Recycling the Fear of New Technology
My four sons line up next to each other on the couch with Xbox controllers in hand. The brothers stare intently at the media screen in the living room. They might be fighting against each other with science fiction guns or building imaginary worlds together with natural resources. It depends on the game. And I am conflicted. It is a joy to see them play together, but is this really good for them? I know I am not the first mom to worry about the potentially harmful effects of technology.
In the kitchen of my childhood, the microwave oven posed similar fears. Our first microwave oven arrived in a cardboard box, sometime in the late 1970’s. The front had two big klutzy dials, no flat screen buttons. My Dad unloaded it on the bright blue counter, next to the refrigerator. He plugged it into the wall socket. My mom, sisters, and brother stared in amazement.
The boxy new microwave was an unwieldy appliance and it took a while to learn how to use it without ruining food. I alternately experimented with boiling water, melting marshmallows, hot dogs, bread, cheese, potatoes. Bread wilted and hardened like a sponge. Hot dogs split and puckered. Potatoes morphed into rocks and exploded. Eggs exploded, too. Cheese melted into liquid like a time lapse movie from 5th grade science class.
Not that we got to watch it all happen, directly. We saw the process only in 'before' and 'after' segments. Why? Because, after my Dad set up the rocket-ship Radarange, my Mom also laid out her precautionary microwave instructions.
In order to use this new technology safely, we were instructed to load the food, shut the door, set the time, hit the cook button, and step around to the other side of the refrigerator. I felt like an x-ray lab technician who sets up a patient and steps behind a shielding wall. We protested and rolled our eyes at Mom's over-concern.
Her radiation worries floated around the kitchen. The power of the microwave wasn't fully understood. And maybe, just maybe, those radar waves could cause sterility or reproductive cancer in women. Maybe we'd end up barren. And, no one would know for years to come. So, in absence of a heavy leaded apron, we sighed about Mom's hovering caution and compliantly stepped around to the other side of the fridge.
With time and familiarity, all caution was lost. Eventually, we stopped stepping around the fridge. A couple years in, we got to stand and watch the cheese melt, start to finish.
21st Century Version
Now, as a mom, I have more compassion for my mom's concern about the radarange and our reproductive organs. As I watch a constant sea of evolving technologies whirl around my sons, I understand my mom's issue.
New tech possibilities flow through our homes like electronic air current. Xboxes, iPads, iPhones, Facebook, Hulu -- electric gadgets and information are our society's constant clamor. They beckon for time and beg for our full attention -- like the melting marshmallow and exploding egg. And now, years after our first microwave was plugged into the wall, I have my own hovering concerns.
Some days, my kids roll their eyes at me, the same way I rolled mine at my Mom. And I'm left wishing it were possible to know, for certain, when it's necessary for my kids to 'step behind the refrigerator.’
Only time will tell.
Practically Speaking ... Three Things to Consider
From my experience as a mom of four sons, here are three things to watch for when determining if your child is becoming too dependant on video games:
- Is social life important? If your child is starting to give up time with friends in order to play his/her game or do time at the computer, it's time to start seriously limiting screen time.
- Is it a fight to get your child to stop playing (with a 10 minute warning)? If you receive consistent and repeatedly angry responses when screen time is stopped, this may be the signal of a dependency which requires attention.
- Do you know what your child enjoys doing, besides video games? It's important to identify and encourage gifts and skills in real life. If video games are all that your child has as a past time, as an identity, as a social or emotional outlet, expect negative outcomes. As a parent, engage with your child's passions. No video game will be able to compete with your love and attention.
How have you responded to technology at home with your kids?
Any suggestions for dealing with screen time and video games in your home?
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