It was whilst checking my phone for the third time this morning and being impatient at it’s loading speed that I had a flashback to being a teenager with agonisingly slow dial up internet, a family computer and no knowledge of anything beyond msn messenger. And I remember it still being such an awesome thing, we had the internet!
Roll on 12 years and my children are growing up in a world where the internet is available at the touch of a button, on a variety of devices and there are more social media sites than you know what to do with. So much of our daily life is conducted on the internet from paying bills, banking and grocery shopping to researching rainy day activities, planning holidays and getting involved in political activity. Just a few years ago, the extent of our virtual world would have been unbelievable. For our children however, they’ve never known or never will know any different.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m not a technophobe or technosceptic (I made that one up)! I think technology and the opportunities it gives us is brilliant. Just take for example the world of home educators. The internet provides a place where parents can go to for ideas, reassurance, company and endless resources. Anecdotally I’ve read more experienced home educators saying how much easier or less isolating the internet makes home educating compared to 10 years ago.
But, (there’s always a but) I do think it is important to teach our children to be able to switch off and of the value of the real world and experiencing it fully. I am not one to talk, I still struggle with not checking my phone regularly, with not carrying it around the house with me. I often find myself immersed in reading something (ironically usually parenting related) only to glance up and realise that one or both of my children would like me to engage with them, and to do so fully.
What a bad example for them, to see me almost surgically attached to my phone, unable to give my full attention to the people around me. Children have the most amazing skill of living totally in the moment, of soaking up every little detail of what they are experiencing. I want to be more like them. I don’t want them to grow up to think that the real world isn’t as good as what the virtual world offers. Because it is every bit as good and infinitely better. To get out and interact face to face with other people, to explore our local surroundings, be it a metropolitan city or rural countryside, to have to take time and put in effort to complete tasks and challenges. These are important skills and ones that aren’t possible through the internet alone.
The latter point is one I really feel strongly about, patience. If there’s one thing technology doesn’t encourage, it’s patience. Everything is instant and easy, just a click of a button away. And I have a theory that having patience is one of the most important traits we can possess. Patience is thinking before we speak, patience is accompanying an elderly woman home after a fall as she walks at what seems like the pace of a snail, patience is parenting, endlessly, day in, day out, without reward and often lots of being shouted at and bodily fluids to contain and clean.
Patience is love.
And without love, what have we got? Not much; it is at the foundation of our relationships and of everything good.
The internet is great for a lot of things (blogging for example!) but we need genuine face time in order to nurture and model patience and love in our children.
So that is why I am giving up the internet on my phone for lent. To just use it for it’s intended purpose of calls and texts. To have to consciously set aside 30 minutes or an hour in the evening to boot up the computer for anything that needs doing. To spend my days 100% immersed in my task at hand, undistracted. To leave my phone at home when I pop to the shops or the park. To prioritise the people I’m with, be it the kids, my family, or friends, and not do them the disservice of having to fight for my attention with a screen. Will you join me? Are you up for the challenge?