18 April 2014

Should technology be used as a babysitter?

Last time I indicated that electronics, particularly video games, smart phones, and TV watching, can be beneficial when used to engage, interact, connect and build relationships. Such as family movie nights, face time or Skype, and playing video games together.

However, it is also important to discuss the other side of technology, keeping in mind that we are not throwing out the baby in the bath water, because technology does have a place in our lives.

There is a quote that I like from the late 90’s regarding technology consumption with children: “to be popped in front of a TV instead of being read to, talked to or encouraged to interact with other human beings is a huge mistake and that’s what happens to a lot of children.” Any ideas who said it? Surprisingly it was Madonna. She even referred to the TV as ‘poison’ prior to this statement, rather ironic for a person made famous by the TV, but still intriguing.

Technology can be a ‘poison’ when it is being used as a babysitter or a distraction for children. We have all seen it, a child starts acting up while at a restaurant while waiting for their food, and then they are handed a smart phone to play a game on or stream Netflix. Or the child in the shopping cart, or the child at church, all of who are having difficulty with being bored, they are then handed technology to be stimulated. Don’t get me wrong, I am guilty of this, and I also understand those times when parents use a TV show while cooking a meal.

But the litmus question is: is technology being used as a baby sitter? And if it is, how frequently is it being used as a sitter?

Again, this isn’t meant to shame, we all have room for improvement. Take this as an opportunity to evaluate, because children need to learn to be bored, patient, and to creatively come up with ways to spend non-stimulated time.

Children need to learn that it is okay to be bored, and that they can find helpful things to do to pass the time.

Children need to learn patience while standing in line, while waiting for food, and so on. That they are capable of being still on their own in the present moment.

Children also need time to not be stimulated to have their own original creativity time. Although over stimulation and exposure to many different things may look like creativity, it is not true creativity.

While it may be tempting and easy to distract your child while you are shopping, put the smartphone away, and coach them through what it is like to be bored, and have to be patient.