Staying Close in the Digital Age

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

                   Photo Credit: Creative Child Magazine

It is the age of being superficially known by hundreds and deeply known by no one, or by very few. We are virtually connected for much of the day, but our heart-to-heart connections are suffering - yet being known and accepted as we are, not as what we portray on social media, being seen and loved and valued at home, not seen and liked and noticed online, being connected to real people – these are what sustain us.

I understand the struggle of staying close when everything is pulling at our attention. My sons have iPads and Kindle Fires and X-Box systems. I have an online business. The pull is ever present, seeking to draw us into the online world and away from the blessings right in front of us.

I was struck by a passage in the book The Life-Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson.
It says this, “If my awareness of space is concentrated on a screen, my home will reflect the absence of my attention, my creativity, and ultimately, my love.”

I think the conversation about screen time has been had many times already. How much screen time should children be allowed? Are parents too addicted to their phones? Just as we have become accustomed to doing, we scan these articles quickly, throw in our two cents in a depthless online conversation with strangers, comment about how ironic it is that we read such a piece on our phones, and move on to the next bit of information grappling for our attention.

For many, I see defenses swiftly raised, quick to defend the right to take a short break from the constant demands of parenthood. For others, pangs of guilt are expressed and then forgotten. But do we give careful, deep consideration to how this digital age is affecting our intimate relationships at home? Those who express a desire to change often feel hopeless to be able to effect it. The problem feels too big for us, too ingrained, and with so little control over the allure of the world wide web, we accept that this is the age we are living in.

But hope remains. If you haven’t heard of the Facebook page, The Hands Free Revolution, do visit it. Rachel, and her two beautiful books, are a beacon of hope for “letting go of distraction to grasp what truly matters.” Together, Rachel, Sally, and Sarah have inspired me to make the following changes in my own home.

These are not necessarily the changes you need to make, but rather this is an invitation to ponder deeply about the effects this digital age is having on you, personally, on your children individually, on your partner, on your relationships, and on your heart-to-heart connections. This is an invitation to make the changes that lead to your own best life.

1. Designate device-free times throughout the day.
I used to grab my phone and check social media before I got out of bed. Now I reach for it only to turn on instrumental music to start my day to. This is a discipline, and there are still times I must occasionally check it early for my business, but I can tell a big difference in my peace of mind and mood when I begin my day scouring the endless feeds versus listening to music, tasting my coffee, and doodling in my journal. There is also no devices during dinner or during school work (unless we are using them for educational purposes).

2. Limit the time you and your family spend on the internet.
My sons have things they like to watch online, but I only allow this between such and such times each day. Before I made this a rule, they’d want to be on it from afternoon to bedtime, and I can tell a difference in their moods as well when they’ve had too much screen time.

3. Fill up the empty spaces with connecting activities.
If you just say, “No devices after 6 pm!” and don’t give them anything to do, children will become extremely bored and push against your limit. The goal isn’t just less screen time, but more time to connect heart-to-heart, so fill those spaces with reading books aloud as a family, board games, cards, making art, dancing, making music, playing ball, etc.

4. Do things online together.
You can make screen time a connecting time if you spend it having fun with your child. Play a video game together or watch something online with your child. You should see the Minecraft castle I built. My kids were impressed.

5. Educate your children.
Not only about the dangers of being online, but also how it affects their relationships, emotions, and brains. This video from BrainPopJr is about internet safety.

6. Talk to your kids.
I think every parent should read this post, called Words We Cannot Afford to Keep From Our Children and have this conversation with your children.

7. Check out this summit.
Join this free online telesummit about parenting in the digital age with such respected names as Susan Stiffelman, author of Presence Parenting, and Dr. Dan Siegel, author of No-Drama Discipline.

8. Be a good role model.
The most important thing that you’ll “tell” your children about the importance of the online world is what you live.

*This article was originally published at Creative Child Magazine

Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the author of 3 books. Her newest book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, will be released on June 7, 2016 and is available for pre-order now. The Newbie's Guide to Positive Parenting and a co-authored book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early Childhood are both best-sellers in their categories on Amazon. She is the grateful mother to 2 boys. 

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