Early on in my fatherhood experience, I decided one of my top priorities would be to ensure that Bryce (my son) had as many opportunities as possible to experience life outside of TV screens, computer screens, and cell phone screens. I want him to have an array of memorable experiences learning from me, working outside, and being constructive. I want him to grow up and experience all the fun and learning opportunities that THIS reality has to offer instead of becoming one of those kids who relies on the virtual reality of video games and TV for their life experiences.
My wife and I discussed it. Call us the fun police, but we decided that we did not want him to have a TV, game system, or computer in his room where he can seclude himself from the family – and fall prey to destructive entertainment. We also opted not to have a TV in the kitchen to interrupt our family meals. We do have a living room TV, but we try not to use it as a crutch, even though it is an excellent tranquilizer for an angry toddler.
Most of Bryce’s time is spent playing on the living room floor, stacking blocks, playing with his plastic tools, or playing with his cars. A while back, I realized that as much as we have talked about making sure Bryce does not grow up watching screens, he was spending much of his time looking at the back of them, i.e., his mom and dad’s iPhones and laptops.
Then I had a horrifying thought: What if Bryce thinks back to his childhood and doesn’t even remember seeing our faces without a little black box blocking them. Then I had a second horrifying thought: What if Bryce thinks we care more about Facebook and YouTube than paying any attention to him.
Immediately, I began the practice of putting my phone down whenever he approached me and gave him my full attention. For a while, I thought that might be good enough until I realized he needs to know mom and dad are paying attention to him whether he approaches us or not. Once I had this awareness, I began locking my phone in my safe after dinner to be sure that I am always approachable and teaching him that real life happens outside of screens, by example, not just by removing his ability to have them.
I challenge all parents to seriously consider this: young children do not understand you are “multitasking.” They only notice you are not paying attention. Don’t just take away their screens and tell them it is better for them while looking at yours. Parents must lead by example. On top of that consider this, on your deathbed, I doubt you will say: “I wish I could have checked my Facebook more often,” chances are you will say: “I wish I could have more time to spend with my children.”
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6