As a parent of a 3 and a 6-year-old, I am constantly trying to find the good balance between letting my kids watch media and being bored. I believe in letting children get ‘bored’ because that is when they become the most creative, producing amazing crafts out of bits and pieces of ribbon, paper, old Christmas wrapping, or anything they can find around the house or in the recycle bin. That is also when my two daughters play together, inventing the craziest games and fun situations out of banal objects. For example, one particularly ‘boring’ afternoon turned adventurous when the girls transformed the living room rug into a flying carpet! There they were, having pulled out the carpet from under the living room table, sitting one behind the other flying through the air… “Mom, you can’t step on the carpet, we’re flying!”
But, inevitably, I’m also the type of parent who lets my kids watch and play with media. And, as is the case for many parents, it is often hard not to feel guilty and think, “oh no, what is this doing to their brains compared to all the ‘real’ human exchanges they could be having?” (because that’s what I read over and over again when it comes to good parenting in the 21st century facing media 24/7) But as a non-digital native, I also tend to look at media as something separate from the offline world, something that needs to be counteracted and balanced by ‘better’, ‘real-world’ activities. That is until one day, during one of those bored moments (not letting my kids turn to media to keep busy), they started acting out what they had seen online. Okay, I didn’t see it as something as elaborate as the living room carpet becoming a flying one, it was more like… a pig dance! There they were, having pulled the carpet out from under the table again, but this time it became a dance floor and they were doing the pig dance (Yes, I know you can find anything on the internet – what was I saying about guilt??). I watched as my kids merged their online world with their offline one, dancing (fight-free) for the longest time .
So that’s when I thought, hmmm, I guess I’m not completely off-balance. It seems to me that a good start in the quest for achieving balance between media and other activities is to help, or even just let my kids make links between the online and the offline worlds – allowing their imaginations to be fed by media as much as anything else around them, resulting in fun flying carpets and pig dances. And that maybe, we adults – or should I say, ‘non-digital natives’ – should stop separating the two worlds and acknowledge that it is just one big world after all.
~ Christina Akre