Our children are nearly 8 and they’ve never used our phones and rarely watch the iPad or TV. Yep, you just read that. They had their first exposure to electronics when they were about 3 years old. And that was because we were on an 8-hour journey to Costa Rica. It was my selfish need to have them tamed and motionless that led to them being rendered catatonic by endless episodes of Maurice Sendak’s “Little Bear”.
Since becoming a Mama, I’m AMAZED at the amount of kids I see on devices at restaurants, in the car, and even in their stroller. And I won’t lie — I DO judge them. This is not a matter of children needing these things just because they may WANT them…. this is about parents having the discipline to say NO and the desire to stay connected with their children, not their phones. The irony is that the child who is quiet for the short term will be more needy of media to entertain him in the long term because he has not learned to do that for himself. It becomes a vicious cycle.
This may sound ironic or even hypocritical coming from someone who works in the media herself — on a reality show, no less! — but I see that as my job, not my lifestyle. In fact, our children have never even seen There Goes The Motherhood. This isn’t to say that we are 100% radical and strictly no-media. There are times that TV is necessary (flying on an airplane) or comforting (when someone is really sick and incapable of playing). We have occasional family movie nights and it’s a special experience involving homemade popcorn and snuggling with Mommy and Daddy. We don’t watch Barbie or Disney movies; we find them too freakish, stimulating, mean / violent or just dumbed-down and insulting to a child’s intelligence. Instead, we watch documentaries about dance or charming old movies with sweet story lines, beautiful visuals, and interesting dialogue. If they are intaking these images, I want them at least to be rich — interesting set design, costumes, and ideas. I want their extremely limited media intake to enhance their imagination, give them more things to dream about, and open up their horizons about what is possible in the world.
In addition to all that … there are other reasons we choose to be media-less:
- honoring and nurturing a child’s imagination and original thoughts
- helping a child learn to self-entertain
- keeping the culture of commercialism at bay
- fostering an interest in simple, real life experiences like playing games, making art, and having interesting conversations.
From the beginning, we’ve worked hard to keep all electronics, including the computer and omnipresent iPhones away from them. That means not showing them photos or videos of themselves, no matter how cute those videos were or how bored they seem to be in the supermarket line. Sometimes it makes me the “bad guy” in the eyes of well-meaning relatives, friends, and caregivers. So be it. I don’t mind being unpopular when I believe in something.
Without TV in our lives, we do other things. We paint, read, do puzzles, build things, play hide-and-seek, create forts, tell stories, ask questions, seek answers. In other words, we stay connected to each other, even when it’s challenging.
If what I’ve just described sounds like a big leap from where you are in your family — but you wish you could make some changes — you CAN. You can start TODAY by making some small changes that will add up to a big difference. This is truly one of the most important decisions we have made in an effort to be conscious parents. Think about it…. xxx, Leah