Devices are everywhere nowadays. Every second person has a smart phone, a tablet, some way of instantly connecting to the internet. We have always had a policy in our house of moderation in all things. So some TV is fine, some computer time, some outdoor time, some book time (actually, as referenced in a previous post, if people want to read books, we tend to let them!). One thing we’ve always been very strict on, however, is that when we have visitors, we TALK to them, PLAY with them, INTERACT with them!
A few weeks ago we had a group of friends over. The children were aged between 6 and 13. The grown-ups headed outside to the patio in the warm summer afternoon sun. The children (after some grazing on the flash high tea) headed INSIDE. One by one, our under 5′ visitors came out requesting our wifi password so that they could do “internet stuff”.
My first, admittedly knee-jerk, reaction, was to say no. You are all here socialising. For goodness’ sakes, get outside, play, swing in the hammocks, throw a ball. The visiting children looked at me like I’d grown a second head. Finally, with some misgivings, we handed over the password and a laptop and two tablets were connected. Our smaller fry (the youngest three, 13, 7 and 7) hauled out their tablets as well and joined in the fun. From outside, all we could hear was laughter and chat. When we poked our noses inside, the eight children were sitting clustered around the couch, peering at each others’ devices, all linked up and playing Minecraft, laughing, talking, and totally interacting on TWO levels – the cyber level and the physical level. The two youngest, who are 6, and did not have any devices, were sharing and taking turns on the older children’s devices. After a while, one of the visitors tried to sell my 13-year old son on the benefits of Tumblr by showing him cute cat pictures, and she then shared some deeply personal information with him while sprawling across him in comfortable fashion.
So my question to you, dear readers, is this. Should I be accepting of this new kind of interaction? Were the children playing together? Yes they were. Were they interacting? Yes indeed. Were they displaying good social behaviours – sharing,kindness, tolerance, conversation, jokes? Well, yes. Did the interactions they were having allow them to form a deeper connection? Yes, unequivocally. Am I just a dinosaur? I guess I am. I’m beginning to accept that things are different in this new technological age, and I do appreciate many of the advantages that this age offers. But I still find it difficult to accept a group of kids sitting around and playing on their technology rather than being outside playing or finding a face-to-face game.
So I come back around to my key phrase of moderation. Moderation in all things. I guess as long as the children are still interacting in a positive way, then it’s all good. But I’m still going to continue to kick my kids outside; to get them playing games in person; to do a variety of activities, to play sport, to learn how to talk to adults and other children. And in the meantime, I’ll enjoy the fact that my little boys call their older siblings (when they’re at their ‘other’ houses) to see if they’ll group up with them on Club Penguin.
How do you feel about this? Would you make a different call?