Digital Dilemmas


Our children experience enormous pressures to be online all the time. They are starting as young as 2 years-old on the iPhone and evolving to the 8 to18 year-old spending more than 7½ hours per day in digital activity of one form or another, and that doesn’€™t include cell phone use.
Some schools require children as young as 10 to have a Think Pad and to maintain a regular blog. They bring their schoolwork home on a digital stick and use the Internet for assigned research. Teens meets with their classmates via Skype to complete school projects because it’€™s more convenient than getting together face-to-face. To stay connected with their friends, our children keep their noses to the screens while texting and Facebooking. They entertain themselves online with video games, TV shows and YouTube videos. And we parents are putting the pressure on them, too. We ask our children to stay in touch with us digitally, and encourage them to distract themselves online when we want time to ourselves.

While accepting that our children’€™s lives will require a certain amount of screen time, we can be important advocates for off-screen activities to counter the weaknesses of a digital life. Already doctors are seeing young people showing the physical fallout from years of computer use’€”neck and back problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, diminished hearing, effects of inadequate sleep. Drama teachers are finding that today’€™s students are so dependent on texting they have trouble expressing themselves when they’€™re asked to communicate face-to-face.

To counter the sedentary, sometimes solitary screen-based lifestyle, our teens need social, physical and tactile experiences: making music or art, dancing or drama, sports, volunteering, time in nature. If your child is resisting reduced screen time, ask him or her to propose a solution that takes into account your concerns. If she argues that she needs to be online all the time because her career will be dependent on her cyber skills, you can counter with the example of Pierce Vallieres. He’€™s the 14 year-old who created a Rubik’€™s Cube app for Apple that is generating worldwide sales. Doubtless Pierce spent hours online fine-tuning his creation, but, according to media reports, he still manages to find time to play baseball, hockey and guitar, and is learning to fly an airplane.

You’€™ll be strengthened in your resolve by the position of many Silicon Valley computer geeks who are sending their children to schools like Waldorf that don’€™t use computers. According to a recent article in The New York Times, these parents are aware that their children will need computer time to compete in the modern world but say ‘€œWhat’€™s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills.’€


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