Summer is upon us, as is the task of keeping the kiddos occupied now that school is out. Since most parents work full time, keeping kids gainfully engaged poses a real conundrum. Most home or day-care routines inevitably involve lots of screen time: TV, iPad/tablet time, the computer.
Whether we call it the Idiot Box, the One-eyed Babysitter, or technology, I was staggered by some photos in a recent Huffington Post article. Photographer Donna Stevens has created a series of images entitled “Idiot Box” that captures the transmogrification of children from bright-eyed whirling dervishes to near-comatose zombies.
The inspiration for the series came from watching her own son morph as a result of his iPad usage. (The family iPad somehow became his iPad, she states.)
Kids from her son’s preschool became part of the project. Each was allowed to select a favorite show from Netflix, and the photo shoot began. “They say photographing kids is hard work but this shoot was simple,” she explained. “I experienced firsthand the power of the screen as it lulled my subjects into a TV-coma before my lens. None of them talked or moved during the shoot. I didn’t direct them in any way. And even though I was positioned right in front of them with my camera, they barely noticed me.”
The disquieting images show an alteration that seems so unnatural—curiosity and excitement normally wedded to engagement in an activity was quickly replaced with almost frightening changes. The cold bluish light of the screen highlighted glazed eyes, slack facial contours, mouth breathing, and unheeded drooling. The article calls the images “unsettling,” and that they are.
Almost all of us watch TV or use tablets and computers at times. And I’m certainly not saying that all screens are evil and to be avoided. That’s not practical or realistic. But parents desiring to raise alert, inquisitive, centered kids who interact well socially and have a sense of possibility about themselves and the world would do well to make judicious use of these forms of entertainment.