I thank him for that every day.
6. It Is Addictive & Creates Bad Behavior
I always attested a temper tantrum to the age of a child. Well, thanks to the digital age it has more to do with withdrawals from the device missing from their hot little hands. It has been scientifically proven, that while you believe the device is a great way to quiet your child, devices can actually causes poor behavior and physical harm in large doses.
Think about what happens when you take the device away. Can you take your child out to dinner and expect him/her to color or sit quietly without freaking out for cartoons? Have you ever thought to ask yourself what behaviors you would like to drive and whether or not this is affecting other aspects to your little one’s future skill sets? Though some of you still believe in giving your kids some old school values, many are happy to have an easy babysitter (LED screens). It is our jobs, as parents, to raise up our children in our likeness and teach valuable life lessons. Can you say that you are doing this? If so, how often? There have been research papers written about this since the mid to late 90’s. One such article was, “Internet Addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder” 2.
Does your toddler or little one have disturbed sleep patterns? Fun fact… it has also been scientifically proven that the blue screen can strip your child of the natural melatonin (circadian hormone) he/she produces to fall asleep. When you consider toddler tantrums and over tired children, has it ever crossed your mind why they seem so tired and cranky all of the time? This could be one of your issues. In a more recent article in 2013 it was stated that, “Red and blue light have effect on emotional self-regulation more than no light because it stimulates stress, alertness, and momentary mood” 2. You see, the physical effects can be damaging.
In a world where we feel mental health has been a much more prevalent subject to speak about, my generation failed yours in these things. We put you on the suck it up plan. Get it together and cope plan, and the ever famous deal with it plan. However, we know now that it was more than teenage hormones or an identity crisis. Again, hind sight is 20/20 right? So, my question is, how in the world did we get to a place where we now induce bad behavior, mood swings, and poor sleep upon our kids. Be cognizant of the things you allow or enforce, as these things will shape your little prince or princess into someone out of your eventual control. These are the parental controls that you should be most concerned for. To give the little one the device or not at all, that is the question needing a valid and honest answer.
7. Time Missed That Can Never Be Replaced
This is one of the big ones for me. I never thought I would get to that place in my life where time stood still, nearly silent, while the world zoomed past me. I never considered that life could be so fast for others and still for me. While, you are all zooming and scrolling, I am looking forward to a slower pace of life.
In these silent moments, I have had time to reflect on my life as a mother. Yes, I have grand nuggets, but I also have two teenagers still at home. I have a senior and a freshman. Knowing that my senior is graduating this year, leaves me with the thought of only one more to go, and that gets me thinking, how did we get here so quick? Where did the time go? When my kiddos were toddlers, people use to tell me to enjoy it. I use to wonder why anyone in their right mind would have kids and NOT enjoy it. Now, I know why they said this to me. Many of you have heard the same thing from older folks whose kids are grown.
They tell you this because, it truly does go by in a blink of an eye. It feels like doggy years. You can never replace missed opportunities, missed memories you could have made, missed bonding moments that can enrich your child’s childhood, and most importantly time you may not actually have. We take for granted that we will always be on this earth for our kids, or vice versa, but realize the forgotten mortality we all face. It is because you live such a fast paced life, that you are more apt to miss out on so much more. Treat every day like it is your last day on earth, stop and smell the entire garden with your little ones. Never take the day you wake up for granted, as any day can be our last. If there is one thing certain in our lives, it is that we are all terminal. It is not an “If”, it is a “when”. Don’t allow time to simply pass, use it, own it, and memorize every moment of it.
1. Sroykham, Watchara, and Yodchanan Wongsawat. “Effects of LED-backlit computer screen and emotional selfregulation on human melatonin production.” Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), 2013 35th Annual International Conference of the IEEE. IEEE, 2013.
2. Young, K.S. (1998). Internet addiction: The emergence of a new clinical disorder. CyberPsycology & Behavior 1:237-244