If you’re reading this at a crowded restaurant, look up and look around you.
Can you count how many people are staring at a screen of some sort? The dads and moms tapping away on their phones while kids stare at tablet screens, lost in the world within. Yup, that includes you.
What about the existing world? The one surrounding you right now, where your friends or family are sitting right beside you. You’re losing out on that moment. The moment of now. And they, clicking on their own screens, are losing out too.
We live in a culture saturated by technology. The information, promotions, opportunities and noise it creates seem to fill the cracks of our already-busy lives so much that every waking moment is occupied.
This is especially difficult for parents whose kids have known nothing else but this culture of screens. How are your children going to develop character and moral fibre in this tech-overloaded world where friendships are forged virtually and every second has to be filled with entertainment?
We Don’t Know How to Be Bored Anymore
We can’t stand being bored. Waiting for the LRT? Out comes the phone. On the toilet? Phone time! Sitting on a bus? Tap away on the phone so you shut away all outside stimulation.
With our smartphones and tablets, we can literally be entertained all day long. If we don’t make a deliberate effort to unplug, that doesn’t leave us much room for other important pursuits such as spiritual ones, and examining ourselves. This is even more pronounced in the children of today, who knows nothing much outside of the screens.
An average family may own several tech devices –including a couple of TVs, computers, and several other gadgets such as MP3 players, video game consoles and smartphones. The overlapping use of all these devices probably adds up to probably more than 24 hours during each 24-hour day. Sound like your house?
It’s not that technology is bad – but its constant presence can distract us from important exercises that make our spirits strong.
Unplug Periodically to Reconnect with the Real World
Whatever our normal tech-drenched state is, let’s call its opposite contentment. It’s the ability to be still – to be alone with our thoughts and be at peace. Getting there in today’s culture takes some work, but it’s possible. Here are a few ways:
1. Fast from technology
Pick a week and turn off the TV. Stay off the Internet for a day. Once in a while, leave the radio off when you get in the car. Create some space in your life – and your kids’ lives – that’s free from electronic input.
2. Declare a tech-free hour every afternoon / evening
This helps to teach kids to be comfortable with silence and solitude. In later years, these can become rich spiritual disciplines but with little ones, the goal is to help them get comfortable with noiseless time in their lives. Books are definitely allowed in this quiet zone, as are walks outside and time spent on hobbies. A gadget-free hour probably isn’t practical every day, but honouring this quiet time often can create in kids a lasting appreciation for a bit of peace and quiet.
3. No electronics at the dinner table
Rather than talk to someone across a screen, why not talk to those directly in front of you? Keeping gadgets away from the table creates a spot of time for the family to focus on each other. Take the time to look each other in the eye and catch up on everyone’s day. Instead of sending emoticons, check out the real facial expressions of those around you. Tune in to real emotions so you don’t lose touch with the real world.
It goes without saying that children are most likely to pick-up on these character- building practices if they see you doing them yourself. Make yours a home where character is the core and technology is an accessory – not vice-versa.
Finally, we’ll leave you with this:
Where do you think is the middle point between technology and life? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Facebook page!