Stealing of Childhood

Please keep in mind, this is my personal blog.  My opinions may differ from yours, but it these are my personal beliefs.  I don’t write to start an internet word battle–please keep that in mind.

We live in a scary world, in case you hadn’t realized.  I knew we did, but my eyes were opened to a whole different look on things after Polly was born.  Evil rages against us daily.  It shows itself in jealousy in the faces of other parents, judgement all OVER social media, feeling discontentment while we scour Pinterest, defending our parenting choices to our own families or your parenting partner, habits/knowledge/actions our children pick up at playdates…it’s everywhere.  Still, I am more terrified of a more silent predator.  Parents, in case you didn’t know, our kid’s childhood is being stolen and it terrifies me to my very core.  We live in a world where technology is EVERYWHERE.  Before I became a Momma, I spent 5.5 years working for one of the largest, privately owned technology resellers in the country, so please know, I am surprisingly aware of the tech industry.  I have seen the millions of dollars and countless hours of time saved by small and large companies through the implementation of technology.  Still, I am terrified of it.  Like so much so I want to raise my daughter underground, in a hole where WiFi can’t reach.  Hear this parents: Technology is stealing our kid’s childhood.  Mark my words.

I’m sure a lot of you saw this article, or one like it that talks about why Steve Jobs never let his kids use iPads.  My favorite statement in the article reads:

If our current addictions to our iPhones and other tech is any indication, we may be setting up our children for incomplete, handicapped lives devoid of imagination, creativity and wonder when we hook them onto technology at an early age. We were the last generation to play outside precisely because we didn’t have smartphones and laptops. We learned from movement, hands-on interaction, and we absorbed information through books and socialization with other humans as opposed to a Google search.

When we were bored when we were kids, what did we do?  We played outside, colored, built forts, rode our bikes, practiced a sport, read a book, hell, we threw a ball against a garage door for hours on end…it didn’t matter!  The point is, we entertained ourselves.  We used our imaginations.  If you were like me, an only child living in the boonies, you had a whole world of imaginary friends!  I know there are children these days that are exceptions to this rule, however, I think most would agree that now, a large part of “active and imaginary creation” has been replaced with apps on an iPad or Surface.  When Mom needs a break, she can sit her kid down with an “educational app” and have a moment of silence.  I have a 7 month old, so I have not faced the challenge of 8 uninterrupted hours with a toddler who is on strike from taking naps and all I want to do is resort to the iPad occupying the kiddo for a bit, but I have read a LOT of documentation written by the American Academy of Pediatricians, retired teachers, and leaders/CEOs/etc. of the technology industry who echo my fears.  While it’s intentions are good, the fact that books like Goodnight iPad (a parody adapted from the classic, Goodnight Moon) even exist should tell you something.

William and I LOVE using our iPhones to take countless pictures of our baby girl.  It’s quick, simple, I don’t have to haul out my lenses for my big camera…you know the drill.  But let me be the first one to say, my 7 month old baby girl already gets WAY too excited to see my phone.  She has never played a baby-related game or anything like that on the device, but they can’t help but be drawn to them. There are flashing lights and pictures and everything that interests a curious baby.  The thing that all of my research says to be wary of, however, is that screens now are NOTHING like the screens we interacted with when we were kids. (i.e. why someone in your family probably says, “You grew up watching TV and you turned out fine.”)  And while that is true, the diagnosis of A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. in our country have never been higher.  The technology behind the screens we are sitting our kids down in front of are too advanced for their brains during those formative years.  They simply cannot process what they’re seeing.  It is forcing their brain to try and catch up with development that naturally hasn’t occurred, causing their stimulation to go into overdrive.  This is why the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends no “idle” time with technology for children under the age of two and very limited and monitored time with technology until the age of five.  (See one article here if you’re curious)

This whole debate has spurred many a conversation in the Bryant household.  What will the use of technology look like in our home as Polly grows?  Will we throw it out all together?  Will we try some “limited use” scenario and hope it works?  It’s easy to say now, “Oh we just won’t have iPads/laptops at her disposal.  If that makes her the “weird kid”, so be it”.  But we all know it’s not that easy. Throwing another kink into the chain, our public school system is throwing SO much curriculum on teachers, they HAVE to use technology to try and cover it all.  So even if we try to shelter our daughter from technology, she NEEDS to learn to to learn from it because she’ll be expected to do so when she gets to school.

I’m lucky.  I married a man who is paid to be creative.  I kid you not, I stand over my daughter’s crib at night and beg God for clarity on how our family will face this challenge.  I want Polly to grow up wanting to color a refrigerator box with Dad rather than playing a Hello Kitty app on a tablet.  I want her to run around outside and chase a dog rather than sitting in front of a TV.  I want her to create magical forts out of ratty old sheets with me and BEG me for days not to take them down even though I almost broke my leg trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I fear for my child’s childhood.  I fear, if I’m not careful, it will be stolen.  They are only children for a short time.  I by NO means have answers and I by NO means judge any other parent who has a different opinion on this subject than I.  But know, if you’re ever around my kiddo and I ask you to turn the TV off, or to put your phone/iPad away, please know it is out of love.  Before you get upset with me, take a minute to watch her straining to see your screen, because she is.  Already.  It’s too early for that, and she already is.

Will and I don’t like thieves and from where we sit, technology is out to get something I can never give back to our baby girl.  I know this subject isn’t black or white.  I know there are families everywhere who tackle this daily and somehow raise children perfectly (my sis-in-law with the most perfect, respectful, creative, sweet, GRACEFUL little girl you’ve ever met).  But, keep in mind, the first iPhone was released in June of 2007.  Think about how far our culture has come less than 7 years with smart phones, tablets, etc.  Now put yourself in my shoes.  Where will we be in ANOTHER 7 years.  Your child may be in high school or getting ready for college and it will be completely appropriate for them to have their own phone, iPad, or whatever.  But mine will be 7 years old…just starting kindergarten. Now do you understand my fears? 



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