I’m not talking about the famous Michael J Fox movie about time travel.
It’s about embracing the new while still holding onto things from the past that enrich our lives.
We’ve all heard, and sometimes contributed to, the moaning and groaning about how too much screen time is damaging children’s minds. How our jobs will be taken over by robots. How our overconsumption is destroying the world.
These are the facts of life as we know it now. Grumbling about it won’t change a thing.
However, taking the best from the past may help us to forge ahead bravely into the future, embracing all it has to offer.
That’s why we should be taking our kids back to the future.
We’ve all heard some variation of the joke: “When I was your age, I had to walk fifteen miles to school in the snow! Barefoot! Uphill! Both ways!”
Designed to let kids know how easy they have things compared to previous generations, the joke can often reach new levels of ridiculousness.
The truth is though, children have it easier in some ways and much harder in others – just like every generation before them.
As technology flies ahead of us at breakneck speed, we are left looking at its dust trail and wondering what’s to become of the world. And our kids.
It’s no secret the human race is unable to keep up with its own inventiveness. Each new jump in technology gives us a gift and a new problem with the need for new rules.
We seem to be playing a losing game of catch-up. Maybe it doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Setting children up with some of the old values and activities could well give them the skills and resilience they will need to embrace the future.
BACK TO THE FUTURE – SCREEN TIME
Screen time for kids is a fact of life. Schools encourage the use of computers and often have children watching educational videos on big screens.
There is an increasing necessity for computer use at home to complete homework projects.
Then, there’s the break screen time gives carers when children are engrossed in a movie or playing fun games on the computer or even a smartphone.
These games are wonderful tools. Colourful and entertaining, they can help children learn numbers, shapes, colours, recognise letters, improve coordination, and much more.
The downside is, too much time in front of screens can cause permanent damage to the child’s developing brain. It can make them lose focus, concentration and the ability to communicate effectively.
Screen time threatens to erode aspects of childhood that are crucial to social, emotional and cognitive development.
Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, psychologist, Temple University
I know a few parents whose children were suffering from night terrors. When they cut out or cut down screen time, the night terrors stopped. Experts agree there is a link between screen time, night terrors, and sleep disorders in children.
SO HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
If your child is under 18 months old, screen time should be avoided, according to guidelines from the American Academy of Paediatrics.
Children aged between 18 months and two years should have limited, supervised screen time.
Kids aged two to five years should have no more than an hour per day.
Children aged six and older should have consistent limits put on their screen time.
At this stage, it may be good to structure a family media plan to ensure screen time doesn’t take over from real-life adventures.
It can be tough for busy parents who are trying to divide their non-working hours between so many tasks.
However, a little planning and care can make all the difference to a child’s mental well-being and even enhance skills such as time management.
When creating a family media plan, consider what jobs a child may need to do (clean their room, tidy toys etc) and ensure these chores are done before any screen time.
Have a craft box handy so children can set themselves up for drawing and craft activities. This way they can learn to think outside the box instead of sitting in front of it.
Encourage a love of nature with plenty of outside activities. When we feel a real connection with nature, it reduces the pull towards screen time.
Use screen time as an excuse for a creative adventure.
What are we taking back to the future? The old-fashioned notion of chores for children and freedom (from screen time) for discovery and creativity. Plus, the responsibility for children to come up with the initiative to entertain themselves when needed.
BACK TO THE FUTURE – EMPLOYMENT
There is a lot of talk about how robots are replacing jobs. Even jobs in the legal and medical professions are at risk, according to some.
A World Economic Forum report estimated that by 2030, robotic automation will be responsible for a loss of more than five million jobs across 15 developed nations. It will inspire dramatic changes in our lifestyles.
Some governments are already experimenting with universal pay systems and others are discussing the possibility. A universal pay system would see everyone receive a minimum payment to ensure they have shelter and food. There would be no requirement for working, though those who can find a job will be encouraged to.
There are those who paint a picture of Utopia, where everyone has infinite leisure time and the chance to ‘do good’ in the world. However, if idle hands are the devil’s playground, the real picture may not be so pretty.
For many, the need to pay for necessities is the only motivation for working. It is quite possible these people will not fill their days with volunteer service to others.
Many of those who have experienced long-term unemployment have ended up with depression and other mental health issues. Some of this is due to the stress caused by not making money. However, for many, it is more about their sense of usefulness and contribution.
PREPARING OUR KIDS
It’s important to arm our kids for the uncertain future ahead by taking some of the values of the past into that future.
These values include a strong work ethic. Even if predictions are right and the paid jobs won’t be there, there will always be room for volunteer work. Particularly in the emotional support and creative areas.
Excellent communication skills, along with understanding and compassion for others will give children the skills needed for human and social-emotional support jobs.
This can be done by encouraging volunteer work and regular random acts of kindness.
Hands-on creative pursuits will not only help children find (and maybe invent) jobs in the future but will promote the resourcefulness they will need.
A great starting point is encouraging creative recycling. This helps to open their eyes to possibilities and become innovators, using MacGyver-like skills to solve problems.
What are we taking back to the future? The values of helping others and reaching out a helping hand when needed. The ability to create something from nothing to make life more comfortable or more interesting.
BACK TO THE FUTURE – OVERCONSUMPTION
Throwing out the old in favour of the new. It’s a two-fold issue. When we throw out the old, we’re contributing to landfill. When we keep buying the new, we are using up the world’s finite resources.
And it’s never been easier to do this. We put our discarded items in a bin and a magic truck comes each week to make them disappear. We don’t even have to think about it.
With the push of a button, another magic truck comes. This one, making wonderful things appear – our online purchases.
We need only our smartphones to pay for store-bought purchases – another magic trick that makes us feel like we haven’t spent a cent.
I love shopping as much as the next person. I’ve been known to use retail shopping as a form of therapy at times.
These days, I tend to second guess every purchase. It’s not as much about the money as it is about whether or not I really need something. If I don’t, it’s likely to end up in landfill.
All very well for someone old enough to reach grandmother status, you might say. If you read my post, Lessons from a Pot, you’ll know I never throw away things that are in working order.
I’m still using kitchen appliances given to me as a wedding present more than 30 years ago.
It’s true though, as you get older you tend to need and even want fewer material things. You want to save your money for experiences, like travelling overseas.
BACK TO THE FUTURE TO SAVE
I’m going back to the future by taking a frugal page from our parents’ and grandparents’ savings book.
I used to scoff at my mother-in-law for washing Chux wipes and hanging them on the line for reuse. Now I do that and admire her economy. It’s not just about the money though. It’s less rubbish headed for landfill, less packaging to deal with, and fewer resources being used.
As an arts and crafts teacher, I hang onto all kinds of crazy things I think may be useful during classes, especially my Remarkable Recycling workshops.
Not everyone has the space to store a bunch of recyclable materials. However, if you keep a few for the craft box, you can encourage children to embark on a creative recycling adventure that is full of benefits for them ….and the world.
Other lessons our grandparents taught us included not to waste food. There is always a way to creatively reinvent those scraps and at the very least, they can go toward nurturing our earth when put in the compost.
If we participate in the throwaway attitude so popular in society today, that is the example we set for our kids and it’s likely they’ll carry on the trait.
However, we can use the lessons taught by less wasteful generations and bring them back into the future to help overcome the issue of overconsumption and also high expectations when it comes to gifts for children.
BACK TO THE FUTURE WITH GIFTS
As a grandmother to five, I’m realising the importance of cutting down expenses as well as the mark my footprint, via gifts, leaves.
As much as the Goddesses love new toys (the prince is still too young), I’m giving them fewer with the realisation they will most likely be lost in the jumble of hundreds they already own. Or thrown out in favour of the next new thing.
A great replacement for toys is an experience. Buy them tickets to a show or a special activity. This ticks lots of boxes. It takes them away from the screens, produces virtually no waste, and provides beautiful memories.
An even more economical alternative is to create a gift for them. Knit them a jumper, make a paper mache money box, or create beautiful beaded art for their rooms.
By the same token, instead of buying expensive gifts for mum or dad on behalf of the kids, have the kids make something. This encourages their creativity and helps them to understand the value of materials and time and effort. Check out these great homemade Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts.
What are we taking back to the future? An economical attitude that saves on waste and money. A renewed appreciation for homemade items – no robots involved.
BACK TO THE FUTURE – MENTAL SURVIVAL
So many studies have proved the vital role nature plays in keeping us happy and healthy.
When we promote a love of nature with children, we give them a happy go-to place when things become challenging. We keep them away from screens, help them care enough for the environment to treat it with respect, and best of all, it’s free. We can use nature to make kids thrive.
Even when it’s too cold for outdoor play, we can use nature’s treasures to create beautiful things. Check out all these lovely things we created from finds during a walk in the park.
We know the world is changing and now is the time to prepare our kids by bringing some of the values our grandparents and their parents had, back to the future. Some of these values have been lost in our rush to keep up with the constant changes in lifestyles. But they will be the backbone of our children’s ability to cope in an ever-changing world.
It’s such an exciting (and a little intimidating) time to be alive. Let’s not let the voices of doom and gloom snatch away that excitement but instead, let them be the inspiration to prepare, using some of the tried and true methods from yesterday and bring them back to the future.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.