Before I get into today's post, I heard from a few people that the video links weren't working. If they didn't work for you, my apologies. I'm not a computer guy, but I will see if can figure out how to get them to work in the future. Moving on. As my wife was pregnant with our son, we did a lot of reading about raising children, technology, and how the two correlate. At the end of all our reading, both opinion and fact based, we decided that it would be in our children's best interest if we did not allow the use of technology till they were older. This includes TV, iPhones, iPads, and computers. This isn't to say that they don't know what these things are, but their use by our children in our house is practically non-existent. I say practically only because we do show them pictures on our phones for a few minutes here and there and our son has watched a few movies at his grandparents house. Outside of these few instances, its as if they don't exist. They are not used as babysitters or devices of distraction, and for our son in kindergarten, he only uses an iPad in his school. The main purpose of our keeping technology out of children's lives until they are older (trust me, I know they will have to use computers and phones at some point) was to foster creativity, encourage them to figure out how to entertain themselves, and teach them how to be bored and work through their boredom. We also want them to experience the world through their own eyes, not through a filter of a phone or computer. We want them to learn how to talk to others, have a conversation, watch the world go by while driving, and to notice the little things that too often get missed when we are glued to a screen. To be honest, at first I had trepidation. None of our friends have gone to the extent that we have with limiting technology in their children's lives. Some limit use of devices, but I can't think of one that has kept the devices out of their children's hands till they were older. I am not judging them here. They made their decisions about how to live and raise their children and I will not be the one to judge. I am here merely to talk about how this has benefited our family. To do that, I offer up the example of yesterday, a beautiful spring Sunday.
From the time we got home from running errand after church yesterday morning, about 1030, till dinner time around 6, there was very little time spent indoors. My wife and I had our plans to work in the yard, clear space to put our greenhouse in a more permanent location and build some new garden beds outside our vegetable garden. But there was nothing planned for our children. They had free reign to do as they wished. They were all over the place. They would go from helping me dig dirt and move it with the tractor, to playing on their play set and in their sandbox, to roaming through the woods, pretending to cook on our stone grill, to carrying their sun umbrellas around. They would announce the presence of our resident red tail hawk as it would fly overhead, would scramble to move every worm they found in the process of digging to our vegetable garden, would ponder the shape of clouds drifting past and what they looked like, and would collect acorns and pine branches for the stew they were making. They did these and plenty of other things throughout the day. There was no desire on their part to be inside at all. After dinner, our son wanted to go back outside to play some more, but seeing the look on both his and his daughter's face, the look of content exhaustion, we suggested they build with legos or read instead. So they did. They started with legos for a while, and when our son discovered that I had brought "The Cat in the Hat" downstairs, he got excited. We suggested that he read it to his sister and they both thought it was a fantastic idea. (Our son, at 5 and almost through kindergarten, has become quite the proficient reader and true book worm when not playing outside or with his toys). So the two of them curled up in a chair in our living room and he proceeded to read to his sister. I must say, listening from the kitchen, he is even getting the inflection down quite well. About a quarter after 7, we came in from the kitchen and our daughter almost immediately asked, "mom, can you take me to bed, I'm tired". And with that, we started getting them up to bed and situated for the night. That was their day without technology. Playing outside in the dirt, sand, and sun and reading in the evening. I wouldn't trade that for anything.
I couldn't imagine now having allowed our children the ability to entertain themselves with electronic devices such as iPhones or iPads. They are developing a creativity that is amazing and becoming quite adept at thinking outside the box. Our son even made it into a quite selective art show that is put on by the orange school system. The art teachers choose about 80-90 works of art from grades K-6 and have a annual art show. As a frame of reference, his kindergarten (a unique setup where the kindergarteners are in their own building) has 8 classrooms of 17 children in each one. On top of that, there are 3 elementary schools in our town with grades 1-6. The works of are were chosen from all 4 schools. It was pretty amazing as only a small group of kindergarteners art was chosen. But not even counting that, the lack of technology has given our children the ability to become close friends and figure out how to entertain themselves. They don't "need" a device to occupy their time. If they want to read, they read, if they want to build, they build, if they want to work on art, they do that. Sure they have their little squabbles, but for the most part, they are becoming good friends and quite capable of playing with each other. I know technology will make its way into their hands. In this interconnected world, it will be of the utmost importance in their lives. However, at their young age, we feel it has no place. The more they can learn now to live without it, the more we hope they can carry that with them as they move forward in their lives and recognize that they don't "need" to fill their lives with technology later on. If we can instill in them a desire to stop and smell the flowers, to notice the small things in nature, then perhaps they will be better adjusted as they make their way through adolescence and into adulthood. So far, I feel like we are on the right track. Time will tell.