I admit it. I use the screen time as a babysitter. Having only a teenager and a preschooler left at home, it was so easy to turn on the tube when I wanted to discuss Plato’s Republic. Call it lazy parenting, it was convenient to hand my daughter the iPad when I wanted time alone. It simply took too much thought and effort to create activities to keep her busy. I know, I know, if I had raised her without media, she’d probably be able to entertain herself for more than fifteen minutes. I take full responsibility, I created a monster – or in reality an addict.
I recently read a report in which college students were asked to “unplug.” The results were the same around the world.
“Students’ ‘addiction’ to media may not be clinically diagnosed, but it sure seems real: Students from around the world spoke about their ‘addiction’ and ‘dependence’ on media – and backed up that rhetoric by citing related feelings. So students based in China mentioned that they felt ‘lonely,’ ‘anxious,’ ‘fretful,’ ‘extremely upset,’ and even ‘crazy.’ Students in Slovakia spoke about being ‘nervous,’ and noted their feelings of ‘emptiness.’ Students based in the UK said they were ‘fidgety,’ ‘restless,’ and that they had to fight down their ‘urges to connect‘ and their ‘panic.’ Students in USA universities noted that they felt ‘stressed‘ and ‘paranoid,’ and had even adopted such physical twitches as ‘twiddling‘ their thumbs. Students from Mexico reported that they felt ‘sad‘ and ‘desperate.’ Again and again, students compared their media ‘dependency’ to other more documented addictions. A student based in Slovakia observed, for example, “Until this day I thought I am addicted to only three things: money, sex and chewing of chewing gums, but after my today’s experience I found out that there’s another addiction: an addiction to media.” And three students based in the UK compared their media use to a smoking habit, to abuse of alcohol, and to an eating disorder.” https://theworldunplugged.wordpress.com/addictions/#anchor2
Last week we “unplugged.” – Or shall I say tried to “unplug.” My five year old showed many of the same symptoms of the college students. The first day, she had a serious “melt down.” She cried and screamed for thirty minutes when I first said, “no.” She was anxious and clingy most of the day. I caved around dinner time – for my own sanity.
Day two was a little better. Day three, I failed completely and Netflix was turned on with breakfast and was off and on throughout the day, I just didn’t have time to deal with this. Then I realized – I have to make time in my life to deal with the addiction I created. As they say in Addiction Support Groups – when you relapse, get back up, NO SHAME.
So here I am again. Day One. The second Day One is going much better than the first Day One. When I said, “No TV,” She said, “Awww Mom,” then went off to play. Maybe there is hope – for both of us.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by the wise man Roald Dahl)
The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set–
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY…USED…TO…READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic takes
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy–Winkle and–
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How The Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole–
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can’t–it serves him right.
And for your screen time pleasure