BalanceYesterday was a lazy Sunday.  As a family we really just took the day to ourselves and did what we wanted to without so much as thinking of responsibility.  We watched some shows on Netflix and then a couple movies.  The kids played on their iPods and watched Netflix much of the day before breaking out some of their toys and actually playing.  This got me to wonder if technology, more the case gaming systems / tablets / handhelds, is changing the way our kids play and reduces creativity?
The subject has evoked some very interesting dialogue between my wife and I the past couple years.  She grew up without having technological devices at hand and I was just the opposite.  She’s a country mouse and I a city mouse.  I had a computer from the time I was 11, multiple gaming systems and have owned an iPod since the first week they became available.  She continues to use a flip phone of basic use.  So, it is no surprise I made the decision to bring iPods into our boys’ lives for them to play games, watch Netflix, read books, etc.

Since their purchase we’ve had many conversations whether or not bringing them (the iPods) into our home was a good idea.  She has established her point of view well, however, I remain in the belief that they will serve them well in the future more than the present.  As a culture we continue to utilize technology such as the iPod in our everyday lives.  How we are interacting with the world is continuing to change frequently and devices like the iPod are a bridge.

Though I am an advocate of using analog tools like the pen and paper I am still very much a proponent and fan of technology.  I love the idea of being able to talk to my house or car.  I hope that we get to a point where technology will enable us to begin to reduce the carbon footprint we are leaving and allow our children to attain an education our generation was unable to conceive of.

Isn’t there a lack of creativity if a child just sits in front of the television mindlessly playing video games all day long?  I’ve been asked that question many times and my answer is a definite, “NO!”  I spent a bit of time in my day playing video games starting with the Atari 800 and progressing up to a Macbook Pro and playing World of Warcraft.  Even when I was playing a minimum of 2 hours of WOW a day I was still reading over 50 books a year and writing short stories while working a full-time job and helping to raise my two boys.  My productivity was maintained and I was still working out 4-5 times a week.

There is a level of discipline that a person must adhere to that I believe is the main issue and I don’t think technology should be blamed on someone being, for lack of a better word, lazy.  Lazy people are going to be lazy regardless if they are playing video games, watching Netflix, surfing the internet or just sitting on their porch watching cars drive by all day long.  Blaming the iPod for a child sitting around all day watching cartoons is no different than what my friends and I did as kids on Saturday’s when there were cartoons from 7 am to 1pm.  It is what we lived for on the weekends.

Do I think kids should be allowed the freedom to just choose when and for how long they are using technology such as a PlayStation or iPod?  Absolutely not, parents need to be tightly woven into their child’s lives from the start to guide them on balancing their time spent “relaxing” or playing.  Even in grade school my kids have responsibilities that far exceed what I had at their age.  Between nightly homework that takes an hour or more to complete, sports and extracurricular activities there leaves little time during the week to even sit down for a minute to breathe.  They’ve never experienced coming home and watching cartoons for an hour while finishing up a bit of homework and then gathering around the TV in the evenings to watch Primetime…does that still occur?

I think the solution comes from involvement.  As a parent we must show our children that there is a balance between responsibility and play.  I don’t think there is any difference between playing with G.I. Joe figures and playing Mario on the Wii.  Both activities allow the mind to explore creativity, perhaps in different ways but, still being creative.  As parents we must set a good example for our children by not spending our free time being irresponsible.

When there is an imbalance it is typically followed with problems or complications.  I have a friend whose wife cannot sit still for any length of time and even if exhausted will find something productive to do just to stay active.  She cannot even sit down to watch a one hour TV show because she is unproductive.  On the flip side I have a college buddy who cannot remove himself from playing online games.  From the time he gets home from work until he is too exhausted to continue, he plays.  He has lost a few relationships to video games and is often depressed by this but, is it the games’ fault he behaves the way he does?  I don’t think so, it is an addiction, whether video games or alcohol or whatever he would have found something to occupy every second of free time he has.

These behaviors are going to exist regardless.  I know people who spend all their free time reading does that make books the cause of not having a balanced life?…of course not.  People make choices and those choices all have repercussions…good and bad.  We cannot blame the inanimate object for our lack of balance.  So, bottom line is that we must balance out our lives and teach our kids how to do the same to remain a well-balanced person.  Extremes are not a sustainable way of life, in either direction.

Parents must have an active role in their children’s lives but, they themselves must know how to balance uptime and downtime.  Nothing is easy, Eden doesn’t exist and for most of us we have to work but, that does not mean we can’t take time to play/relax.  We just need to make sure we find the happy medium and with that, pass the ability to find this happy medium on to the next generation.  Technology is not slowing down and wasting time is becoming easier and easier to do.  We need to make sure that the next generation has a better grasp on living than our generation did.

When I had kids all my goals fell a notch.  Enabling them to become greater people than I am became my top priority and remains so to this day.  Balance is necessary to remain productive and healthy.  It factors into all facets in life and I as a parent and every parent out there should be teaching, guiding and coaching this to the up and coming generation – life is about balance.