My laptop sits nearby, two small lights gleaming like snake eyes, enticing me to open it. My rule is that I cannot open it until after I have drunk my coffee. First things first: silence helps my brain settle and gets me focused for the day. If it weren't that 5:30-7:30am is my best working time, I'd avoid turning on the computer entirely until about 11am. Life is just better that way. Or I'm better off that way. Or something.
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I'm not an early-adaptor of technology. Back when cell phones were first popular I was on a bus with my kids when one of them asked, "Mommy, why don't you get a cell phone?" I replied, "Because I'm not important enough that anyone needs to reach me all the time." Half the bus turned around to stare. The truth is few of us need cell phones; we've simply grown accustomed to the sense of connectedness and safety they provide. Our tolerance for not-knowing has been stunted: we want to know where people are all the time. We would have made really lousy settlers 150 years ago.
I don't really care if other people watch TV. But I don't think TV should be a pre-requisite for membership in the "I Live A Normal Life" Club, either. If we're going to celebrate diversity and all that, we can celebrate diversity in TV use, no?
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We've seen some erosion in screen control over the past two years; Big Guy bought a DS and Dancer bought an iPod and a Wii. It's harder to enforce that a screen is a screen is a screen when there are so many different kinds in the house. But the biggest impact on screen time comes from having parents who spend more time in front of a screen than not. To a kid, it doesn't always matter if you're doing work or browsing around. You're still focused on a screen instead of him. It makes a difference.
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Part of my lack of affection for screens arises from their convenience. While I enjoy convenience as much as anyone else, inconvenience has its benefits: it makes us stop and think. Decades ago I went to a women's college, where I realized that if I wanted a social life that included members of the opposite sex, I had to consider what kind of men I wanted to meet and where they were likely to be. That required an intentionality that I'd never considered before. I couldn't just fall into a relationship with the guy down the hall, because there were none.
When things are massively convenient (think Amazon One-Click) we often act with far less forethought than when we have to do a little more work. When entertainment is readily available, we veer off and indulge ourselves instead of doing something creative. I sometimes wonder what impact large quantities of readily-available screen time will have on the number of kids who take up instruments, or become artists or amazing chefs. It's hard to get in your 10,000 hours of practice if you're spending six hours a day in front of a screen.