This morning my wife delivered some challenging news. The family tablet was not charging and we would need to buy a new one immediately. As a family with no TV, we rely on the tablet to entertain our children at various points of the day, particularly in the summertime when there are more hours at home. And while we are blessed to possess a sizable yard with a trampoline and lots of grass (not to mention indoor play areas stocked with toys,) the tablet remains the entertainment of choice for our children, one that we seemingly can’t live without. How we survive the “shut down” mode of the Sabbath each week is beyond me.
As I contemplated the “seriousness” of the situation, I was reminded of a scene from an Airplane movie many years ago. The situation was dire, and the craft was experiencing all sorts of life-threatening challenges, but the bad news did not elicit much concern from the passengers. Then, the crew announced that the plane had run out of coffee, and the cabin erupted in despair. While clearly not a reflection of reality, it did reinforce the fact that what may seem trivial in the grand scheme of things can feel downright essential in the moment.
The fact that we have developed this tablet dependency, however real, does trouble me. Technology offers many wonderful benefits, no doubt. But research is replete with data that continues to underscore the damaging effects of technology on relationship building, attention spans, and our ability to think and play creatively.
A recent Nature Valley video laments the loss of the connection between today’s youth and nature. While the video may overstate the problem, I think that we can all agree that too many children view childhood through the prism of their smartphones or game system and do not engage in the fun, healthy, exploratory process of being outdoors and connecting tangibly with live friends.
I think that it is imperative for all parents (myself included) to find as many opportunities as possible for children to engage with childhood in a “pre-digital-native” capacity. Get them playing outside. Arrange for play dates and rich social experiences. Establish firm “shut down” times that mandate life without technology for certain periods of time. Do whatever you can to make sure that you don’t experience a crisis the next time that your favorite device fails you.
This post first appeared on the Huffington Post.