Our kids are getting addicted to screen time. No, not like, “Yeah, we should cut back on that a little.” Like you might as well be giving your kids crack.
A guy named Dr. Nicholas Kardaras just wrote a book called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking our Kids – and How to Break the Trance. I recently read his article on the subject, and although I have never heard of the man before, my usual exhaustive two-minute Google search confirmed that despite the similarity in last names, he is in no way related to or associated with the Kardashians, so he’s OK in my book.
It was a short article, but filled with references to studies by other smart-sounding people from places like UCLA and the Pentagon, all saying the same thing: Screens are REALLY bad for kids!
Here’s the scary upshot - screens affect the brain’s frontal cortex - which is presumably in the front, and apparently in control executive functions including impulse control – exactly the same way cocaine does. In other words, a brain on Minecraft looks the same as a brain on drugs. They also said technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels as much as sex.
So apparently, instead of more screen time, you might as well be encouraging your kids to have sex, smoke crack, or, depending on how much screen time they get every day, both.
In fact, as the article points out, besides the obvious negative health effects of drugs, they might actually be a better thing for a human to become addicted to, because quitting is easier. It’s much simpler to get into a drug-free environment than a screen-free one, unless you happen to be someplace like Tijuana, Columbia, or Detroit.
That’s it for Casa de Smidge. No more screens.
I have always had a natural inclination to limit our boys’ screen time. My only real reasoning when I started was, “I didn’t have them as a kid, so you don’t need them.” That logic is good enough for me, and I also apply it to things like GoPro cameras, hoverboard scooters, five hundred-dollar baseball bats, and name-brand breakfast cereals. It saves us quite a bit of money every year.
We don’t have any game consoles, and they don’t have any handheld devices other than our old smartphones. Well, after this article, those are officially gone now, too.
Now that our kids will have no home screen time at all except for the occasional TV show or movie, I have come up with a list of alternate activities since I know we’ll need to be ready for the pushback from our crack-addicted children as they detox from the glow.
A short list of things to do when you feel the need to stare at a screen:
- Go swim in our pool. Or sit next to the pool and stare at the water. It sorta glows like a screen. Or wait until I’m not paying attention and get the ladder, climb up onto the patio roof and see if you can jump all the way into the deep end. Even if you miss and break your legs, that hospital visit will be better than checking into a rehab clinic. Plus, you will have learned a far more valuable lesson about velocity, trajectory, and gravity than you could have ever gleaned from Angry Birds.
- Burn ants with a magnifying glass. It’s far more useful to me than you killing zombies on a screen, because we will have less ants. Plus, at some point, your feeble little mind will put your finger under the glass to see just how hot it is, and you’ll learn a real-life lesson about focal point energy than simply cannot be taught with a Play Station.
- Make a mud pie. It’s messy. There is no life lesson to be learned. It’s just fun and squishy. Plus, it will give us a great excuse to make you take a shower.
- Run. It’s handy, because the more you run, the faster you get. Remember – you don’t have to be faster than the bear. You just have to be faster than the video game kid you were standing next to when you saw the bear.
- Do some pull-ups. They are handy for when you need to climb up, over, or out of something. You’ll be back up on the right side of the zoo fence while the video game kid is still stuck in the gorilla’s enclosure.
- Read a book. Your dad is an author, for goodness sake. Let’s keep up appearances.
- Learn to make cocktails. It’s a skill you’re going to want later in life, and it would be great if I could just order stuff instead of having to make it myself.
- Learn to cook. See above.
- Play with your Legos. They’re like Minecraft, but you can touch them. You have no idea how jealous I am of your fancy curved Legos, your Star Wars Legos, and your Legos that actually shoot projectiles. You are spoiled beyond belief when it comes to Legos. Earn it!
- Open a lemonade stand. We used to be OK with the computer games where you ran a restaurant or ran a hotel, thinking at least they were educational, but no more. Run an actual business that makes actual products to sell to actual people. You will learn so much more, and you will make actual money. I will then teach you about something the video games never did: expenses. You will pay me rent, you will pay me for the supplies, and I will tax your profits. Welcome to reality.
- Wander around the neighborhood. It’ll be just like Pokemon Go, but without the screen. You’ll actually notice actual physical things around you, and you’ll be forced to figure out which way to go to get home, without the help of Google Maps. That’s an important skill that almost no one your age will grow up with.
- Play an instrument. It will get you girls later. Video games will not.
- Ride your bike off a jump. It’s fun in a way that video games can never be. You might get hurt. That’s good. You can’t get hurt playing video games. Not being able to get hurt is bad. Nothing good in life comes without risk.
- Make nachos. Share them with your father. Nachos are delicious.
- When all else fails and you can’t think of anything else to do, take a nap. You will get nothing accomplished at all and it will still be better for you than screen time. Plus, you’ll be less grumpy.
In the meantime, you will hate me because I am unfair and all your friends get to play video games and I am unfair and mean and unfair. I’m perfectly OK with that, because when you are not busy resenting me you will be able to concentrate on solving a problem. You will be able to create a story in your mind and then communicate it to another person coherently. You will be able to have a conversation with another human being that involves eye contact and active listening. You will stand up straight. You will be able to survive outdoors. You will be strong and tanned and tough.
And I don’t want you to worry for a second about “falling behind” when it comes to technology. You’ll be just fine. You are smart and resourceful. When you grow up there will be people your age who will know far more about the inner workings of the devices you all use. There will be people your age who will be far better able to create the “code” to make things work. That’s just fine. In fact, it’s great.
You’ll hire those people.
I love you,
See you soon,
Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen
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