Is Shunning Modern Technology Worth It?

Can we create a neighborhood life for our kids today like that which existed before modern technology?  Should we even try?  photo credit: openplans.org

Televisions, videogames, and computers. Our two boys (4 and 10 months) have barely ever seen any of them. Cars? Well, yes, they ride in cars everyday, but they also ride bikes with me – the oldest on his own bike, the youngest in a trailer – practically every day to go to school, to go to a park, to pick up groceries, or just to play.

Among other motivations, my wife and I are attracted by the idea that limiting exposure to these technologies will cause them to participate in our neighborhood far more than they would otherwise. We think that’s a very, very good thing.This is starting to turn out well, we think, but even if it does make them more community-oriented, is it worth it? After all, there are great benefits to these technologies. There is no doubt that some television can be quite entertaining, and driving in a car can be mighty convenient. In the meantime, very often when we go outside, there’s no one there but us because all our neighbors are inside watching screens or away from their houses in their cars.

Besides, we don’t want to isolate ourselves from our friends and neighbors who use these modern technologies. Recall that we want to spend more time with them, not less. So, are we just wasting all this effort? Perhaps all our efforts to limit our children’s exposure to these technologies will seem foolish in a few years when they start experiencing them at their friends’ houses.

My wife and I struggle with these questions. Certainly, a good argument can be made that the costs of shunning these technologies isn’t worth the benefit, and that, even if that’s not the case, we’re wasting our time trying to be different from everyone else.

So, we’re doing everything we can to tilt the odds in favor of success. First, we spent two and a half years searching for a new home in a neighborhood where it’s likely our kids will have lots of outdoor play opportunities with other kids their ages. Second, now that we’re here, we’re working very hard to build ties with our neighbors. Practically every day, we’re outside talking with neighbors.

Third, we’re investing a lot of time and money into building an “outdoor family room” in our front yard. This will, we hope, significantly increase the outdoor fun opportunities for all children in our neighborhood, including ours.

While we’re having fun doing all of this now (house-hunting was not fun!), my wife and I do believe that we’re racing against time. Once our oldest is in school and starts hanging with friends a lot, he’s going to compare his home life with that of his friends, complete with television, videogames, computers, and car rides to all sorts of activities.

We really hope he and his friends agree that our life in our neighborhood is “cooler” than his friends’ lives. Our dream is that our house and the surrounding neighborhood become the hangout of choice for our son and his friends. We’d even settle for a tie – if our son spent half his days hanging out at his friends, and half in our front yard and neighborhood.

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