Story of the Month – April
A Letter to My Kids About Games, Screens, and How Much I Love You – submitted by Kara Anderson
Just a few years ago, computer games weren’t an issue in our family. We had very young children, and we were homeschooling.
We’d created a bubble, and inside that bubble, Mom and Dad sometimes checked email or did a little work, but the computer was not an entertainment box full of colorful flashes and goofy noises. It was just a tool.
It was boring.
But children can’t stay young forever, and eventually our bubble burst in the best way – we made a bunch of friends.
In addition, the babies and preschoolers we had known all along grew up and discovered computers, MP3 players, tablets, gaming systems and even cell phones.
For our family, the influx of electronics surrounding us took some … navigating.
If I am being honest, this is a topic that continues to take just a little bit of careful consideration every day. I think that’s what happens when you are trying to find your family’s sweet spot – there’s no autopilot.
But when the Sea of Screens comes crashing again and again (or Grandpa buys a Leapfrog for Christmas) and I want to just give up, I often think back to this letter I once wrote to my kids in a moment of extreme frustration and desperation.
It serves a reminder for all of us that electronics are addictive and consuming, and that always, we are seeking our family’s balance.
A Letter to My Kids About Games, Screens, and How Much I Love You
I think maybe it’s time that we have a talk about electronics.
You seem to think that I hate them.
I think what you are seeing is my frustration. Electronics are addictive, and powerful, and everywhere.
There are times when I feel like it would be easiest if I gave in to each request, but there are a lot of reasons I don’t. And because I love you and respect you, I am listing them below:
1. Electronics seem to create a disconnection.
I anticipate that in your lifetime, there are going to be plenty of things that you like that maybe I just don’t “get,” like a certain kind of music. Or mustard. You will try to convince me that whatever you love is great, and we’ll maybe talk about it. Perhaps we’ll debate a bit. Maybe you’ll play me your favorite new song, or make me vinaigrette. Maybe someday we’ll even argue, but at least we will be communicating. But what won’t happen is you won’t climb inside another world and ignore me. (I hope.)
2. You don’t need to settle.
When I say that you don’t need to settle, I’m not judging other parents or other kids, because I’m not comparing us to anyone else. I am saying that I have glimpsed your soul, kid, and I happen to have seen that you are amazing. You can do anything. You are creative, and funny and determined. So you don’t need to rely on machines to fill the gaps. You don’t need to tune yourself out.
3. Electronics bring tension to our household.
Video games are often meant to be competitive. I know that siblings argue sometimes; so you want to argue over the best construction plans for a tree fort? I get that. You want to express frustration over who used all the green paint? OK. You want to fight over who got more minutes to make pretend tacos for pretend customers? Please see No. 2. There is also the tension it creates between us, when I become the computer police. I don’t like that lady. My best guess is you don’t care for her either.
4. I like you good and bored.
Here’s a secret: A lot of parents don’t like bored kids. But I see so many good things happen when you are given the space and time to figure stuff out. The minute you start to fill every second of boredom with screens, even “educational” games, I can only see missed opportunity for something real and probably more interesting. We all need downtime. I get that. But this leads me to No. 5
5. I’m scared you might someday start to use electronics to cope.
I know this happens because I’ve seen it too often. I see it in adults all the time. I struggle with it myself sometimes – I want to jump on the computer instead of cleaning the kitchen. But I can tell you from experience, that when you emerge from the computer, phone or television, that whatever you were avoiding is usually still there waiting for you. It’s good to find healthy ways to cope with stress, and numbing yourself in front of a screen is not one of those ways.
6. We only get to do this once, kid.
One time around, and it goes by fast. I don’t want you to miss your childhood by tuning out. I don’t want you to look back and wonder what happened while you were squashing virtual blobs with a digital hammer.
There are times, guys, when I do kind of for a bit hate electronics.
But those moments often seem to coincide with my love for you overflowing, and reminding me of what incredible things can happen when I remember to say no.
With a promise that I will continue to listen, and that we will continue to learn together,
Kara S. Anderson is a freelance writer and editor, as well as a homeschooling mom to two amazing kids, ages 6 and 9. She’s tough on electronics, but easy on ice cream, glitter and the acquisition of family pets. She writes about her family’s adventures at www.farmgirlgrowsup.typepad.com.