Little Fingers, Little Screens

When we gave Eden a retired iPhone, cracked screen and nearly unupdatable, I felt a couple ways about it. I’m not a Luddite by any means, not scared of technology, but I do want my kids to interact with the physical world they live in moreso than the digital world that they will soon enough fully inhabit. And I’m bad enough–I have my composition classes print off their papers, just so I don’t have to spend all day looking at screens and then, when I get done with a few papers, I positively reinforce myself (a bit subconsciously) by staring at a screen, which is to say: It seems almost unavoidable.

Sidebar: When I teach literature, we often spend one class period talking about the main cultural vehicle of the time and how that has shifted over the course of history and, dramatically, in the last hundred years or so. And then I ask them to prognosticate: What’s coming next? What will be the favored cultural medium of their children? Or hell, how about next year? They often point to those floating recliners from Wall-E.

And I ask, “Does that sound like a good time to you?” A few of them nod, but most of them agree that they’d like to avoid that kind of existence, at which point the conversation turns to whether or not we have options. Is our choice between the Wall-E chairs or a log cabin in Montana, off the grid somewhere?

It’s got to be a false dichotomy, right? At least that was my hope when we gave Eden the iPhone. And honestly, what I’ve found is that she’s much better at self-regulating than I am. She often uses it for music when she’s cleaning her room or doing art projects. She seldom pretends to use it for anything I do (I’ve never seen her treat it like a phone–but I don’t really use it that way either, I suppose). And then she takes these videos–of all sort of things. Her brother playing with cars and legos. Tours of our house and yard. Walks to her friends’ house. There’s one great clip that is her walking the three blocks (God bless small towns. #ruralism) to her friend Amelia’s house and it ends centered on Amelia’s smiling face. And then the video is over. She’s arrived and she’s ready to play and the phone gets tossed in a corner somewhere.

I don’t know where I’m headed with this (does a blog have to have a moral?) except to say that I wonder–and hope–if my kids can make their way through the technical world in a more balanced way than I can. And, in the meantime, with my face glued to a screen somewhere, it really is a miracle to be able to watch the world through Eden’s eyes. And I’m awfully thankful for that.