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Flunking Sainthood

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No, I haven’t yet read The Shallows, the recent non-fiction book that everyone’s talking about. It claims that the more time we spend on the Internet, the more shallow and ignorant we become. I wouldn’t know. I’ve been too busy catching up with Facebook to digest the book’s central argument.

Last night our family broke its rule about “no cell phones at the table” after my husband and daughter raved about a new game called Fruit Ninja that they’d downloaded onto his iPhone. Of course they had to show me the game right that minute. Of course I got sucked into it. And of course the latter half of our mealtime was spent passing the phone around as we took turns playing the game.

That was great fun, but I don’t want to make a habit out of it. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average 8-18 year old spends 10 hours and 45 minutes in front of a computer screen, TV, or cell phone. That’s crazy!

  • 59956502_27294bf761.jpg“In 2/3 of households, TVs are on during meals.
  • In 75% of households, TVs are on when no one is watching them.
  • More than 70% of kids have TVs in their bedrooms.”

But it’s not just my daughter’s life I’m worried about; it’s mine. Over the last two years I’ve noticed digital media encroaching on my life, work, and friendships. I know I’ve blogged about this before on Flunking Sainthood, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record I’m going to make some promises to myself about digital media, and I want you to hold me accountable.

  1. 2959912279_8446aa1abd.jpg1. I’m going to be more vigilant about keeping the computer completely off from Saturday night until Monday morning. I know that’s not possible every week, but I’m going to redouble my efforts at having a computer-free digital Sabbath. (I still get to watch Masterpiece Mystery, on TV, however. There are certain standards.)
  2. I’m going to check email no more than five times a day. Email has become a tyranny with me; I want to give people a quick response, but then I find I have neglected attention to more long-term projects. According to Nutshellmail.com, “a recent study
    suggested that the average user lost 8.5 hours per week transitioning
    between email and their previous task.  Email productivity experts
    suggest checking your in-box in bulk 1-3 times a day at preset times.” 1-3 times a day is not going to happen, but 5 times a day is doable and, I think, necessary.
  3. I’m going for the Kindle and not the iPad. Thanks to everybody who weighed in last week about the merits of various e-readers. A couple of people commented that the iPad, while amazing, is almost too distracting for reading purposes, because it is equipped to do so many other things. I found that a helpful critique and am leaning toward one of the newer Kindles because I want to use it for reading without getting distracted (yet again) by email, Facebook, or my 4,967th game of Scrabble. I have too many choices in life as it is.
  4. I’m going to set time limits for Facebook and Twitter. Since I use these for work as well as for keeping up with friends, they’ve mushroomed into an increasingly large part of my day. I’m going to aim for one hour a day maximum for both forms of social media….Uh, pray for me.

Hold me to this, people! And tell me: what boundaries, if any, do you set about computer and cell phone usage in your families?

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