If you frequent The Attach Place much, you know I am single-handedly on a crusade to significantly reduce the use of screens with children from any kind of beginnings, difficult or otherwise. This is in no way an attempt at shaming you for using screens or allowing your children to have screens. We are all frogs in the same slowly boiling pot.
Full disclosure, I love my gadgets. I have an iPhone, Mac, iPod, and iWatch. I can GPS track my children and husband anywhere on the planet at any given time. I know how much I walk every day, and I know how many calories my husband burns each day. My phone tells me how many minutes it will take me to drive to my office as if it knows that I am on my way there. Frankly, the machine does predict my habits and is rarely wrong. From the coast of southern Italy, I found I could see my dogs napping in my U.S. living room, and I could also see when my employees entered the office while I was gone. I actually know what the office cleaners do if I bother to look at my phone when it chimes in the middle of the night because, apparently, that’s when my office cleaners clean–who knew? The machine knows. There is not a single text, email, phone call, time to stand, or time to deep breathe that is not transmitted to me via haptics on my wrist. I am wired. I really do love my gadgets.
Just writing that scares me and embarrasses me a little because being this wired is out of integrity with what I know. I do not need all of this. I know I can live without it because I lived most of my life without it–that’s how old I am. I admit that I simply like dinking with it. This is also what I can admit: I let my gadgets get in the way of my relationships. I am willingly a “sheeple.”
What I am wanting you to do, as a parent, is question your inner sheeple. It feels like pushing an electronic bolder up a hill, even for me who only has my own fascination with electronics to contend with. Still, I feel compelled to continue sounding the clarion alarm. I believe following social screen norms is destroying the fabric of our families, our connections to ourselves and our children, and even the structure of our brains.
The research is already in–screens significantly reduce the quality of our human relationships. Actually, they reduce our human attention spans altogether. They act like addictive substances on the brain’s reward system. Over time, children and adults are replacing human relationships with electronic ones–Facebook over face to face connection becomes the easy, go-to alternative. We are reducing our natural uplifting neurochemicals by engaging in non-human interactions as replacements for the real deal. Electronics interrupt human engagement and attunement and create distance between spouses and conflict between parents and children. Most of all, regular repeated use rewires every single person’s brain, no matter who you are or how much you resist. Everyday life becomes a little duller and unexciting when compared to the ever-present blue screens with bright lights and lightning-quick, effortless interactions.
Being “truly human” is becoming harder. Empathy is strained. Logical reasoning is more and more illogical. Family ties are less binding. Real experiences are giving way to manufactured electronic alternative realities. Normal curiosity and physical activity in children are being anesthetized by electronic child occupiers. We are losing something very important in our society–the wonderful satisfaction of love and connection to others in our families and in the greater community.
Right now, I think this is mostly a first world problem. Developing countries need electronics to catch up and bring them into the global realm. I get that. Electronics are not evil. They are not even intrinsically bad for people. Being a marketplace sheeple is the part I’m talking about–voluntarily following social screen norms despite what you know is ill-advised.
As a parent, I know you are struggling with this. Every parent is. Some of you have already significantly reduced screen access in your homes. However, many of us have given way to the pressures of social norms and our children’s protestations of “Everyone else has….” That’s what I did when my children were younger and the outcome for my adult son, in particular, has had a long-lasting impact on his personal motivation and overall life. I want to encourage you to know the facts. Put them in front of your protesting children. Stand your ground. You need parental controls. You cannot trust children to moderate, modulate, or measure their use. Take your electronic power back.
Here is my pledge. I am going to take my power back, too. I am taking a 30-day Sheeple Challenge–nothing as severe as the “Kill Your TV” movement, because there is a place for electronics in our lives. I’m going with something more reasonable. I’m putting my screens on the charger when I walk through the door at night and that is where they will remain until I leave the house. If the phone actually rings, I may answer it though I probably won’t. I am going to make my iWatch a simple watch and turn off all those intrusive haptics. I am not going to use my computer when there is a living, breathing person in the room, except for essential work-related things. I will not use my screens for entertainment or pseudo-personal connection. Some of this will be simple. Some of it truly hard. I’m up for getting my integrity back.
What will you do? Take the challenge if you dare. And, I am daring you.
P.S. The first 5-7-year-old groups went swimmingly yesterday. A good time was had by most and how to make new friends was the topic of the day. Looking forward to next week. If you want your child to learn friendship skills, drop me an email to reserve a spot in the next one coming up in March.
Don’t forget this week’s: Strictly Social Autism Spectrum Disorder Night for Tweens (11 yrs – 16 yrs) at The Attach Place. January 19th, 2018 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm. Gluten-free snacks provided. Please RSVP to Andrea@attachplace.com so we get enough snacks, right? This is a monthly social group for the children; and caregivers will have an opportunity to connect, chat, and chill in a separate space. A donation of $0.00 to $5.00 will be accepted for food and supervision if you are able, but please don’t let that be an attendance barrier because the group is FREE. ASD kids need a social life and this is a great way to make it happen.
Upcoming Events Calendar and Other Things in Sacramento…
NEW DATE: Trust-based Therapeutic Parenting Class for Parents of Children from Difficult Beginnings by Ce Eshelman, LMFT will be held on February 17th from 9am to 4pm. Register here or on our website!
NEW! 5-Week FRIENDSHIP SOCIAL SKILLS IMPROV GROUPS FOR CHILDREN WITH DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA–5-7 yrs group. The group will be $20 per session, CALVCB payment eligible, structured, and fun, too. Groups will begin January 13th, 2018. Contact Ce at Ce@attachplace.com for more details.
UPCOMING ADOPTION SUPPORT GROUP facilitated by Ce Eshelman, LMFT: Join our monthly Adoptive/Foster Parent Support Group on February 14th, 2018! Open to all parents/caregivers at no cost. Support Group is every 2nd Wednesday of every month from 6 pm to 8 pm at 3336 Bradshaw Road, Ste 175, Sacramento, CA 95827.
GIVE MY BOOK FOR SUPPORT TO A FELLOW ADOPTION ADVENTURER: Drowning With My Hair On Fire: Insanity Relief For Adoptive Parents by Ce Eshelman, LMFT. Daily inspirational reading for those who sometimes find it hard to keep hope alive. There is hope for healing. At Amazon or get a discounted copy here.