He pads his way into my bedroom. Inches away from my nose, he whines softly.
“Can I have the IPad?”
It is 5:00 am. On a weekend.
It occurs to me that he might have a problem. It’s all he ever wants. All he ever asks about. And, when he knows that he’s reached the point that if he mentions it one more time one of us will lose it, he will beat around the bush to ask for it.
“I want to play with something silver.”
“I want something with a special fun game.”
“I want something that is smooth and cold and flat.”
How did this happen? When Maddie was born, we knew everything. We were those INSANELY sanctimonious childless people, who know it all before the baby’s even born. We loved our new role as child development experts. Overly sure of ourselves and our superior parenting style, we shouted from the rooftops. She doesn’t watch TV! We don’t even put it on when she’s in the room! No computers! No Leapsters! No artificial anything! Only organic! I kind of want to punch myself in the face retelling this story. This went on until she was three. Then, we went and had two more kids, AT THE SAME TIME. Life got a bit more… real… and we got a bit more… humble.
When life gets chaotic, that electronic glow is a slippery slope. It keeps them happy. Occupied. Quiet. And when you’re a parent, those are some damn beautiful adjectives.
The thing is, I know all about the impact of too much screen time in young kids… potential expressive language delays, limited social engagement, reduced auditory and visual attention, an overly passive approach to learning. I know all of this… and yet…
So, Rob and I have made a decision. We are banishing the iPad. Or, at least, we are severely limiting it. 20 minutes a day, total. I think Ben is going through detox. I swear I saw him shaking on the couch this evening.
I’m taking this one step further, and practicing what I preach. I, also, have a technology problem. Yes, Ben has learned it from watching me. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Elr5K2Vuo ) Parents who use technology too much have children who use technology too much.
I need to put down my phone the second I walk through the door. I need to stay off my computer until the kids are asleep. I need to stay engaged, stay present. It’s hard to do when you have so much to think/worry about, and a quick shot of tech is like a little dose of anti-anxiety medication. It’s how we stay connected, in today’s world. BUT, by relying so much on connecting over a screen, we miss out on connecting with the people who are right in front of us. I don’t want to miss these moments.
Tonight, when we got home from work and school, instead of letting the kids relax by grabbing the iPad/computer/TV, we broke out the playdoh. And we spent an hour in the kitchen as a family playing together, crafting an amazing fantasy spread of cookies and treats. We talked, we laughed, and Ben only asked for the iPad three times.