Hi-Tech, Low-Tech, or No-Tech: are our boys being raised right in the digital age?
If you are one of those parents who feels good about your children’s use of handheld and other electronics and do not feel that it is harmful in any way, you can stop reading now.
I am not a missionary, trying to woo people with a clear headset over to “my side.”
Parenting is a tough gig and we all have to figure out what works for us. But if you are a parent or parent-to-be who is debating the future role of electronics in your child’s life, I would like to share with you, my experience raising a “low-tech kid.”
First of all, we do have and enjoy a TV, complete with cable! About a year or so ago my son was obsessed with Gilligan’s Island reruns and we had a lot of fun bonding over our favorite episodes. This to say—my position is not extreme or motivated by anything other than my own life experiences and my gut.
As my husband and I agreed when he was a baby, my now almost 11-year-old son does not own a phone, iPad, Kindle, computer or any type of video game, handheld or otherwise. He doesn’t have any kind of screen in the car. He does have supervised access to my computer, but exclusively for school assignments—research and Google docs.
Back when he was in 3rd grade, I began to notice many of his classmates had video-game-themed backpacks, lunch boxes, birthday parties. I began to feel some concern that because my son had no access to video games, he would become an “outsider.” I expressed these feelings to his teacher at the time, who assured me that my son was both well-liked and integrated.
She also told me something I will never forget—that she was not at all surprised to learn of his electronics ban because the quality of his attention in class was so remarkable in comparison to many of his fellow students.
Not only did this reaffirm my decision for me, it also made me wonder: if the teacher could see the difference in children’s attention span by age 8, what else is the constant use of immediate entertainment/distraction robbing from these kids?
Here are some benefits I have found in my son’s “low-tech” life:
Once we were at the Bronx zoo with some friends looking for a simian family in their labyrinth-like habitat. When they did not materialize after a minute or two, his playmates were understandably ready to move on.
I encouraged my companion to go ahead with her children; I stood with my son at the empty window, waiting for his patience to wane. Other zoo patrons came and went, but he remained fixed to the spot. Then, just as I was getting ready to hustle him along, the whole family materialized and began interacting for us. Soon the room was full of people watching this amazing sight, and a zoo docent happened along and remarked how unusual it was for them to congregate in the same room of the habitat. His patience paid off, and to this day he remains amazingly willing to “wait for it.”
Reading and Self-Entertaining:
He and I regularly drive to see my best friend and her family; this trip is 2 ½ hours each way in good traffic, or up to 5 hours each way in bad. We drive down to NC to visit family every summer, a 12 hour trip on a good day. We also drive to upstate NY annually, a 5 ½ hour trek each way. My son reads or works in activity books like “Wreck This Journal”. Sometimes we play driving games (pick a color car and whoever sees the most wins!); sometimes we listen to music. Sometimes we talk; sometimes we just sit in silence. Mostly, he reads.
Never says “I’m bored”
He knows there is no such thing as being bored; only being boring. If you have a functional brain, what else could you possibly need to keep you amused? This is equally true in the house, car or even while at school or in church.
He has never had a temper tantrum because he’s not allowed on a screen
To be fair and honest, he’s never been a temper tantrum guy. But this is something I’ve seen other children do ad nauseum, so it’s worth mentioning.
I never have to bargain that if he does his homework he can have 30 minutes of screen-time
He just does his homework. This is non-negotiable.
He’s never rushed through anything in order to “get to his game”
If you are thinking of introducing electronics into your child’s life because you think this will make things “easier” for you? I just want to let you know that a child who does not need electronics to be entertained or soothed is pretty much the easiest kind of kid in the world.
Never rudely ignores people because he is distracted by a phone or game.
I am not going to bore you with studies that will tell you about the negative impact of electronics on the brain and social development; this phenomenon is so new, it will be years before there is real credible data one way or another.
But if you are on the fence about whether or not your child needs electronics to keep up, fit in or just get out of your hair, I am here to say life without electronics has been easy as can be for us. Just like it was easy for most of us who grew up before they were available. I think too many parents are handing their toddlers electronics as if it is now a de facto aspect of childhood.
My son’s low-tech life is working very well; so please know that you do still have this option available to you.
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Photo: Getty Images