What did you do for fun as a kid? Watched video games!
Have you seen the Nature Valley Granola Bar video that's been circulating on Facebook? If not, take a minute to watch the video clip. Seriously, a minute. It's worth it, promise.
Okay, so when I saw this for the first time on Friday it really made me think. I am regularly asking my kids to put down their electronics or to turn off the television. Most days it takes a lot of energy on my part to remain present and to help my kids reengage with the real world between spurts of technology.
And I realize I am not the only parent experiencing this challenge. (There are at least four other families in the video alone).
Part of the problem at my house is the summer is getting long, it's 100 plus degrees out and everyone is tired of going to the community pool. Greater than that though is the seduction of sitting on one's butt while being entertained by other human beings acting silly, or the desire to achieve the next level in whatever game happens to be hot this week.
I don't know about you, but the message in this video clip scared the bah-jeezas out of me because I know it's true and it's happening under my nose in my house every single day.
I decided to share the video with my family to get their perspectives.
Maddux and Mia watched it first, then I watched it with Tom, and then Allen-Michael and Brigham and I sat down and watched it together. Here's what my family had to say about the video:
Maddux's first reaction was he wouldn't be bragging so much about the number of episodes he watched in a 4-day time period like the kid with the red hair in the video. Mia didn't really have much to say at first. I shared with them my biggest concerns about the video were (a) the impact of the lack of human connection and (b) that the boy with the red hair said he used technology to help him feel better.
Then I asked Maddux to think about a day at the pool last week when there was a boy (about ten I'd guess) who was alone in the water looking thoroughly bored. I suggested Maddux ask him if he'd like to play catch with the tennis ball we'd brought along. Maddux looked at me as if I had horns growing out of my head and refused. I said, "You don't have to become his best friend, just ask if he'd like to play catch for a few minutes." No go.
It was at this point in the discussion Mia said, "Mom, that's weird. Nobody just goes up to a kid they don't know and asks if they want to throw a ball back and forth in the pool." (She didn't add an eye roll, but I know it's coming). In a nutshell my ten and twelve-year-olds thought the video was overly dramatic and not accurate.
Tom's reaction: "Great way to sell granola bars." (He's in ad sales, remember?)
Aside from that point, my husband asked what I thought I might be able to do to change the direction of what he agrees he also sees happening. I didn't have an answer in that moment, but yesterday at mass I was reminded of our conversation and the answer came to me.
The priest was talking about Mother Teresa, at one point she was asked how she thought she could make a difference in the world while only physically carrying one child since there were thousands that needed help. She responded, "For this child I will make a difference."
So my answer to my husband's question is this...I know I will continue to work everyday at engaging our kids in activities which will inspire connection, in order to balance out the time spent on technology. And I will write with passion about this topic frequently in the hopes of making an impression on someone else's heart as well.
For I believe small acts can have great impact.
Later, when I sat down with the older boys to get their reactions, Brigham thought the producers probably needed to interview a lot of families before they got the footage they wanted. Allen-Michael and I disagreed with him. Brigham (remember, he's 17) felt like a lot of parents don't understand the value in video gaming. (He's not a television watcher, his free time is spent on his computer and on his phone).
I responded that (at least for me) the concern is not that he plays the games, it's the amount of time he chooses to dedicate to it and how playing video games has (in my opinion) impacted his desire and ability to choose to socialize and grow as an individual, especially as he is about to enter his senior year in high school and will need to choose his next step.
Allen-Michael (also entering his senior year, only it's college) definitely saw the big picture message and then asked me what I did as a kid to have fun.
I told him I spent a lot of time using my imagination and playing games outside with friends/kids in the neighborhood. As a little girl I spent hours playing house and school...basically pretending what I might want to be when I grew up. The older I got, the more independence I was given...by middle school I was biking to the park to play tennis with friends, doing homework at the library, and as a teen I spent A LOT of time laying out in the sun (soaked in Johnson's Baby Oil) with my girlfriends, listening to the radio and talking about boys. I also took my pretending to be a mom to a new level by babysitting for hours on end.
Basically I think my family feels like there's not much we can do about the fact that technology plays a heavy role in our everyday life. Kind of a "if ya can't beat 'em, join 'em" thought process.
I don't agree. And I know at least one of my kids is with me on that.
So, tell me, how do you handle technology use at your house? And the bigger question: What do you think our grandchildren will do for fun if our kids today spend a good portion of their time playing video games, watching YouTube videos, and texting their friends instead of getting together for face-to-face conversations?
I'm curious...share your thoughts with me here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.