Tuesday, August 07, 2012

So Much Screen Time

So according to some sources (the sources that completely ignore the fact that there were any kind of teenagers in the late nineties) I am technically of the inaugral birth year of Millenials. Which makes sense, I guess, because I did grow up with technology in a different way than even those who were born a few years before me did. My family got their first Apple IIE when I was 7 or 8. I spent free time playing Oregon Trail and Dragon's Keep and Lemonade Stand in all their cutting-edge green monochrome glory. I made birthday banners on Print Shop that only took around 15 minutes to print on our dot-matrix. Not that I had such a keen sense of time, but I do know that it took more time than taking a bathroom break but less time than watching an episode of Punky Brewster.
On the second thought, maybe I was 6.

In my childhood, it was a novelty to get "computer time." The Apple IIE was really my only computer experience until about age 11, when I picked up a Baby Sitter's Club book and in the back it was like, "join us on the Web" and had a keyword and I had no idea where I would possibly put that in a computer. I was just all like:

But I never did. I had no idea what it meant, and because I didn't, it sounded expensive (this logic has actually proven true about most things in my life to this day).

This memory lane is brought to you by the simple question: "Why don't kids come to my tech programs?" (I need to interject here that this is a problem in my library, for K-5. I'm sure other places find great success. This is just one girl's problem. Anyway)

I mean, come on, I posit.

But I wonder if I've just succumb to the hype, and have lumped all "kids who grew up with computers" together. Forgetting, of course, that this blanket label includes me, and I turn 30 next month, as well as the children I review Book Apps for on iPad.

In 2009, I visited my niece Sydney in Fort Lauderdale. She was 14 at the time, and I remember she was glued to her phone whenever she could be. In the middle of dinner, on her phone, she's the one who told me Michael Jackson died, and my first reaction was, "that's a stupid rumor and get off of Facebook." Moments later we saw the "breaking news" on CNN.

 This vignette may be viewed by some as "how rude teenagers are" or "kids these days..." but I'm just using it, juxtaposed to my childhood above, as a reference. This, for her, was a novelty. Three years later, she's wired in as much as the next person (I want a show of hands of those who have a mobile device with apps on it), but the novelty has clearly warn off.

I use this as reference to put into perspective the kids at whom I aim my programming. One of the kids who made videos with me is 8. In 2009, when smart phones were a novelty, she was 5. Which is why I should not have been surprised when, in earnest, she told me that she could not attend my program one day because she was tired of having so much "screen time." It was giving her headache, and she was taking a week off.

Screen time.

When I was younger, I had to wait my turn for the computer, and usually just ended up watching what someone else did if I wanted some TV. If what was on didn't interest me, or when my dad turned off the TV for the evening, or when my mom made us stay outside so she could watch us, sleep for her night shift, and get a tan at the same time (the Original Gangster of multitaskers in my life!) I ended up reading or playing something else. Reading or playing something else were my alternatives when I couldn't get Screen Time.

By the time we get to the story about my niece, we have children who are excited to be plugged into the world at all times. There is no waiting, because there may be multiple devices in each house. No waiting means a constant flow of info they didn't have access to before, and it makes hanging out with friends a whole lot easier, let's be real.

Today, however, we have children who have constant streams of info and entertainment that they didn't choose. They aren't just allowed to watch TV; they can watch Netflix. In a car. Without commercials. Already saw that episode? Okay, next! They have phones and computers that may be their only link to the outside world, as even children can now go to school over the computer.

They were thrust into a world of Screen Time, that is bright and loud and DOES NOT STOP.
Except, perhaps, at the library, where they can choose to go on computers, but two major alternatives are curling up with with books or attending programs.

Otherwise Known As:
Reading, and Playing Something Else.

And who am I to take that away from them?


  1. Excellent post! I'm still learning myself how to work more tech into my library programs but I think this is a good cautionary tale that sometimes low tech is just what kids need and want in their lives. I know I appreciate a break from screen time so why wouldn't kids?

  2. Hi Sarah! Thanks for reading. I did have one successful program where I introduced 60 kids to the Professor Garfield website, but I think it might have been more the Garfield part than the In ternet part that drew them in.

    I know that personally, I'm just now rediscovering that I can take a break. I can choose to read a book. I don't have to check my email the second I get home from work, even when I was constantly plugged in at work. It's a habit, and I am so glad this 8 year old made me think about the idea of "but isn't this COOL, kids? You live in the FUTURE!" differently.

  3. Great post! I am right there with ya - Oregon Trail! Be still my heart! I remember those days. It's amazing how things have changed relatively quickly. I have to admit, these days,as an adult, I'm as glued to my phone/computer as the next person... maybe even more so. I'm very tech savvy and heavily involved in web stuff, mostly for networking purposes or to promote recovery. That said, a couple of years ago, for Lent I gave up all internet every single Saturday for the 7 weeks of Lent. So every Saturday, away went my phone. Away went my computer. I was not allowed. I made this rule myself. At first, it was CRAZY hard. I mean, I wanted to check my email for 5 minutes. But 5 minutes counted. It was a NO-INTERNET Saturday. And I stuck to it. It got easier and I began to enjoy the break, the extra time with Rick... actually, it was more the extra FOCUS on something else than on the web. And it's as you say - I remembered I always have the choice. It's amazing how something simple like that can escape a person. :-)

  4. Arielle, you are so right about that. I've known people who have given up Facebook for Lent or similar and they've reported feeling liberated as well. This is the world we live in now, and it's important as a mainstay for kids in my community to help them find the balance when they may not realize it's even an option!