Should you let kids have device time? Should you let yourself?
A student of mine was talking about how she’d just decided to stop giving her 4 year old any time with devices.
“Screen time leads to scream time,” she said.
I think we all kind of get that there has to be limits with children and devices. I think we all find the idea of an 8 year old spending 12 hours a day on a device pretty ‘wrong’. It’s unnatural. It’s uncomfortable.
But why is it wrong?
This is interesting. I don’t think we have any real clear theories around this. It just doesn’t feel right.
At first we were worried that we were modelling bad behaviour. That if kids played violent video games, they would become violent.
This doesn’t appear to be true, now that scientists have studied it. Kids are quite good at ‘abstracting’. In one experiment, there was a game where babies were falling out of windows and you had to catch as many as you could. What happened was that kids totally disassociated from the scenario, and just did whatever it took to score the most points, even if that meant letting a lot of babies hit the floor.
It really was ‘just a game’.
That said, it has made kids scarily lethal when they do decide to become violent. Apparently the kids at Columbine had the accuracy of professional soldiers.
So if it’s not about imprinting, why is it wrong? And if we figure that out, should adults be worried too?
I have a theory. At this point keep in mind that I’m a property investor who can talk underwater, not a child psychologist.
For me, when I feel into it, it’s about ‘density’.
The world we inhabit in devices is very thin – it’s much less dense than the real world.
And by that I mean, we can move in it very freely and quickly. If I want to have a look at the pyramids, I can just bang it into google, and I get a hundred images to choose from.
If I wanted to actually look at the pyramids, I’d need to spend 20 hours on a plane, and go through a whole other bunch of hoo-ha.
Our world is dense. If you want to do something, it takes time. You’ve got to put the effort in. You need to start the metabolic process that converts energy into the movement of your legs to even go and see what’s in the fridge.
For millennia humans put up with that, but now, now there’s an alternative.
Want to climb up clock-towers in renaissance Italy like some rock-video ninja – there’s a game that let’s you do that (I’ve actually seen it, and the visuals are seriously stunning).
Want to have a conversation free from awkward silences, or actually having to pop in and see someone – there’s an app for that.
What to express and actualise yourself – here’s a hundred cool video clips, from cats to causes. Choose the one that says what you want to say about yourself, and share it.
Click of a button.
These things used to be hard, now they’re easy. The wonders of modern convenience.
But if you spend too much time on devices, you become acclimatised to this level of ease. Coming back into the ‘real’ world becomes hard. This world is dense, and moving through it feels like a slog.
Uggh. Why bother?
For kids the real danger I see is that they lose interest in the real world altogether. Just as their senses should be becoming alive to all the beauty the world has to offer, they get sucked into a world that speaks to the lazy drive that lives in every human.
As a result, they never fully come into their bodies, or learn how to love the world in all its slow, dense chunkiness.
And the time to learn that stuff, like anything, is when you’re a kid.
And should adults be worried too? Absolutely. We’re just as susceptible to the seductively thin digital realm.
And if we let that become our normal, then the real world seems boring and hard.
Which is another way of saying that life itself – the actual act of living – becomes boring and hard.
Hmmm. That’s a desperate situation. And a dangerous one.
Devices are a tool and we need to use them consciously. Regulate their use and monitor the way they make us feel.
And work on loving life and loving the world, as slow and as dense as it is.