#69: Screen Dilemma (Left To His Devices)

Not My Kid, But Nevertheless, A Strong Representation

Screen Dilemma (Left To His Devices)

If the boy were left to his own devices
he would be playing a video game or streaming some show
on the damn iPad all day long.
The bad news is that sometimes he
is left to his own devices and I agonize
about my shitty parenting.
Sometimes I rue the day I brought
that device into the house, along
with the Wii box, but not as much,
because the tablet precious,
in all its variability, is
favored over the box precious;
the tablet, portable and powerful as a god,
and just as intoxicating, apparently.
The battle cry, “limit the screen time,”
rings in my ears–and yet, I’m tired
and he’s quiet and everyone is happy,
happy for a long, long time–until
it’s time to put the thing away–and
then the struggles ensue and all that
pent up eight year old energy that’s been
storing itself while the host sits in front of a screen
unleashes itself upon the world.

I think, then, upon the hours and hours
of unmonitored time I spent as a child
in front of the television and figure that by now
my brain should be pure mush, but lo and behold,
it’s not.  I am an active participant in the world,
I am gainfully employed, I read and can think
and I’ve written books.  I’ve stopped paying for cable.
And who’s to say that,
if there were no Wii machines or iPad tablets or
idiot boxes of yesteryear inside the house,
that the struggle to come to the table or
take a bath or do the homework or clean the room
would simply just disappear, that it would not be
just as difficult to pull the resident eight year old
away from his legos, his hexbugs, his rock collection,
or his art as it is to pull him away from the screen?
No one can say with any certainty that
this would not be the case. Anyway, I’m not convinced
that all the hand wringing we do about screen time
is worth a tenth of the energy we exert, any more
than it was eons ago when we thought that the radio, then
the cassette tape, then the compact disc or the mp3
would destroy music forever.
Similar doomsday predictions were made, I think,
about the telephone and the typewriter,
not that they would destroy music, but would
in some similar way bring society low.
In the end, with regard to our screen dilemma,
maybe it’s not about how much
but about what kind, and whether Mom and Dad
have any clue or even give a shit.
Maybe I’m just trying to let myself off the hook;
but I am comforted.  I know my boy is loved
and is loving; I know he has other things to do
at his ready disposal; I know he has interests
beyond the flashing and flickering of the magic bauble
somehow named after a fruit.  He’ll be okay,
one way or another. That’s my conclusion in
this moment.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

3 thoughts on “#69: Screen Dilemma (Left To His Devices)

  1. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts, but this one has to be one of my all time favorites! Perhaps it is because I, too, have a son this age who loves to play on Mom and Dad’s phones, Wii, Xbox, and the laptop. He is a smart, loving, energetic boy who is “well-rounded” and “balanced” and loves to use his imagination and play outside, draw, read (“old fashioned” books and online literature) and do many other things that are not some form of technology. I laughed out loud multiple times and shared your thoughts with my fiancee, as well. We both thoroughly enjoyed this one. Thanks so much!

    1. Marci! Thanks so much. Good to know (even though its readily apparent) that we’re not alone in our struggles against the ever-pervasive technologies entrancing our little people. Thanks for reading. I so much appreciate it.

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