I find it almost impossible to draw my kids unless they’re absorbed by some other activity. (I drew Jules drawing the other day, but I had to wait patiently for his bouts of getting up and pumping his 4-year-old fists in admiration of the lines he’d put down.)
One activity they get absorbed in, of course, is staring at screens. Hence these drawings, made in the Dart Bowl Cafe. (Owen, above, is transcribing graffiti on the cafe wall into a note on the old Kindle we gave him. Jules, below, is watching the PBS Kids app on his mom’s phone.)
Every parent I know angsts about screen time. My position is: Not all screen time is created equal.
“[T]he most important issue with screen time is not quantity but quality,” writes Mitch Resnick in Lifelong Kindergarten. “There are many ways of interacting with screens; it doesn’t make sense to treat them all the same.”
I read a good op-ed the other day about how the Amish use technology and how we should emulate them:
When a church member asks to use a new technology, the families discuss the idea and vote to accept or reject. The conversation centers on how a device will strengthen or weaken relationships within the community and within families.
I was fascinated by this case:
In another case, a family wanted to run propane gas pipes for lights to every room of their home instead of running them only to the kitchen and living room. (The Amish choose not to tap the electrical grid.) Church members discussed how the change would affect the family. If the family members could separate into bedrooms to read at night, instead of gathering in the living room, would their ties fray?
When I heard about that discussion, I thought of a woman at my children’s school who said the disintegration of her family began the day her husband bought a TV for every kid’s bedroom.
You don’t have to adopt the values of the Amish to adopt their approach… but you do need to have your own values! Otherwise, you and your loved ones will be swept away in the tide of whatever new junk comes around.
For example, in our house, we value reading, space for personal alone time, and lots of sleep, so we trust our 7-year-old to use a night light to read in the top bunk while his 4-year-old brother sleeps in the bottom bunk. (In this story, by the way, the night light and the bunk beds are pieces of technology.)
But back to screen time: One thing I find interesting looking at these drawings is that both kids are hunched over screens, but their faces and hands give away their level of engagement. Both sets of eyebrows are furrowed, but one set is in concentration, the other in grumpiness. Look to the lips: Owen’s are raised into a mischievous smirk, Jules’s are turned down, in boredom. The hands, too: Owen’s out like spiders on the keys, Jules’s bunched into fists…
Another lesson of drawing: it helps us see what’s right in front of us.