I received this e-mail from a reader. I decided to print it because, while much has been written on technology’s effect on children, little has been written specifically on technology’s psychological/mental impact. This dearth of commentary is perhaps due to a paucity of academic studies on the matter, which in turn may be due to the fact that today’s upcoming generation is the first to grow up with smartphones from infancy.
As you read this letter, please bear in mind that it represents just one woman’s experience. Yours may be different.
I love your new column. It’s one of the first articles I turn to when I sit down to read The Jewish Press each week.
I wanted to make your readers aware of something I discovered a few weeks ago. It is not my intention to mom-shame in any way, shape, or form. I’m a working mom myself and I completely understand the struggles moms go through on a daily basis trying to juggle work, family, and community obligations. I’m sharing in the spirit of perhaps helping others in my situation.
When I went back to work full-time, I relied on my children’s “screen-time” to get me through the day. It was how I had the time to cook delicious and nutritious Shabbos meals, to order groceries and other household items, and, yes, to have a little “me-time” to enable me to be a calmer and more relaxed and engaged parent. I prided myself on monitoring what my children were watching and I installed filters on all our home devices.
Then my husband and I started noticing that one of my elementary-aged daughters was becoming increasingly anxious and irritable. Nothing had changed in her life. She was doing well in school. She had friends. Our home is a happy one and there was nothing particularly anxiety-producing in her life (or, at least, nothing we could pinpoint).
It took us a while to figure out that the things she was watching, while appropriate, were too complex for her to handle and subconsciously weighed down on her. Some of the concepts relayed in both the videos and computer games she watched or played were anxiety-producing, overwhelming, or even a little scary for a young child. We also realized she felt she could never measure up to the characters in the videos and it caused her to feel inadequate.
We took the drastic step of eliminating screen-time. On the one hand, my house is not as clean and organized as it used to be. On the other hand, my children are happier and more relaxed.
It took me a while to re-train them to use their imaginations and play on their own without needing me to constantly entertain/find activities for them. Don’t get me wrong, my children still watch videos sometimes. But now I watch along with them and, when I see a heavy, complex, or anxiety-producing topic, I either fast-forward it or explain it to them in terms that lets them still be children.
I know this is not an option for all parents. That’s okay. As parents, we have to find what works best for us and our children. I’m just asking all parents to please be aware of what their children are watching and how it affects them psychologically. Just because it isn’t “inappropriate” doesn’t mean it’s healthy for a child’s mental and psychological development.
A Mom Who Has Been There