Yogi Berra said it, and what Yogi says, goes. At least that’s how I view the world. You have to take to heart everything that man said because it was pure gold, and all of it was true.
I thought about that infamous quote as I was pondering the ways my kids cheat their way through my screentime restrictions on their devices.
My kids are probably better than most in that they balance sedentary time with far too many sports, but it’s feast or famine with them. They are either going all-out on the pitch, the court or the field, or they are sitting like a bump on a log talking to their friends, snapping or gaming.
Like most parents, I am always pushing them
to find “something else to do” -- get outside, go for a walk -- do anything that does not involve a screen.
Also like many parents, I use technology to help. I employ a combination of Apple Screentime, Google and Microsoft time limits to reduce their time on devices. I have downtime scheduled, and every time they want more time, they have to request it from me officially. Often, I allow it, but the more I dive in, I realize just how sneaky they can be!
My kids are artists at skirting the rules. They uncover games that are “educational” (note the purposeful use of quotes and imagine them to be air quotes with my fingers), just so they can play a game that’s not covered by my arbitrary screentime rules. There may be math built into the game, but it’s a game, and not truly an educational tool.
They ask to extend time on the X-Box because that is the only time their California friends are available (of course, my kids have friends in three different time zones). They download new apps that are not currently tagged in my restrictions so they can get extra time not covered under those aforementioned, arbitrary rules.
I am constantly on the defensive trying to keep up with them and all the ways they bend the rules to their will.
Of course, we probably invented half these ways of bending the rules when we were kids.
If you go one layer deeper, it is fascinating to see the language and the lexicon of terminology these kids use when they are engaged in their different forms of media. I learned what it means to be “OP” by watching them play Fortnite and Battlefront. I think I know what it means to be “clean,” and it has nothing to do with washing my hands.
It all brings me back to my point about Yogi. I observe a lot just by watching my kids on their screens. For them, it makes sense to open a Facetime channel with their buddies while they game, so their communication can be silo’d just for them. It makes sense to get in-game currency like V-Bucks or Robux by asking parents to add money to Microsoft, transfer that to Fortnite, and then buy a skin in the game. They trade enhancements and items in Roblox all the time, assigning a real-world value to these virtual items. For my kids, the real and virtual worlds have much thinner walls between them.
Whether we like it or not, our kids recognize a future where all worlds blend together. They don’t differentiate between games and school because much of their learning is presented in a gamified manner. They are embedded in a world where screens are an essential component of the day. Although we will try to force them (sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much) to balance their digital time with real-world time, they will gravitate toward that information-heavy world and that is going to be second nature for them. We will keep trying our best to get them to see the world around them, and counterbalance those digital lands.
Our job is to observe, guide and also be open to learning along the way. The way our parents dealt with us is different than how we deal with our kids. Their challenges are different than ours, and all we can do is do our best to help them navigate those waters.
I wonder what Yogi would say if he were around now?