If raising children is just too difficult without frequent bouts of resorting to seating children in front of media to give us a rest, we are out of step with history. Abraham raised children without the Internet, as did Noah, yes, even when they were tired. In fact, parents have routinely raised their progeny without any outside help of any kind for 6,000 years. Conversely, because Lot caved in to Sodom’s version of the Internet, his family wouldn’t even follow him out of town.
Most of us, as adults, have natural restraints on our personal use of media due to our wholesome childhoods, much of them spent outdoors, filled with “doings”, building forts, playing with wooden train tracks, riding bikes, racing up hills. This is not true of many children nowadays. They have been raised on “sittings”. Screens have been their childhood friends and surrogate parents for hours every day. Some children don’t even know where the “off” buttons are. This is an engulfing phenomenon that we as parents simply must limit.
Also, we as adults generally have mature spiritual lives with which to evaluate media. Our children don’t. They don’t yet have enough of an experience base with God to make quantum hours in front of media safe for themselves. Their spiritual lives aren’t yet formed; children are not yet stable in this regard. They are reeds in the wind. And a reed is easily broken. Oops.
Here is the thought-provoking cost of allowing our children an ever-increasing addiction to media, if we don’t get a handle on this, and get a handle on it soon.
1.—Media can waste a phenomenal amount of time. It often takes you in further than you wanted to go and makes you stay longer than you wanted to stay. Log in your hours and your children’s for just one week and see for yourself. Try living a week without any of it and you’ll really see how deep this dependency has become for you, and deeper still and more profoundly for your children.
2.—Social media can foster self-absorption in your child as he spends hours presenting himself, crafting his image, and seeking to be popular rather than to be zealously holy or servant-hearted.
3.—Visual reality begins to replace real reality; graciousness begins to give way to irritation with real family members, because they fall short of the “Photoshopped” idealized friends of virtual reality. Does your husband prefer a virtual wife to a real wife? How much time did media steal yesterday at your house, from spending time with other family members or from progressing with household duties? Real life is difficult. Doing our duty is often difficult. Virtual realities, on the other hand, are easily engaged.
4.—Texting creates a jerking autonomic nervous system in the child as he hyper-responds to trivia, looking at texts he receives and urgently and aggressively punching keys to send. For most children, this has become a truly addicting monomania. Could it result in nervous tics in the future? You may want to consider limiting texting time to once a day, rather than allowing full vent to this small physical stress syndrome all day long.
5.—All media usage involves small muscle movements—in contrast to large muscle movements—and shallow breathing as opposed to deep breathing, for hours and hours and hours. Time thus spent takes a developmental toll on a child. When these hours stack up it can amount to fully half of the hours of a normal childhood—hours that are lost to the more constructive massive physical stimulation and activity. A nervous system that is chronically strained by this can begin to break down the child’s immune systems.
6.—Looking real people in the eyes lets us understand much about them without ever saying a word; this is absent from electronic communication. Many youth, so trained, don’t know how to look people in the eyes anymore, especially adults. And they have forgotten to work on their faces, to make them cheerful, deliberately. It takes effort to think of gracious things to say verbally to real people. We are losing ground here, as parents. We are rapidly losing ground in the training of social graces. Basic social interchanges may soon become extinct—lost dinosaur skills of our youth.
7.—Many children are becoming more interested in the electronic device at their fingertips than in the real person who is inches away from them.
8.—Oftentimes, social media replaces Bible devotions and basic duties—crowding them out of the life totally. Have we spent as much time in the Bible as with the other media? Which did we do first thing this morning, at our first discretionary moment? Have we trained our children to finish doing their duty, first? Did they tend to duty for the entire day today, prior to embarking into social media? For that matter, do we really need social media at all? Of what benefit is it to keep up with a myriad of friends’ emerging thoughts and lives, all day long? What does that do to the development of our own lives? How many accomplishments do we actually do, under such conditions? Is social entertainment preferable to productivity? To what end?
9.—Social media fulfills a longing for attention, and can feed the flesh. By it we can easily become hypocrites—posing as one sort of person on the screen and quite another in the here and now. Are your children becoming secretive over the YouTube videos they watch? Can you see their screens at all times? Does the screen face the center of the room you all are in all day long? We used to be able to see book covers when people read; it was a natural curb to desiring to read wickedness, because we knew that others would see the covers. Seeing what is absorbing your children at all times is crucial to maintaining their accountability to us as their responsible adults.
10.—Movies are a respond-a-thon, in which passivity trumps initiation time and time again. When the virtual reality is turned off we awake from our stupor and find that we exerted no godly influence upon our families or our neighbors.
11.—The only way to create visual media is to descend into the material world, and at an unnaturally fast-changing pace. We must have action shots to hold people’s attention, and to intensify that attention we must change what is seen every two to three seconds. This totally nixes a reflective mind. Take a family that has read for ten years and place them next to a family that has only seen movies for ten years, and those families will appear as if they came from different planets; the readers will have oceans more depth to them.
12.—Virtual gaming includes watching violence and actors wearing seductive clothing. There is no morally neutral gaming. None. Also, it dangerously moves the person from being an observer to a being some sort of participant.
13.—Media teaches us contentment and excitement without God. God is generally nowhere to be found. This often leads to full-blown idolatry.
14.—The virtual world is not eternal, unlike the real world. So attuned, continually, we can end up giving away our influence—just as easily as Esau gave away his birthright for a pot of porridge.
In conclusion, get a grip on your children’s affection for media. This is a freight train that has no brakes. See our article on TV Watching Out of Control and read our past blogs on this topic. This is a large subject, with many facets you may not have considered in this way. If you become more fully aware of all of its tentacles by reading these, it may well change your current directions.
By Renée Ellison
“Your home schooling tips are like brain candy to me!” Renee Ellison’s practical tips have been a boost to thousands of moms. With over 30 years of experience in Christian, private, secular, and home education, she has taught nearly all grade levels and was an elementary principal, head of a high school English department and Teacher of the Year. Her book, Teachers’ Secrets and Motherhood Savvy for Homeschoolers, is available at her website www.homeschoolhowtos.com and (along with a dozen other Kindle eBooks) on Amazon.
Used by permission of Renee Ellison. © 2012 by Crossover. All Rights Reserved.
“On the computer (10 things)” © 2010 Surat Lozowick, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/.