- Susie Csorsz Brown
Too much of a good thing
(Full disclosure: we don't do much tech at our house. I mean, yes, we have computers, laptops and iPads, but we just recently ventured into the gaming world, with the PS4's arrival in February. Kids - big and little - are on it very little, probably less than 2 hours a week) as they love to read and play outside).
I've noticed something: kids are born to run. Kids love to run and move and jump and play; they can and should be in constant motion. I was thinking, if we adults were to invent the best exercise regime, it would mirror what kids do naturally just by exploring and traipsing about. Kids are human energizer bunnies, with a constant source of go go go.
We just spent a week in an isolated village in the middle of a low-tech country, and the grown-ups were fully immersed in taking care of tasks at hand, and the kids were left completely to their own devices. I mean, sure sure, we made sure they were safe, and were fed, but ... we had an emergency situation and that took our focus and energy. Guess what: the kids were fine. In fact, they were better than fine. They were given the opportunity to explore the yard, play with nature, get as dirty as they wanted to, build things, dig in things, invent things, and ... just be. They were knights and explorers, and they were athletes and conquerors. They were little boys, and they were given the time and permission to just be little boys. How often to do we do that? How often do we just let kids be kids, and now worry about what that will mean? How often do we let kids just enjoy their siblings, and work out their own problems? How often do we just give them free rein and let them run at a full gallop? And, let's be honest, what would the neighbors think if you did that very thing more often?
My kids are loud. They are amazing boys, but they are active and they fight and they yell. They get dirty - so very dirty - and they are loud. They fight and argue. They are, after all, boys. They are also curious and kind. They love to explore and they like to build and and deconstruct. They like to pile up sticks and make up obstacle courses. They invent games. They play follow-the-leader. They are very creative with ideas for staying busy; we literally never once heard them say that they were bored. And they don't need a single computer to do that.
What am I suggesting to you, my dear fellow parents? Let your kids be kids. Don't immediately jump in with suggestions and solutions. Don't come to their aid when they claim boredom. Don't fix their squabbles and their inability to share. Let them be kids. Let them figure it out. And please, please don't turn on the television. They do not need it. They can't grow and develop with a television. They can't do anything in front of a television besides be numb; they see, they hear, but they do not interact with what is going on.
Ask yourself this: why are you letting your kids use electronics? Is it to better their minds? Is it to improve their abilities? Or is it to be a placeholder for meaningful interactions that they could be having with living things/people? Is it because you are too worn out/tired/preoccupied to interact with them? If it's the former, then know this: the only thing that is doing is undoing the good they have done by growing and being curious. If it's the latter, I get it and I hear you, but know this: if you don't teach them to handicap their imaginations and their curiosity, then they can do that on their own, without too much involvement on your part. They can just BE kids, and they can romp, and they can discover, and they can just bloom through their own endeavors and discoveries. How do they learn empathy and develop interpersonal skills? How do they learn how to follow their curiosity? How do they learn how to discover? How do they learn the beauty of the natural world, and the amazing things that go on around them if they are just at peace and pay attention? I promise you, it is not through anything that has a screen or a battery.