The Menace of a 4.5″ Screen

There are only a handful of things in this world I’m certain have a lasting impact on ourselves and our world.

Our Relationships with Our Families

Probably my greatest regret in life is the lack of patience, and sometimes borderline tyrannical way I interacted with my children when they were very little.  My recollection is that this was maybe between their ages of four and nine.  I did not handle well the stress and pressures of starting a career, struggling with money, trying to be a decent spouse and the challenges of little children.

I never physically harmed them, but there were times when I raised my voice at them with a tyrannical wrath that leaves me ashamed.  For a time, those diminutive persons would cower and withdraw at any hint of agitation.  Thankfully, I had enough self awareness to see this happening and make conscientious choices to act differently.  I would also wager that there was some prodding to that realization from my wife and mother as well.  I simply expected far too much from such small people at the time.

There are days when I see similar behaviors from other fathers, in similar circumstances, with that familiar tinge of wrath in their voice, and it lays bear my shame and regret for having done likewise.

This experience is forefront on my mind as I struggle with an ongoing challenge in our household.  My hope in writing this is to help find clarity of thought and purpose as I proceed.

Where the Mind Goes, the Rest Will Follow

There’s a reason driving instructors tell their students to focus on the outside line striping of a two lane highway rather than the lights of an on-coming car.  It’s the same reason experienced cyclists and race car drivers keep their vision focused down the road rather than on obstacles inches from their wheels.  Your body naturally follows in the direction your mind focuses on.  Though the venue is one of satire and comedy, I find David Wong’s Cracked articles right on the money regarding this topic (example 1, example 2).  Essentially the thesis is, if a substantial portion of my daily pursuit is spent at video games, I likely will be good at video games.  Likewise, with any other endeavor.  The old adage of ‘as you reap, so shall ye’ sow’ always applies.

Thus, the Menace of the 4.5″ Screen

I do not think many parents would disagree with me that the influence  and pervasiveness of smart phones and social media apps present a relatively new, or at least a vastly evolved set of challenges in the last 10 years.

Frankly, as a parent I find the influence of these two elements overwhelmingly negative.  It’s as though I’m fighting a rising tide of influences that generally serve no constructive or positive purpose.  Lately, it’s seems to be at such high saturation levels as to completely drown any recreational or entertainment merit, and consequently morphs into a defining and consuming influence.

On one hand, for better or worse, these devices have become the tools and medium for communications and socialization.  I’m not interested in raising Amish children.  I don’t want them to be too weird in their social circles, but settling on an appropriate age has been a challenge.

For certain, steps like defining hard lights out / lock down times with the devices have helped.  The assistance of parental control software makes this much more convenient if not just making it possible.  Putting the same  restrictions on having smart phones in bedrooms as with computers is essential in my view.  Children should not be camping out, out of site, in a bedroom while consuming the various flavors of Internet and social media content.

Beyond this, the question is really an issue of what, when and how much.


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