By Warwick Marsh
Our children’s lives are immersed in technology; their music, social schedules, schoolwork, games and daily interactions rely on it. Even we as adults seem to be dangerously addicted to our mobile phones. How many
times have you been to a restaurant and observed a younger couple out on a romantic dinner, not talking and listening to each other, but glued to their mobile phones and ignoring the love of their life.
Not so long ago, we as parents could limit our kids’ exposure to the Internet, guiding them through the information they found and protecting them from predators, bullying and porn. But the goalposts have moved: devices
are portable and access is possible 24/7 through the ubiquitous mobile phone. Even my almost 3 year old grandson will grab my phone when I am not looking and wander around taking photos. Ironically many of his photos are quite
good. This is not to mention his love for games they he knows are found on mobile phones.
We have to face the facts we are all in danger of screen addiction or digital overload.
In the middle of last year we had the joy of going to see the latest instalment of the ‘Incredibles’ movie. I so enjoy Pixar children’s movies that I often go to kids movies without my grandchildren. This Guardian article gives a great summation: “The Incredibles were pretty much the only superheroes in town when they arrived 14 years ago, but so much has happened since – such as Marvel taking over the box office – they are in danger of being left behind and crowded out on their return. But, actually, The Incredibles 2 takes one audacious move that makes the entire superhero genre look old-fashioned.
The villain of the piece is a mysterious entity known as the Screenslaver, who hypnotises people and controls their minds through TV screens. In a monologue, the Screenslaver rails against the very passivity Incredibles 2 is catering to: “Superheroes are part of your brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation … Every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever sheltered, ever ravenous consumers.”
I remember as a young boy that my dad really discouraged vicarious pleasure and certainly talked about and exposed its deceptive duplicity. In those days it was just the TV screen. Screens today have morphed and multiplied to the point where the analogy found in the Incredibles of the ‘Screenslaver’ is frighteningly real.
Let me give you give you five ways to slay the Screenslaver.
Firstly, expose the dangerous duplicity of vicarious pleasure. Point out to your children the joys of reading books, sport, exploring, music, writing, thinking, talking, listening and good old fashioned physical recreation.
Lead by example. Encourage them to become the creators of their own world, as opposed to
mindless consumers of the latest screen candy.
Secondly, get your home internet from a web service that provides ISP porn filtering service.
www.webshield.net.au is a great place to start.
Thirdly, get web accountability software for all the family’s phones and mobile devices.
Fourthly, limit digital usage by both yourself and your family. Deliberately switch off at times. Have limited times of use of screens and TV in your home. Institute ‘screen fasts’ and ‘TV free’ periods for the sake of family communication. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “You must become the change you seek.”
Fifthly, buy a copy of “Cyber Parenting” a fantastic book by Simone and James Boswell which will update parents on what they need to know about technology and how it impacts families. But more importantly, the Boswells discuss timeless parenting principles that help mums and dads teach their kids how to live out their faith online and stand firm when the physical and digital worlds collide. www.cyberparentingbook.com