Our children are growing up in a world of technology. They are at the cusp of the great information age — a time wrought with immense, transformative capabilities to run the human world more than ever before. Just like the energy revolution before us, technology has the value potential to solve all problems, and our children are at the very beginning of this journey.
But do we see technology for its value, or have we become afraid of it?
The opportunity of technology is that we can now do anything. We can communicate with anyone anywhere, and the power of those connections only begins there. The challenge of technology, however, is that it is a great servant and a terrible master. Almost as soon as we engage, we lose appreciation for its capabilities and instead become hypnotized by its power. We become the servant.
Ten years ago even, free time in our life might have looked like this: If we were waiting for a friend at the coffee shop, riding on an elevator, sitting in the passenger seat of the car or even waiting at a stoplight, we might have gotten lost in needed thought or reflection. Today, we grab our phones until a free moment of quiet has passed us by.
My son catches me in this all the time! And as a parent, our reflex is to hide it away, push it aside or check yourself back in. “I’m sorry. Don’t worry about what I was doing, I’m right here now.”
If we create anxiety and shame over technology use, that anxiety gets projected onto our children. And, if we argue to limit screen time or “play outside instead,” we lead the child to believe that technology is bad. But the responsibility here is to want to give technology to our children, to guide them as they discover these powers for themselves and to thoughtfully empower them in a revolutionary world where tech is begging for their attention.
So, what’s the difference between interacting with technology and being dependent upon it? Perhaps it’s in the appreciation of the power. If we wanted to create new habits or set new goals for ourselves, we would likely use technology less. We wouldn’t intend to ignore it or remove it from our lives entirely, instead just embracing it consciously to our benefit, not our detriment.
However, pre-elementary-aged children are not yet capable of conscious goal setting. Instead, they are simply drawn to stimulating their senses. Montessori, for example, thoughtfully designed materials in the classroom that specifically offered that kind of physical, positive feedback children desire. Those sorts of sensitive experiences enhance gross motor skills and social interactions, but if a child is spending most of his time engrossed in technology, he lacks that sensory and motor interaction with the environment around him. And just like us, he can become stagnant.
When you do introduce technology to your family, follow the child here. If your child watches a movie, is he asking big questions and telling you excitedly about what happened? Or was he merely apathetic throughout the film?
And when it’s time to turn off the TV, the movie or the game, how does he respond? Is he happy to turn off the TV on his own, or is he always begging for five more minutes to check back out?
If you are wanting to position your child as a master of technology, consider looking beyond the product itself and into awareness. The act of intention here actually has little to do with technology and everything to do with balance. If you and your child have developed resources and other preferences beyond technology — like a love for the outdoors or time with friends, for example — you both have the power to keep up in a fast and rigorous information age.
We should be attracted to technology because of all its new ways to learn and connect and thrive, and that begins the way any relationship would: With intention, appreciation, and care.
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