We hadn’t made it one hundred yards from the car when his whining began.
The chill was hardly grim; I actually found it refreshing as the sun shone strong, unhindered by the small, fluffy streaks of condensation barely obscuring the bright blue sky.
Yet he scrunched his face in discomfort and complained about his chilly hands. He gets it from me; his strong aversion to the cold.
I turned and jogged back towards the car, pregnant belly dancing up and down as I navigated the dirt path. I grabbed an extra camera lens from the back seat, and Daddy’s hat for the cold child.
He looked like a hoodlum as I pulled it down over his soft white curls. He smiled big as he turned to grasp the leash of his loyal black labrador, and bounded through the field in search of adventure.
It is days like these that bring back into focus the purpose of parenthood–
–why we pour everything we have, and all that we are, into carefully navigating these children through their first 18 years of life.
These 936 weeks are represented by a jar of 936 pennies on my shelf. Each week I take one out.
Each week I am met face to face with the reality that time is relentless, unforgiving–
–and overflowing with potential.
It is why we came on this hike today; because time is short and they are worth all of the beauty that we can pack into those 936 weeks.
Yet we, as parents of today’s society, are throwing away 171 weeks of our children’s lives.
Thinking in terms of that penny jar, it is the most expensive $1.71 we will ever toss out the window.
The Kaiser Family Foundation performed one of the most extensive research projects looking into the time today’s average child, from age 8 to 18, spends in front of some form of media screen.
Their findings were startling; we are giving up 45 hours a week of our children’s lives to technology and screen time.
This fixation with screens doesn’t just begin at age eight. From birth until they turn eight, children are spending an average of 30 additional waking weeks engaged with media screens.
It all adds up to 171 waking weeks of their childhood spent in front of a screen.
Picture that glass jar containing 936 pennies, each representing one week you have with your child.
Now imagine removing 171 of those shiny pennies, and instead of investing them in something great and beautiful that will set your child up for an abundant life, simply tossing them away.
171 pennies of the 936 we have—gone. Worthless. Without cause or intention.
We are doing this.
We are throwing away the time.
It erases beauty, disintegrates intention, and extinguishes purpose—it renders us powerless; this time we are surrendering to the screens so pervasively coming to power in our society; and littering our children’s worlds.
We are throwing away time to worthless pursuits.
And what for? What is the gain?
More importantly….what is being lost?
In a society where research is showing that almost one-third of children have a television in their own bedroom by age three, how can we expect to build meaningful relationships during these 936 short weeks?
Screens are stealing childhoods.
Televisions, iPads, Smart Phones, video games–they are robbing legacies, and we must be brave enough to parent against the flow of society in order to redeem the time and create something of eternal value with it.
I am not against technology.
As a writer, blogger, and web designer, I have a great appreciation for what today’s technology is allowing us to accomplish.
I am also the mom of two-going-on-three boys. I understand the refreshing power that can be found in allowing my children to watch an episode of Daniel Tiger while I regroup with a cup of coffee and a book.
However, as a parent, I am also terrified of today’s technology-laden world.
I see clearly that too much is being given up to the allure and convenience of screens; and we, as parents, have both the responsibility and the power to fight back and redeem childhoods.
Perhaps your own child doesn’t spend nearly the average of 6 and a half hours a day in front of a screen.
Or maybe you, like I, have fallen into the temptation to set them in front of a program (or 3…) in the name of getting things checked off our to-do list.
The book Growing Up Social points out,
In our home, it is a constant balancing act; and I know it always will be.
We are again and again brought back to these key questions in order to keep ourselves in check with how much, and for what purposes, we are allowing our children to have “screen time”.
6 Key Questions To ask Before Turning On a Screen
- “Is technology bringing our family closer together, or driving our family apart?” (Growing Up Social, Chapman and Pellicane)
- Do my children act as if an hour in front of a screen is a gift, or something they are entitled to?
- What is this program teaching my child about character and virtues?
- Is this program consistent with our family and life values? If not, then it is not on course with how we want to invest our 936 weeks with our children. Turn it off.
- Have we read books or played outside first, before turning on a screen?
Perhaps one of the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves as parents is this one:
What is being sacrificed for this screen time; what is the tradeoff?
The other day I allowed my children to watch an hour of television while I finished making dinner. When I told them it was time to be done, my three-year-old began to protest.
I quickly reminded him that I had told him a few minutes ago that it was almost time to be done. He said, “Ok”, and the two of them jumped down from the couch and immediately began playing with toy trucks.
A few minutes later, my son yelled over to me, “Mom! I’m having fun playing with trucks!”
Shortly after, some argument ensued about whose truck was whose. I let them be, and within a moment, Zeke was apologizing to his little brother, and peaceful play resumed.
These are areas of socialization and relationship building that they can’t learn from Curious George—they can only learn these character strengths as they see them modeled in our home, and as they practice them face-to-face.
Things don’t always run this smoothly when it comes time to turn off the television, but this is quickly becoming the normal response in our home as we practice authority and boundaries regarding screen time.
Instances like these show me that TV has not turned into an entitlement in our home.
It is a priviledge, and it is controlled by us, the parents—not our children.
There are a whole lot of things we still don’t “have right” in this parenting gig; we fail in more ways than one every day.
However, we understand too clearly the dangers of living life at the whims of technology. That is why this area of screen time is one area where we remain steadfast and focused on instilling boundaries, and running our home and life consistently with our family values.
Their childhoods and our family legacy are at stake, and those are not things we are willing to leave up to chance.
Growing Up Social, Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane
Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets To Raiisng Healthy Sons, Meg Meeker
Numbers derived from:
Generation M2 Media In The Lives Of 8 – 18 Year Olds, Kaiser Family Foundation
Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, Commensensemedia.org