My kids are weirder than I thought they were. I mean… I’ve always known they were a little off, but living for a month without internet has revealed some crazy stuff.
And I’ve loved every second of it.
Just over a month ago, my kids and I moved into a new home. I decided before we ever stepped foot in it that I didn’t want to have internet in the house because 1) it’s expensive, 2) my kids have ZERO self-control when it comes to electronic time, and 3) I use it as a parenting crutch if the option is available to me.
I don’t think people are awful for having internet – not even a little bit! I just know where my family’s areas of weakness are, and electronics are a big one.
So, here we are, thirty-eight days into our life of ancient civilization. My kids have finally stopped whining about not being able to watch other kids play with toys on YouTube, but they’ve started doing some other weird stuff. (Let’s be real, watching other kids play with toys is the most bizarre cultural phenomenon of their generation.)
A few mornings ago, my kids came into my room and hopped up onto my bed. My oldest one said, “MOM! You have to see the new game we made up.”
I’ve enjoyed seeing their creativity grow so, of course, I said, “I’d love to!”
Both kids laid on their backs, closed their eyes, and put their hands behind their heads. The big one said, “You ready, sis?” And the little one said, “Yep.”
And then, in perfect unison, they both called out, “BRAIN WI-FI…. PLAY PEPPA PIG.”
Their eyes never opened, but they started mouthing the words to various scenes they remembered from Peppa Pig. Occasionally, one of them would laugh, and the other would clap.
I sat next to them with my mouth hanging open. Honestly, I was a bit terrified that my kids had actually gone mad – that removing all of their access to the outside world had finally driven them to catastrophic levels of insanity. What type of kids are so desperate for TV that they’ll pretend like it’s on inside their heads?!
It reminds me of the first year I worked with kids living in extreme poverty. In one of the families I worked with, there was a third-grade girl and a fifth-grade boy. They lived in a house that was mostly plywood around the outside, had aluminum foil over all the windows (no glass panes), and a front porch with a massive hole in it.
One day, just before I dropped them off at their house, the girl said, “Hey, when we get home, do you wanna play Twiddle Thumbs?!”
To which, the brother said, “Sure! It’s been a while since we’ve played that.”
Naturally, I asked what “Twiddle Thumbs” was. The boy told me, “It’s a game we play when all the electricity is off. We twiddle our thumbs round and round in circles like this–” (He demonstrated.) “–until one of us gets too tired to keep twiddling. Whoever goes the longest, wins.”
“Dad taught us!” the girl added with a huge grin.
It took every ounce of my self-control not to let my mouth fall open or my eyes fill with tears. I remember feeling sick to my stomach over the fact that this family regularly had no electricity, that the kids didn’t have real toys to play with, and that neither child had enough life experience to know what they were missing out on.
When my kids told me about their “brain wi-fi” game, I was immediately back in that moment of hearing about Twiddle Thumbs. Had I forced my children to live in dire circumstances, even when they didn’t have to? Had I turned them into some unhinged versions of their former selves, all for the sake of saving money?
I think I worried about the idea of that a little longer than I should’ve, but it didn’t stick. A few hours later, I watched with joy as my daughters’ burgeoning creativity led them to make “shelters” for themselves out of desks, chairs, and blankets. And then later in the day, they spent over an hour collecting flowers outside, just so they could have a flower rain shower at the end of it. They’ve made talking cans, they’ve decorated my vegetable cans so that I now have no idea which is which, and they’ve even learned how to bake some things without any of my help.
I haven’t ruined my kids. Their brains have just finally started to recover from the suppression they were under when my kids spent half their days staring at screens.
Did you know that the more TV a child watches, the thicker certain parts of their brain become? There was a study done in 2013 in Japan that found evidence of it on brain imaging scans. Their brain functioning is quite literally diminished by watching mindless television shows.
What’s interesting about that study is that their results weren’t, “If a child watches more than BLANK hours of TV a day, their brain starts to change.” Nope! Instead, it was, “The MORE they watch, the MORE it changes.”
I don’t share this fact with you to shame you about how much screen time your kid has. LORD KNOWS that my kids have had wayyyyy too much screen time throughout their lives. (And I even regret some of it – haha.) I share it with you to point out how stunted our kids’ creativity really can be when they have such unlimited access to electronics, screens, internet, and television.
It’s not to make you feel BAD about one habit, but to make you feel INTRIGUED by something different!
What would your kids come up with if they had to live without internet for a few weeks? Would their personalities and interests change? What magical creations live inside those fantastic minds of theirs?