Summer is officially here, with temperatures hovering just under the triple digits and the last June gloom behind us. The kids are off on break and so are some of us adults. My kids and I dream of having our own swimming pool. If you are one of the lucky ones, we might be over to cool off.
Every regular schedule of school, work, sport commitments are on hold. And so I find my kids hovering over their screens as the most cherished way to wake up, to watch their favorite show and keep up with life with the Sims. But mostly I find myself scrolling mindlessly through news, feeds, walls, because we don’t have to be somewhere right now. Luckily, work out sessions, errands and day trips keep us from becoming total screen zombies.
You would think that some down time for seven weeks never hurt anyone, but what if all the watching little-, medium- and large screens made us develop tiny horn-like shapes at the bottom of our skulls? A nightmarish article I read this past week said we, as the parents, are responsible for not only trying to set our kids up for a good life, but also modeling some of the behavior we preach to them. We don’t want our kids to be dependent on their iPads, and so neither should we. Right? Also, I would prefer not to have a pair of horns growing out of the back of my neck. It would mess up my back sleeping and everyone knows how important a good night’s sleep is.
Other horrific details of the new technology we live with today are the tragic ways people die in order to take spectacular photos or selfies and how the social media platforms have created addictive ways to keep people scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. Society has always been afraid of dangerous time suckers, like the TV (lets you watch without engaging), the VHS recorder (now you can record and watch whatever you want to watch), the cell phone (always reachable, never an excuse to let people know you are late), the streaming services (watch on any device, whatever you want, all the time), the smart phones (can do all of the above and then some).
My friend told me how she would spend a summer as a kid teaching herself how to whistle. I remember reading a ridiculous amount of books from the library and learning how to break the code for the Rubik’s Cube on a summer break growing up. Today, books and life coaches have to teach us to sit with the moment, be present in the present, because no one knows what it’s like anymore. It’s an entire mindfulness industry. No one ever just stares into the blue and wait for their food to arrive, their prescription to be filled, stand in line, for a friend to arrive or for their kids to stop whining. No one stares anywhere but into their e-mail, news feed and friends’ posts of kids and dogs.
And so since it starts with me, I vow to stare into my daily life, even if it means the wild mess in my house, the weeds in my garden and the lines in Target. All the screen time walls of limitations that can be set have been set as you read this. I challenge you to do the same. We could all make do with less. Less is more.
p.s. My 7-year-old is getting really good at whistling, but my 11-year-old still hasn’t solved the Rubik’s cube confidently yet.
There is still five weeks left of until the kids go back to school.
Siw Heede is from Denmark and has dual citizenship.