- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 1, 2010

Culture challenge of the week: techno noise

Two recent conversations reminded me how an abundance of “techno noise” in a child’s life can lead to boredom and emptiness.

My friend Linda looked stressed. “I can’t wait for my kids to go back to school,” she said. “They’re restless and don’t know what to do with themselves, except text their friends continuously.”

When 15-year-old Jordan’s mom picked him up from “chilling” at the home of a new friend, Jordan said, “You should see their house. They’ve got TVs in every room and they’re all on. It was great.” Pause. “Except it got boring after a while.”

Technology is indispensable. It keeps us connected to our friends, co-workers and the world at large. And that’s great. But it’s also increasingly intrusive, superficial and loud. And that’s not so great for the human spirit.

Constant noise and restless spirits: They go together.

The continual barrage of images, information and virtual voices keeps the mind racing, always trying — but failing — to “process.” We simply don’t have time to think or reflect. It makes us edgy on the one hand and bored on the other. It’s addicting, while at once mentally tiring but not really satisfying.

Picture your child, like a hamster, spinning in a mental wheel that never stops. It’s not overly challenging from moment to moment, but the cumulative effect can be mind-numbing and utterly draining.

Superficiality is the companion problem. TV dialogue, music lyrics, Web copy and advertising slogans capture feelings and offer snapshots of the moment. But they tend to skim over substantive ideas — a life-changing insight is hard to convey in 30 seconds. They condition us for “direct response,” as the marketers like to say, so we build the habit of reacting without reflecting.

The impact of this steady barrage of “noise”? Our lives may become less rich and less deep, driven by unreflective habits.

How to save your family by creating the habit of quiet, daily reflection:

Our human spirit craves something deeper. We need time to reflect, to be alone with our thoughts and to uncover the more profound realities of life.

In the past, simpler lifestyles sent us outdoors; our common cultural experience included silence and the beauty of nature. The normal rhythm of unplanned time fostered imagination, creativity and reflection. Whatever happened to just lying on the grass and watching the clouds go by, allowing your imagination to turn them into castles in the sky as you sorted through and dealt with the issues and relationships in your life?

Today we need to work much harder to help our children discover the inner peace and rich personal growth that flow from quiet reflection. Our families must learn anew how to carve out quiet time in a very loud world, to build the capacity to reflect in the midst of a culture that rewards instant action.

So how do we do that?

First, insist on a daily “quiet” time, for each person — parents and children alike. Fifteen or 30 minutes alone with an inspirational book, a prayer journal or just your thoughts will go a long way toward calming the soul and creating the habit of reflection.

Second, turn off the screens — all at once, all together — at regular times. Mealtimes, bedtimes, quiet time and family time will become much richer without the insistent, digital clamor for attention. (Plus, it’s common courtesy to focus attention on the real people in front of us.)

Create quiet places in your home: rooms without screens to invite reflection and conversation.

Make peace and quiet reflection a daily part of your life, and you and your children will reap the rewards for a lifetime.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@howtosaveyourfamily.com.

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