I think it began about 8 years ago. When leaving baseball games with our kids, dust from the fields fresh on our clothes ,we noticed the vans around us internally lit with a blue-ish glow. We could see the tiny screens lit up in the vehicles around us. All faces forward. Someone hit “play.”
None of us had far to drive. Our kids played together on community teams and the drive home could not possibly be more than 10 minutes. Electronics, which had once been a convenience for driving vacations, had become the norm for time in the van.
While our need for quiet in the midst of busy days is very real, what does it cost us to have our children otherwise occupied during the time we share? It has become commonplace to see families in restaurants, at ball fields, in the van, even out and about, each on their own device. Handheld video games, iPods, cell phones and portable DVD players travel easily with us, but what do we lose with their overuse?
Driving down the street recently, I heard my 9-year-old exclaim, “I just saw a bird, a black bird, but he had some red on his wing! He was so beautiful!”
My older sons began to teach him about Red-Winged Blackbirds and in short order, all four of my children were looking out the window to find and point out more of these amazing creatures. As they chattered aloud, the talk to turned to God’s creativity in the world around us.
The wonder and convenience of electronics is not something we must avoid altogether. But, if they begin to overtake the valuable minutes we share with our families, it may be time for a change. If creation is overlooked and conversation falls silent, we may be missing out on moments that benefit our children and ourselves. Even small adjustments can offer big results if we intentionally choose what place music and screens will play in our lives together.
Ideas to try in the car:
1. Save movies for long journeys. Instead, take short-distance traveling time to talk together, notice things outside and plan for upcoming tasks.
2. When the family is together, have teens remove one earbud so they can hear the conversation AND their music.
Better yet, play their music aloud. Let each child choose the music on a certain day so everyone shares what they are listening to and you become familiar with it, as well.
The time we have together is limited, and our busy schedules have us running from event to event. Finding small ways to connect to our kids can make a big difference as they grow up. When they learn to share conversation about simple things, they will find that they have a place to turn when they need to talk about something important.