Today the boys decided that they would play on their iPad. They don’t have an iPad. Instead they tapped at the front of the journal Rob and I have been working on that was sitting on the coffee table titled “Imaging Our Farm.”
I have an iPad. When I got the device (a used iPad mini, purchased from Kijiji), it was an attempt to carve out some time for myself. We don’t own a television, and I’m happy with that decision. I stopped watching television shows as I began to notice the subtext in everything aired maintained the idea ‘to be a consumer is to be happy.’ While I’m wrestling with my own unconscious belief in this statement, I felt like it was not helping my cause to engage in external reinforcement of this idea. I engage sparingly with movies as well. I have come to consider television and movies like lies – constantly feeding my mind with messages that I do not believe to be true; my life is better without them.
So, why the iPad? I have a certain affinity for German designed strategy board games…in fact one of my favourites, Agricola, is based on setting up and maintaining a farmstead (although it does rely on conventional farming methods). I find these types of games to be both stimulating, and also relaxing, as the outcome is of no consequence. I don’t get much time to myself these days and having the opportunity to sit for 20 minutes or so and play a game purely for my own enjoyment is enticing. The electronic versions of these games also let me put the iPad down and pick it back up easily where I have left off, without having to hide a million little pieces from tiny fingers! Although I don’t like to ‘check out’ too often, it really does help me to engage in passivity for a while – getting some much needed regeneration time.
When the iPad first came on the scene in our home, we decided to share it with the children, on a very limited basis. We gave each child 10 minutes a day to use it, and that was their ‘screen time’ for the day. This went on for a couple of weeks. It was the longest two weeks of my life. The kids would beg for their time on the iPad, then stab at it in a frenzied way until the timer would go off, at which point they would cry. It didn’t take me long to see that this new pattern was not healthy. But just as it was difficult to remove the iPad from my child’s hand while they cried for more, it was perhaps more unpleasant to coax them out of their new but deeply entrenched routine. After being honest with them about what I had seen happen to their behaviour and our quality of family life, and redirecting activities for a few days, it was over. I have since told them that iPads are for adults to use.
I am amazed at how intensely they engaged with this technology. I would much rather my children create their own stories, and spend quality time in nature than glued to a screen – and by this I mean that when my children engage with technology, people come second. I don’t like that. My children are still young, but they already have more exposure to the world of technology than I would prefer. Though they no longer use our iPad, the emotional connection to it remains. Enough to ‘play on it’ by tapping a book! Without it, our kids have returned to their usual activities…creative play, storytelling, reading and a lot of time outdoors.
While the kids were engaging with the technology, I missed these things about our day, and they did too (although perhaps they wouldn’t see it that way!) Play became about the technology, and games centred around reenacting their meagre amount of time on iPad apps. Add to that the fact that I was already allowing them each to choose one short 3-5 minute video before their rest time, and at that time they were doing an online learning program for 15-30 minutes and we were up to 75 minutes or more a day combined – because they had to watch each other too!
It is amazing how screen time can creep into your life when you are trying so hard to keep it at bay. After I saw the profound effects of iPad use on my children, I decided to phase out everything but the kids short video, as it helped me with getting the kids down for their naps. We like moderation in our home. I don’t want to deny my kids access to videos, only to help them moderate it so that they are engaging in a healthy way.
I find myself spending more time online than I should now that I have my iPad. While writing this post, it has become obvious to me that there are strong parallels between my children’s response to screen time and my own. The more time I spend online, the less I actually get accomplished, and the more I am living ‘virtually.’ I know there are much better ways for me to spend my evenings than trolling Facebook. Games are one thing, but that screen time can sure creep up!