There has been an article floating around the internet lately and chances are you’ve seen it.
“Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids play on iPhones or iPads!” it announces, making those of us who have come to appreciate the ease of use and creativity Apple offers our own kids feel guilty.
Should we really let our children play on our handheld devices, laptops, video games?
After all, aren’t there countless studies out there about how technology negatively affects their growing brains, their ability to function in “real life,” whatever that is?
Look, I get it. I find it quite annoying when I’m trying to have a conversation with my husband at breakfast and he’s looking at a computer screen, too.
But then I think a few decades ago, that same head would’ve been in the pages of a newspaper. Those same eyes that I complain are reading Google news would be scanning the latest stock quotes in the print version of the Wall Street Journal.
What is so different except the medium?
But these are kids, you say. There is difference between a grown man reading the daily news on the computer screen and little children addicted to their electronics. And to that, I would have to cry “False dichotomy!”
We throw the word “addiction” around far too lightly.
I am on the computer almost all day. My work as a homemaker and blogger requires it. Our bank accounts are online, the details of our investment and retirement accounts are online, the fastest way to get a stock quote is online, most of our school curricula is online, recipes as well as my meal planning happens online.
Also, I am a writer. Much of my research for home and school and work happens online.
In short, I am on the internet and using my laptop almost all day. Am I addicted?
My husband is an electrician – is headdicted to his power tools, his electric meter, his smart phone for filling in his time sheet at the end of the week? Sure, almost all these things can be done with a pen and paper, but they take much longer and I don’t see any inherent goodness in pen and paper over a laptop screen.
I struggled with this stigma of letting my kids use electronics for years.
I felt guilty for chatting with my friends on Facebook. I should be out plowing fields, I told myself, milking cows, herding sheep. After all, my children should know how to live in the real world. Oh, wait a minute. We didn’t live in a little house on the prairie. We live in suburbia and we homeschool.
I should be out plowing fields, I told myself, milking cows, herding sheep. After all, my children should know how to live in the real world. Oh, wait a minute. We didn’t live in a little house on the prairie. We live in suburbia and we homeschool.
The children have all day to play freely in their rooms and in the backyard. They have imaginative toys, colors, paper, pens, stickers.
They sing, they fight, they do chores, they play act, they learn to cook. We read together, they have pull up bars to hang on, trees to climb and, oh yeah, they also have controlled access to a computer where they learn to do math and read. They get one on one instruction from me but they also get to practice and play at their pace and learn when they want. Is that really so horrible?
If you have a well-developed conviction about avoiding technology and you’re the sort of person who doesn’t use it yourself, trust me, I totally get it.
I have friends like you who would rather live in the countryside and be perfectly happy churning their own butter, raising hens and never seeing a computer screen again. But I’m not one of them.
Recreating the past without my modern conveniences does not appeal to me and I don’t have any reason to think either is better or worse.
And for those of you who equate all technology with television – have you seen kids play video games? I don’t mean in an arcade. I mean, really have you watched the difference between someone playing video games and watching television? Do you notice how different that is from watching television? Someday, I will actually get a video of my son playing video games. He barely sits down.
You cannot convince me that it is passive in any manner.
In fact, Megan McArdle says perhaps the most appealing thing about video games in her book The Up Side of Down a book I think every parent ought to read. She talks about how failure is fundamental to learning and there is one place that children realize as fundamental to learning by failing and trying again and again – their video game console. Here is the same idea reiterated in a blog post.
A wise parent once said about technology, “Do you know you can turn it off when you don’t need it?”
We laughed, perhaps you did, too, reading this, but most people who shun technology don’t seem to accept that. Instead of shunning technology altogether, why can’t we learn to use it as the tool it is?
It would seem strange if people shunned paper tomorrow, wouldn’t it? And yet,throughout history, people have hated whatever new technology came out, claiming the older better, more romantic, somehow more morally sound.
I call humbug.
Steve Jobs might have been the ideal parent. Or he may not have been.
I’m not seeking to emulate him.
I’m seeking to please God, emulate Christ and raise my child in the freedom and conviction of the Holy Spirit who is unchanging and eternal. Technology doesn’t faze Him and it doesn’t scare me.
This post originally appeared here.