I’m hooked on internet access and social media. I’m a real iPhone-iPad-laptop junkie. Google is my friend, Pinterest to the rescue and social media to see the latest regarding what my friends are up to. Online dictionaries for quick word translations, Shazam when I hear a song on the radio I like but don’t recognize, and YouTube & Netflix as baby sitters. My laptop was down for a good two weeks, while I struggled with updates and rebooting my computer. It’s still not completely fixed, but it works. I have Office and Google Chrome up and running again, and it’s euphoric. I misplaced my phone last night for a couple of hours, and it bothered me the entire time. Everyone in my family has a lot (too much) of screen time, and we’re all hooked. Or addicted if I may.
My husband announced the other day, that when we go on our annual summer holiday this year, no phones will be aloud. I didn’t know what to say, so I pretended like I didn’t hear him.. A week without social media? No contact to the outside world? Maybe he just meant himself.
Quite often I scold myself for allowing the girls so much screen time. For the most part, screen time is caused by my personal selfishness. When they’re playing on the iPad or watching TV, I can do something else. I don’t need to entertain them or constantly monitor why they are being so quiet. (If you have kids, you know they’re probably not up to something good if it suddenly gets quiet..)
My girls love the iPad and my phone. Both have saved me countless times in providing a necessary distraction. Even if a lot of the games and programs are educational and useful (and occasional lifesavers), in the end, fact is that they are still staring at a screen instead of running around playing. Now don’t get me wrong, the girls also play a lot both outside and inside. There is a lot more to our life than just screen time, but regardless, they are clearly addicted to technology. And that bothers me a lot.
You can’t control the internet
A few years ago, we were streaming a children’s program on TV, and suddenly I hear swearing. It was a popular and innocent children’s animation, the video seemed legit, but someone had added voice-over swearwords into the program. Despite my best attempts, I’m not able to control everything that my kids are doing or watching. Which is scary.
Excessive screen time is also strongly linked with behavioral issues, eyesight deterioration, leading to lack of exercise and overweight children, sleep problems, etc. There is no doubt that excessive amounts of anything is good. In moderation though, there are perks.
Internet access – the good
Aside parenting guilt and downsides of screen time, it’s not all bad. I was born in the early 80’s, so I remember well the time before the internet. It wasn’t a bad time, it was just different. Internet access has provided us with so much good. The list of pros is immense. The internet has connected the world. Access to incredible amounts of data is at our fingertips.
Internet access is gold for many reasons. Can’t think of what to make for dinner, turn to the internet. Wondering what the population of some remote island is? Google it. Need flights there? Purchase them online in a matter of minutes. Online distances are non-existent. With the use of video calls you can have remote relatives and friends join you in your living room through the press of a button. It’s great for maintaining and learning new languages. Trying to figure out how to do something? There are tutorials for everything. Pretty much anything is possible with internet access.
My eldest loves to build with Legos, and she gets a lot of ideas from watching Lego building tutorials on YouTube. We all love to craft and draw, and we get a lot of inspiration online. When my daughter was a little over four, she was obsessed with My Little Pony, so we looked up an online tutorial for her, so she could learn to draw her favorite characters. For Halloween a couple of years ago I found an image on Pinterest that cracked me up, and with eventually relatively little effort, I managed to scrape together adorable outfits for the twins. The same goes for so many other things that we do, online access is an immense privilege.
Should we be concerned?
There is however so much controversy in being hooked to internet access. First of all, it’s an addiction. We don’t like to call it an addiction, but that’s exactly what it is. When it comes to social media, well, you can read about my take on the subject in a post on Defining Happiness.
The big question is, should we be concerned? Could we live without the internet? Yes, but it would make life very challenging. Everything is online. My main communication channel by far is e-mail. I take care of 90% of my errands online, banks, insurances, etc. Online documents are considered official in Finland. So yes, it would make life difficult. But what about cutting back a little?
What if you were to distance yourself from being constantly online? It’s a challenge, but it could be well worth a try. Instead of going on social media, call a friend. Emerge yourself in a book. Read a physical magazine or newspaper. Dig out your mother’s old cook books. Go out for a walk. Take your kids to the park. Visit a zoo. There are a million things you could do instead of being constantly online. And a million more you could suggest for your kids. Practice as you preach? It’s a tough one.