My son loves the Wimpy Kid Diary Books so I sat down and watched a couple of the movies with him. Talk about a weird feeling. My fight with screens being enacted by fictional characters with the same script I have. No wonder my kid relates so well with the main character. It gave me pause.
The reality is that the time spent in front of screens is only going to increase. There are thousands of brilliant designers behind all these apps and websites with the goal of driving you and your child to their websites and to spend more time using their apps. There are no controls in place. How do you even begin to compete?
I read that the parents in Silicon Valley send their kids to schools where devices aren't allowed. Steve Jobs wouldn't even allow his kids near the iPad.
How do we regular, single moms who don't have the time, energy or fortitude to battle mammoth, pervasive addictive technologies help our kids?
I've been wrestling with this for awhile now having watched my children struggle with media addictions. I don't have the answer but I have started using apps to fight apps. Appls like OurPact and Moment to monitor the actual time spent on devices.
I've also decided that instead of battling media head to head to take a different approach. I have decided to engage with my kids through media via play.
I know, I know but hear me out. The Bonobos who appear to be the most peaceful, loving, happy group of primates tend to spend a majority of their time engaged in play. Study after study has shown that children learn best through play. Their creativity peaks, their enthusiasm for the subject matter increases.
It is when school and work become drudgery, it is when hope for something better is diminished that communities become unkind, wrecked. It is the avoidance of this drudgery that fuels addictive behaviors.
I haven't read Jane McGonigal's book yet but have it on hold at the library. It's called SuperBetter and it's all about how turning life challenges into games improves the outcome. I've just downloaded the SuperBetter app to give it a try. She's done a lot of research on video gaming and what she's come to find that the main difference between addicts and regular users is that video addiction occurs when screens are used for escape rather than used for play. I found that a profound statement. It's not the act of playing that causes addiction but rather the way your children are engaging in the play.
It could be my undergraduate class at UCD with Charles Tart or too many Carlos Castaneda books or too much of other things but I have been left with the feeling that life is a learning game and most challenges put in front of us are there to push us to higher levels...or to falter and fail.
I am meandering in my thoughts but I'm leaning towards figuring out ways of how to constructively play the game of screens instead of battling against them.
One of my first steps would be to actually play video games with my kids. Instead of forcing my teenaged daughter and her younger brother to engage together in a bike ride (ugh mom do we have to?), a walk in the woods (major groaning and protests), Uno (um no mom); I can start building up their tolerance to one another with 30 minutes of playing video games together (I guess we could do that).
Secondly, I want to make sure that they are using their screens to engage rather than escape. My daughter spends most of her time F2F with her friends. She tends to use her social apps to remain connected. But, she binge watches Netflix to avoid her homework. So, perhaps I need to pick the right battles here.
Third would be to make activities outside of screens more of a game or challenge and less of a forced chore. Who can pick up the most toys, who can find the most animals on our walk, who can do the most kind things for others in the next hour, etc.
This post is not proposing that video gaming supplant physical play. I'm suggesting that perhaps there is a different way to come at this challenge with screens. Instead of constantly trying to curtail its use or using it as a carrot, why not use it is a bridge or tool? Because this continual battle against screens time, the use of it as a punishment reward system and the perpetual policing of screens doesn't feel quite right. I want my kids to be able to manage their own play in a healthy way after I'm gone.