Reading Time: 4 minutes
“Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that only consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of our lives which have no confidence or purpose. This is not a message of happiness or reassurance, but it is the truth and it is a warning.” (Jimmy Carter).
These days I’m seeing more and more, rubber bands and screens. Stuck together. On the bed, the back of the driver seat, on the pushchairs, parents’ hands, you name it.
When asked if they see it as a useful solution, most of the parents reply with “no, but for now it works.”
A startling new study shows a huge number of children under the age of four have access to a mobile device. Some of those kids started using them before they were one year old.
Parents may believe that their babies will learn more if they have them sit in front of a screen for hours. They may also use the screen as a form of distraction or entertainment. Before realizing it, the screen turns into a so-called “indispensable tool”. While shopping, crying in the car, or even keeping him quiet while ordering their meal, the screen can easily turn into a “solution”, a temporary one.
But can a temporary solution have long-lasting positive effects?
In reality, the child is kept numb. There is no interaction.
There is avoidance of setting healthy boundaries or having the child observe and learn about his environment, his emotions and others’ behavior.
Opportunity to learn
I’m not saying distraction is never good. But don’t distract a child when there’s an opportunity to learn. You want to cook but the kid is rolling at your feet? Give him a toy pan and some space at the table. You want to shop but he is impatient? Play a game that involves him helping you find the products you need. Basically, keep his mind occupied and when possible involve him in your activities. That is how he learns. And learning is growing.
A child who spends a good part of his day in front of the screen, will most likely turn bored, lazy and easily irritated.
But if we remove the screen when other activities happen, the curiosity and the process of learning kick in. As a result, the child will have the tools of observation, process, and interaction.
Not to mention that the more we let our children use all of their senses, the more they learn, the more they develop strength and feel secured.
A child who does not have the screen as a solution for behavioral modeling will most likely be seen playing on the floor with his toys, observing the world from inside/outside the car, asking questions and be present while eating or even having fewer drama episodes at the restaurant.
Moderate time in front of a screen and not combined with other activities will give the child a sense of presence and desire to explore.
“If I don’t give him what he wants, he’ll cry, and I need peace.”
You want a break sometimes, it gets hard, frustrating, I get it. You give your child what he wants and you may have peace. What you’re getting is a temporary solution with long-lasting nasty side effects.
Don’t give him what he wants, give him what he needs. Simple, not easy, of course, but as we all know, practice makes it better, on both sides. After all, from you, he has learned the existence of the screen, and from you as well, he will learn how to handle things, act and react. Do you want your kid to go from “I love/miss you” to “I want that”?
There are parents who want to give their kids the best, and they’re really working hard to go that angle.
I can assure parents that they can have peace and happy children around them without shutting them down. There is no need for disconnection.
Process and content
In 1983, companies spent $100 million marketing to children. In 2006, companies spent $17 billion.
Juliet Schor, (Ph.D., Economist & Sociologist) considers that there is a problem of both process and content, and the problem of content is huge. She considers that “the products that are being advertised to kids are junk. It’s literally a junk culture that’s bad for them. It’s crappy toy that is gendered and violent. I don’t see the argument for subjecting children to this, there is no positive social benefit from it. We just know there’s a negative, and it’s just the political power of advertising and the companies that do the advertising that keeps us from doing something about it.”
Companies decided to go around the mother and go directly to the kids. There is a reason for why kids know there is a new toy out there that they desperately want. You let them in front of the screen, thinking they will watch a silly cartoon episode for few minutes. Most of the time they end up watching for hours. And what thought to be few minutes of cartoon, turns out to be a huge amount of information/advertising that kids can barely process. It’s overwhelming, grows impatience, and lately, anxiety.
In this process, addiction shows up with the desire of having more. After getting the latest gadget, the kid goes back to being dissatisfied.
Parents give one toy truck to their kids because they want to see them happy. But what’s really happening is that kids are happy until they see a bigger truck, and that will lead to their whining and sadness and parents figure that buying more is the solution. And that’s a lie. Because this process never ends.
Those unsatisfied children grow into hungry adults hunting new products, new cars and bigger houses. They’ll hunt happiness and satisfaction but that will never be truly fulfilled following this road. They lose or never get to have an idea of what is essential to them.
Offer support to your kids, not the lesson of obedience, feed his curiosity by encouraging him to explore, not by offering a screen (or the best screen on the market).
If there is one thing parents can do is to welcome things into their lives, but definitely with the intention of thinking about what they’re doing as opposed to just consuming. It’s interesting how eventually they can learn and grow together as a team.
Therefore, parents should be more aware of what they’re handing to their children. When the worship of consumption is stopped by removing what is not really needed, a safer environment is created where children can really explore and become what they most want to be rather than what the world will try to convince them to be.