Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Screen Time, the zone and using it for awareness

We don’t get the newspaper usually, but if there was one thing I miss about not having a morning paper, it’s the comics. There are a few selected comic stories that I’ve enjoyed over the years, the parenting ones especially that whenever I am at my parents I look forward to reading them. Well, here I am staying a couple of weeks with my parents after coming back to Canada from the UK and yesterday I got to enjoy the Saturday Comic page special… in colour. However, I was rather upset at the content of one of my favourites, when it’s storyline was simply the family having dinner, each member with some electronic device distracting them while they ate, and when the mother pointed out that they should be able to eat together and share quality time, and they all put their hand held devices away, chaos ensued, everyone grabbing food and fighting until the mother stopped and intervene. Next comic square, everyone’s back to their computers and devices, and peace is restored.

I so understand why we don’t get the newspaper. Or TV.

However, it got me thinking, and having had to deal over and over with the computer issue in our house, I thought I would blog about it and get my thoughts down on the screen... yes a screen, I love my laptop and these days it’s harder and harder to publish from pen and paper.

Having lived self-sufficiently for 5 years before spending a year in the UK, we were well use to limiting our electric. As a family we had 2 computers, one for my husband’s work, and one for mine. I was the only one with internet. The girls used it for homeschooling and the occasional movie, but it was by no means part of their daily lives. They knew computer games existed, and were content to have them as a luxury when they were sick and couldn’t get off the couch. We had no tv, no outside influences, we lived in a bubble, and oh my… it was awfully nice sometimes.

However a couple of years ago we found some educational games on the internet, we explored the British Museum, and National Geographic for kids, The girls learnt how to search things on google for projects and soon were looking at sites that had games online, it was a slippery slope and soon they were asking for a bit of time. Half an hour turned into an hour, but it was kept in balance, family time and conversation were still the priority. I have a wonderful memory of our eldest daughter getting caught up in a game and being rather distant when her baby brother said goodnight. With a deep awareness, a few minutes later, she left her game, came upstairs and gave him a huge hug goodnight, reminding herself to come back to the conscious moment.
However, as with most things in life, the time spent on computers and games soon shifted. Winter came, children got bored, I found the balance harder to keep and as life began to get busy it was too convenient to let them distract themselves with computer games while their father and I arranged our trip over to the UK. We spent some time at their grandparents before leaving and they got frustrated and bored sometimes, as well as anxious for the coming trip… computer games were an easy answer.
But then we went away. I felt a huge relief to see our children playing again when we hit British soil. They were eager and excited about what adventures they would be going on and that became the drive. Internet searching was left to travel planning, until…. Life settled into day to day routine about a month into the trip. When boredom appeared, electronic devices were ready to amuse.
But there was another element that was interesting. Having come from a home with little electricity, we hadn’t had wireless internet and at night our electric was turned off to save on battery power. Nights were peaceful… you wouldn’t believe how peaceful. Now, staying with family in a suburban home, with the wireless flowing endlessly through the house, we all felt restless. Our bodies seemed to vibrate with the electricity through the air and we felt a noticeable difference in how we felt, as we became more on edge. Our children felt this too, and we soon found as they were back to spending internet time, often together, that they jumped to aggravation and frustration faster than when they were simply playing. It seemed to be a vicious circle as they wanted to play in order to be distracted but the more they played the more things there was to be distracted from.

Hmmm…. That’s an interesting Law of Attraction example isn’t it?

However, another interesting element is that both our daughters were willing to jump away from the screen when an adventure beckoned. When we took a week camping down to the south of England, there were never any pangs of regret for leaving the computer behind. It was always when we settled into a daily routine that the call of computers reared its head again.
Computers and the internet are crazy things. It can be a great distraction, it provides us with quick answers to questions we may have pondered for years and we all know how much I enjoy Facebook, but it has almost created a different universe. As I watched my family start to become more computer dependant, I started to see a trend to how unfocused it was. In our country home it had been used as a tool, a way to find answers, or even as a purposeful distraction when things grew difficult. It may be a rotten distraction, but it had been done with purpose. As everyone got use to it being part of their daily lives, I found that their participation in the family, in their imaginations, in discussions, decreased, and their purpose for using the computer became less focused as well. It was a downward spiral and I was beginning to miss our children’s laughter.
However, like I said, a little adventure, a sudden road trip or introduction to a passion that wasn’t online and everyone snapped back into the present. Therefore, a sudden move to Wales last spring worked wonders as everyone was suddenly exploring beaches and coves together. A few rainy days had computers back again, but this time it was the purposeful distraction it had been before. Our daughters played few things together, incorporating the game into an imaginary and laughter rang again. It seemed like they had developed a personal awareness. They watched when they became zoned and we established “creative” computer time verses just zoning out. They could feel the difference between losing themselves to the computer or enhancing themselves with the fun, knowledge or stimulation they were getting from it.

Now, 2 weeks after starting this post, we’re back. We sit here in our self -sufficient farm, and I hear the nearby river not the electric hum of the city. I love seeing all three children still enjoying mudpies, and listen to them play with the toys they’d forgotten they owed. They help with mending and cleaning things and I’m stunned by how much they’ve grown and expanded over this past year. There had been so many times I was worried on the trip about screen time, but lately I’ve had a few conversations with them and games have come up. The things they comprehend and discuss, the way they move about fairy worlds and make over games, although through my eyes seem pointless, for some reason through theirs seem to expand their horizons. They can move about computers differently than I can. They process on a different level with them.
Now, I don’t want people thinking that our daughters are sitting there playing just any games. They’re smart and aware of feeling space. Even then though we check through what they play and keep an eye on the energy of the room when they are playing it. We’ve learnt far too well that when on it too long, that awareness drifts.

I’ve also learnt with myself. I’ve watched as my awareness to how I feel about what I read or take part in on the internet dwindles when I’m on too often. I can enter the zone and it’s hard to return. Often Facebook makes me hard to talk too, I’ll suddenly be reading about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, when I should be working. I click on it, and get involved even though it’s none of my business. I can relate to my daughters trying to find their boundaries and feeling their way through the connected or disconnecting places they find on the web. I like the fact that they are feeling their way through. They respect the fact that we don’t give free rein, but also the fact that we let them on at all. I trust their judgement most of the time, unless I know that they’ve been on too much and have become disconnected from their instincts.
Yes… there’s more to learn from computers than meets the eye. Whereas for so long I thought it could make us simply get so distracted we’d get stuck in the zone. I think now, under careful scrutiny it’s helped our children learn about themselves, getting zoned, feeling their way back, knowing what feels off, what feels on, what makes their minds feel good, what brings in bad dreams: It’s been a productive year.
But as I said we’re back and our children are taking all that and back to playing mudpies. They weren’t getting sucked in after all. When I talk to them about it, they see it for what it is.

But as I write this, at 1am, I have to tell you I’ve got to get up early. We’re expecting the internet guy in the morning to fix our highspeed. It went awry while away. My work needs the internet.

I also have two daughters who would like to finish a thing or two.
And a son, who wants to watch Little Bear on Netflix.
But that’s another post.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting observations. I limit my children's screen-time, but during school breaks they get more than I like... One thing I have noticed is that if I let them go for too long on the computer they get very grumpy, whiny and eventually will start arguing - each on their own computer playing the same game. My husband and I have pondered this, but don't have the answers. Away from the screen they are joyful, creative and the energy in the house shifts from a negative buzz to positive. The same for me, in fact. Interesting...