All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.
Blaise Pascal (1623 -1662)
“I can tell you exactly the year that my students changed,” my college professor told our class in the 1970’s. “I’d ask a question and nobody made any attempt to answer it. They thought they were watching TV. My students expected me to give them the answer.”
And so it goes.
Today our children are more tuned in than ever to TV, DVD’s, video games, computers, text messaging cell phones, and personal music devices.
What have they tuned out?
Silence and the ability to listen to themselves.
During our children’s day, when do they have quiet time to think their own thoughts and reflect on their own lives?
How can we help our children unplug from other people’s voices and dramas, and tap into listening to their own voices?
Be the adult in charge. Use common sense rules and keep television and computers out of bedrooms. Keep computers in common areas so that the screens are easy to monitor. Make rules limiting phone and other devices. Do our six-years-olds really need cell phones?
Use low-tech devices to engage your children. Jigsaw puzzles, reading books out loud, cooking, after dinner walks, model building, crossword puzzles, sudoku—all these can help your child and you unplug and engage in interpersonal and intrapersonal communication.
Take a vacation from electronics. Have a “power outage” at your house one evening a month. Sit around the fire or in the yard to watch fireflies. Play charades, board games or cards games by candlelight. Fix a special snack and enjoy each other’s company.
Turn off your TV for a week. May 4 to 10 is Screen Free Week. If your power outage night was a success, think about unplugging for a week. Coordinate with few friends or neighbors to plan some group activities that don’t involve television, computers, or video games.
A twenty-year study on the qualities associated with success suggests that certain personal attributes contribute to one’s sense of achievement.
Success was defined as having the following qualities:
- Positive family relations,
- Good friends,
- Being loved,
- Job satisfaction,
- Physical and mental health,
- Financial comfort,
- Spiritual contentment, and
- An overall sense of meaning to one’s life.
The qualities that contribute to the richness of life were listed as:
- Being proactive,
- Effective support systems, and
- Emotional coping strategies.
Do our children’s plugged in devices contribute to the building of these qualities?
The research also suggests that these characteristics may influence success and self-fulfillment more than such factors as academic performance, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, and IQ (intelligence quotient).
Our children need peace and quiet to think their own thoughts and to learn to enjoy being with the person they’ll live with all their lives—the person in the mirror.
Our children need time with family and friends to build life-long positive relationships.
Let’s be sure our children, tempted with a variety of electronic media, are not tuning out the ability to love their lives.
For more information about unplugging, visit http://www.screenfree.org.