Four reasons I don't let my kids use electronics in public - JJ Landis
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Four reasons I don’t let my kids use electronics in public

My beautiful daughter had attached a pink silk flower to the top of her head so she would be visible amongst the other penguin-attired, middle school orchestra members. Standard issue white shirt with black bottoms clogged the stage. When I saw the flower appear, I knew where to keep my focus.


Lights dimmed and a hush fell. The silent crowd awaited the first piece of music.


The quiet was thick. But then, the darkness was interrupted. Lightning bugs appeared to dance in the auditorium.


The all-too-familiar glow of handheld screens flickered as children escaped the apparent torture of an hour-long concert.


Admittedly, school concerts can be painful at times, especially when beginners take a turn in the spotlight. But despite the less-than-symphonic mastery emitting from the stage, my younger two kids either listened or spaced out (who knows?) without the option of watching a movie or playing a game.


My children’s screen time takes place either at home or at a neighbor’s house, rarelyin the van (even on our 18-hour drives to Florida they get to play their normal 30-60 minutes a day. Can you imagine the awful parents they think we are?!), and rarely-to-never in public places like restaurants, doctors’ offices, stores, church.


Here are four reasons I limit my kids’ screen time:

1. It is good to be bored.

I suspect there is research on this. But since I haven’t looked beyond my own nose on the topic, I’m not going to quickly scrounge for a study to back me up. Because in my mind, it’s commonsense.


I believe the brain should get practice at being sedentary. While stimulation (trying new things, learning, reading, problem solving) is what strengthens the actual physical brain (right?), a constant barrage of this has to be detrimental.


If kids are never allowed to be bored, how will their attention spans increase? How will they learn to sit still? As an adult, there are many opportunities for me to be still when I’d rather not.


What if I had not toned my “dealing with boredom” muscle? What if, as a 40-something-year-old woman, I could not sit through staff training, or a sermon, or my child’s concert?


What if I didn’t know how to focus on the teacher/preacher/stage and pay attention unless I was interacting in some way?


If I allowed my children to interact with games and media anytime and anyplace, I would be depriving them of the gift and ability to calmly focus and learn.


When I find myself with a free moment to relax or read or think or pray, sometimes I make the mistake of grabbing my phone, thinking I will just check texts or email real quick. I can easily get sucked into the vortex of the shiny psychological agony of endless clicking. Just one more link. One more click. One more article. I might come up for a breath an hour later and realize my relaxation was not calming at all.


I am a grown-up and I occasionally struggle! I do not want to make it easy for my children to develop an addiction.


While I think games and texting and being able to look up everything online anytime is okay, it just feels wrong to never step away from the device to give the brain some downtime.


2. Situation awareness is healthy.


We can learn a lot about society and human nature by observing the behaviors, quirks, interactions of other people.


At an orchestra concert, do people sway to the music? Do they tap their feet? Fall asleep? Sit with arms around each other? Smile? Cry? Yawn? How old are the people around me? What are they wearing? How are the families structured? How full is the auditorium?


Again, no research to back me up, but I completely believe that observation is vital to understanding and learning about the world.


3. It’s rude to be disengaged from context.


The theme of my daughter’s concert was American music. One of the ensembles played the official song of each branch of the United States military. The orchestra director instructed the military veterans to stand when they heard the song from their branch of the Armed Forces.


Had my kids been playing games on their iPods, they would not have noticed the service men and women in the crowd. As it was, they observed what was going on. I won’t claim they will remember any of it, but I will assert that by paying attention, we showed honorto the veterans.


Additionally, the orchestra director, who teaches grades four through high school, deserves respect from the audience, as do the students who practice their instruments daily.


4. It’s okay to be alone with our thoughts.


Even if my kids weren’t engaged by the performance, it was okay for them to just think. To be inside their own heads.
At one point I saw my seven-year-old playing with her fingers, twisting and untwisting them. She was examining her hands, becoming more self-aware. She was probably imagining her fingers were bugs or people, clouds or trees. For the moment, she found a way to “just be.”


I think brains become stronger and more stable when given adequate time to think.   



It bothers me when adults say things like, “Kids these days! When I was little, I didn’t play video games all the time!”


You know, that’s probably because we didn’t have video games at our fingertips when we were kids. What would I have done if I had had access to an iPod in my room, in my kitchen, on my walk to school, in the car, at the doctor’s office? I would have been addicted. It was bad enough that I watched TV for hours every day (so many hours!). But when the TV wasn’t available (everywhere but our living room), I learned to sit still, to stare at the walls, the sky, other people.



No good comes when parents judge other parents.
And no good would come if I ranted about how I think things should be. How kids should be raised. Sure I believe I’m right, but I know there are situations that I haven’t considered. I know there are arguments to all my opinions.


I try to extend grace – which by the way is often difficult at my job at a public library where kids run wild, climb shelves, rearrange books, scream, puke (okay, that happened once) – because we’ve all been in situations where our parenting skills were called into question. We’ve all gotten “the look” from a stranger in public. We’ve all been given unsolicited advice on the right way to raise a child.


I don’t want to be the one giving “the look.” I just want to raise my kids to be decent adults.
Thanks for reading! It means a lot.

  • Crystal Toy
    Posted at 21:37h, 13 November Reply

    love this! our family has similar guidelines, and this has given me other ideas too!

  • Lynn
    Posted at 20:49h, 13 November Reply

    Love this post. I have friends who have begun dialoging about their opinions on kids and social media. I’m going to link to this. Good stuff!

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