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No matter where you fall on the spectrum of opinion around technology in our children’s lives, it’s impossible not to notice that it is changing them. The very essence of what it means to be alive is being redesigned, reworked and renegotiated as generations of children spend increasing amounts of time in front of a screen.

The impact it is having on them has wide ranging effects, from how they think about themselves and the world, to how they relate to one another, to how they spend their time, to what is happening to their physical and emotional health, to their ability to get a good night’s sleep, take care of themselves, pay attention in school and so much more.

When you pare it all down, what we are really talking about is nothing less than who they are and who they are to become — what it is they will make most important, and what it is we are teaching them about what they should want and expect from life. Given the magnitude of this, shouldn’t we more be rigorously challenging the changes to human nature that are occurring? Shouldn’t we, as the grown-ups, be developing skills that can help us cut through confusing and misguided messages, persuasively designed devices and misleading marketing tactics?

In a game that is always changing, in a world where the decisions a parent has to make daily are mind numbing in quantity alone, in communities where we can no longer assume that what we choose will be supported by our neighbors, schools and our children’s friends’ homes, wouldn’t it make sense to develop skills that would allow us to recognize and be more aware of what actually supports healthy children?

And wouldn’t it feel great to make choices based on knowing you are including what you value, your child’s needs and what any given moment calls for?

Learning To Be More Mindful

Being present moment to moment without judgment is what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls the art and science of mindfulness — the practice of learning how to be here now. This skill involves learning how to suspend choosing for or against what is happening, opting instead to be with whatever is actually happening, both inside and outside of you.

This way of being in the world goes beyond the specifics of any choice you might make around technology and your kids, and is, at its heart, about observing things like: Is this choice in line with my values? Is this what the moment really calls for, or are the screens interfering with something important, like family time? Is this choice supporting my child’s real developmental needs, like the protection of their innocence or their need for sleep or movement?

The practice of mindfulness is about observing all you see and experience as a parent. This includes all your emotions, like frustration over another fight because of misuse of the cell phone, or the way you lament what is being lost in childhood now. To be witness to yourself in this way gives you important information and guidance about what is happening. This is different from anticipating something that could happen: like a melt-down if you say “no” to another show, or the fear that your child will be left out if you do not get them a cell phone. As a parent trying to make good choices, you want to have access to your instincts and wisdom, as opposed to making decisions based on made-up fears and anxieties.

Being mindful requires your attention, along with a willingness to learn to be with things exactly as they are. This is not an easy thing to do, especially as a parent confronted with raising children in a world pushing a seemingly endless array of things that children need now. This leaves parents trying to make solid and kid-friendly decisions in a world gone mad with far too many choices, and far too many of the wrong choices.

This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in. Being present in more ways and in more situations in your life helps you recognize just what it is that you are relying on to influence your most important decisions. For instance, are your choices coming from your values, the needs of the moment, or what your child truly needs to be healthy and well? Or are your decisions based on unconscious habits, reactivity, external pressures, marketing influences or peer pressure?

Mindfulness has the power to serve as the antidote to our unconscious, habituated and addictive uses of the choices we make for ourselves and our children when it comes not just to screen technologies, but to all the choices we make on our children’s and family’s behalf.

Article excerpted with permission of the author from her upcoming book Remembering What Matters Most: A Conscious Look at Kids & The Screen Technologies (January, 2025).

Susan McNamara is a woman who cares deeply about how we are living and how it is that we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet. She is the founder of The Healer Within: A Unique Online Health & Healing Community for Women,  and the author of the book, Trusting Your Body: The Embodied Journey of Claiming Sacred Responsibility for Your Health & Well-Being. She can be reached at RememberingWhatMattersMost.com

Find holistic Children’s Health and Services Resources in the Spirit of Change online Alternative Health Directory.

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