I know; me, too.
We’ve read the books and blogs detailing the damage that can result from handing your toddler or young child an iPad. We know the danger that lurks on the internet; we know the social media cites that are invitations for disaster.
We’re smart people. We know!
This isn’t a blogpost offering more information on this vital crisis; please keep reading the good research that’s already available.
A wise person (I’m not sure who!) once said:
“The question is not ‘will we know what to do?’ but rather ‘will we do what we know?’”
No, we won’t. We don’t. We aren’t doing what we know to be good and right and best for our children – even though we love them very much.
This problem is no different than the obesity problem in America. We’re not significantly overweight (and under nourished) because we don’t know we’re eating too much of the wrong foods. We have an endless option of high tech devices to remind us to walk more steps and be more active – even on days that we don’t.
So what gives? What are we missing?
Here it is: I must trust another to help me.
Another way to say this: The knowledge of good and evil isn’t enough for you or me or our children; we must trust each other so we can help each other do the right thing.
Yes, it’s that simple. Simple isn’t a synonym for easy.
We’re not wired to make difficult decisions in isolation, especially when we’re immature. We’re not created to do hard stuff on our own. It’s God’s way of inviting us to live in – and enjoy – loving relationships.
If you don’t yet know the “In the beginning story” I invite you to read “Once upon a time” – and notice the point in the story when the Father says, “It’s not good to be alone.” He didn’t say these words until the boy had a difficult decision to make – about the two trees.
The Father knew the boy needed a helper to protect him from what looked good – but wasn’t. The Father knew the boy needed someone to love him – and someone to love.
Smart phones look good to toddlers and young children. Young eyes can’t see clearly into the distance of the future; young eyes only see what looks good right now.
It’s not hard to notice when a child has been fed the “forbidden fruit.” I’ll borrow a quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe –
“Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.”
What makes handing a child an iPad or a smart phone suddenly an addiction – instead of a comfort?
Technology is suddenly addictive when the handheld device is given as an opportunity to disconnect from relationship.
When we let this sink in, the truth is painful.
Disconnecting takes us in the opposite direction of our natural design; disconnecting indicates a problem – not a solution. (John 15)
Real comfort is found in healthy connection.
If you’re old enough to remember Sesame Street, you probably remember the “one of these is not like the other” game.
The TV show would offer a picture of a horse, a dog, a bunny, and a shovel – and then came the song: “one of these is not like the other?” In a televised way, the activity began to help children organize similar things into appropriate groups.
Let’s play this game with the following: a pacifier, a teething ring, and a smart phone or iPad. Which one of these is not like the other?
These things are all alike in the way we might hand them to a baby or toddler to quiet them in a moment of immaturity, frustration, or discomfort.
These things are not alike in one significant – and addictive – way. Let’s look at these things one at a time.
The pacifier meets a real need – a survival need for a baby. Babies are created with a “sucking reflex” – it’s their primary way to receive nourishment as an infant.
When we hand a baby – or toddler – a pacifier, we’re comforting them in a natural way. And often, we’re lending strength to the little one so they can stay connected to the family. We give them a pacifier when they’re tired of sitting at the table, or when being restrained in a car seat any longer is more than their immature nervous system can handle.
We can wonder about the addictiveness of a pacifier – and that could be an interesting conversation, but for the sake of word count, I’ll ask this question: when was the last time you were in a restaurant and saw a family – or a group of young adults – sitting at a table all sucking on pacifiers? It doesn’t happen.
Pacifiers aren’t addictive because they meet a real need and are most often offered as a way of inviting a little one to “return to joy” in a frustrating situation; pacifiers are a way for toddlers to “stay their best self” in a real life setting.
The teething ring is a natural pain killer; it meets a real need because we give it to children when they’re actually hurting. A parent offers a little one a teething ring as a source of comfort; it’s a way of offering love.
Smart phones make lousy pacifiers; iPads make lousy teething rings. Technology doesn’t meet real needs for comfort or care of toddlers or young children – or often even adults.
One of the most devastating realities of offering technology when a child is experiencing immaturity, frustration, or discomfort is that technology offers “relief” by disconnecting.
That bears repeating: technology offers relief by disconnecting.
Unlike a pacifier that lends a little one strength in a natural way and helps them “stay their best self” in a real life setting, technology invites young ones to “check out” of a frustrating situation.
Without learning to persevere in frustrating situations, children do not mature.
Frustration is like hunger; it’s a real need that must be met – not medicated.
When frustration is met with love, oxytocin flows freely. Oxytocin is the fuel of maturity. “We produce oxytocin when we trust and bond and reach out to others.” (Dr. Caroline Leaf)
When frustration is hijacked – struggle isn’t allowed to take its natural and necessary course. Little ones don’t experience oxytocin, because we’ve offered them a way to disconnect.
Instead of oxytocin, dopamine flows freely. Dopamine is the hormone of addiction. Just like the Queen of Narnia, we’ve handed our children an enchanted “delight.”
What if this addiction crisis happened in the garden of the “Once upon a time” story – instead of in our seemingly real existence – “where it’s always winter but never Christmas?” (C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
It did happen in the garden – and we became addicted. We forgot to trust, and became addicted to the knowledge of good and evil – as if more knowledge was our primary need.
Remember? We already know.
I must trust another to help me do what I know.
We’re created for relationship. If you help me, I can do what I won’t do by myself. If I help you, you can do what you can’t do by yourself.
When we help each other, we experience oxytocin. We mature. Love is the fuel of maturity.
Because we’re mature, we can do things we couldn’t do before. We can walk and talk and sit at the dinner table and stay engaged in conversation.
Because we stay connected, we keep maturing. We’re deeply satisfied instead of addicted.
Register for my online class – “connecting…and reconnecting – at home” – coming Oct. 1, 2017.
The introductory course will have five video sessions, a workbook to download for taking notes and writing questions, and a closed FaceBook discussion group – for members only.
I’ll be an active participant in the FaceBook discussion group; we’ll wrestle together, struggle together, and celebrate together as we learn to connect and reconnect in relationships of trust.
The first offering of this course will be limited to 50 participants – and this “freshman” class will receive a 50% discount for participating in this “first run” of the course.
If you’d like to join me on this journey – or you’re just interested in learning more – follow this link to the contact page and include “connecting…and reconnecting – at home” in the comment section. I’ll send you email updates – and you can learn more before you make a commitment.