And now for something completely different ...

Conversations and events lately have converged around the role of technology in our lives, particularly (but not exclusively) the internet. Matt, actually, participated in a panel discussion at his school on this very topic, and you'll get to read his thoughts tomorrow. But first, the practical application of all this ruminating: an approach has emerged for us concerning how we will both monitor ourselves and guide our kids.
And here it is: rather than be too concerned about the role technology is or isn't or should or shouldn't play in our lives, we're choosing to focus on everything else that is good and alive and life-giving--food, family, friendships, the outdoors, solitude, books, music, making things. And to the extent that technology helps or improves our efforts in these areas--fine. Because it's not that technology is bad--it's just that everything else is so good.
This may sound simple--too simple to be writing about--and certainly as our kids grow there will need to be specific guidelines and limits on technology use. But for a guiding principle I find it freeing. As someone who is neither a technie nor a Luddite, it's easy for me to bemoan the increasing role that technology plays in our lives and the unimaginable role it will play for our kids, while at the same time using technology to make that complaint, and using the internet countless times a day to listen to music, check the weather, check headlines, find an address or talk to our family halfway around the world. And as much as I'd like to completely shield our kids and prevent all access, it would be not only hypocritical (and likely impossible) but also unwise. They are, like it or not, members of their generation. They were born in the 21st Century, and we can't just pretend that's not true.
So instead of getting too hung up on this fact of technology's omnipresence, we intend to set some reasonable boundaries that will change as they grow, and then forget about it. By not obsessing over technology--its good or bad side--we can pour our energies into making sure that our kids know the sanctity of solitude, the beauty of a clear night under the stars, the joy of a shared meal, the comfort of long friendships, the mystery of candlelight, the escape of a good book, the satisfaction of making something by hand, the camaraderie of being part of a team, the peace of God. And if they know these things--if they can go for a hike and leave the phone at home, if they can read a book and keep the computer turned off, if they can make something instead of buying it, then I won't worry when they text a friend mere minutes after saying goodbye, or spend hours on facebook or videogames. Because again, most of the problem with technology isn't the technology itself--it's what it replaces and prevents. It's the absence of time for personal reflection, the absence of uninterrupted time together.
And how do we intend to make sure our kids know these things? Live them ourselves. Sherry Turkle quotes surveys on a recent episode of Being where it's the kids who want parents to turn off iphones and blackberries at the table, not the other way around. When Finn tries to shut my laptop, that's a good sign that it's time to turn my attention elsewhere.

1 comment:

Diana said...

What a thoughtful piece, Monte. I think you and Matt have the right idea!