G.K. Chesterton said science is either a tool or a toy. His point was that science is often exalted to a level of divinity but it is really, only either a tool or a toy. It can be used to make life better or to satisfy our natural curiosity but that is all it can do. It cannot create as God can create, it cannot judge as God can judge, it, therefore, should not be worshipped as God is worshipped.
I have considered Chesterton’s wisdom and have decided it can be applied to other things in life as well. For example, the internet can be either a tool or a toy. It is a fabulous tool for connecting with others, for learning about the world, for spreading information and sharing ideas, and for so many, many other things. It can also be a wonderful toy. There are blogs to read, games to play, music to stream, videos to watch, etc….all right at our fingertips. But, like science, which can easily take on a much-too-important role, the internet can become way too much of a focus, if we let it.
When my older children were little, we introduced them to the computer via video games. They had little games on CD Rom featuring their favorite characters. We had a Mickey Mouse game for toddlers, a Dora the Explorer game, and others. They were allowed to use the computer, under very strict supervision for very limited amounts of time, as a toy. Though the games claimed to have educational value, teaching shapes, colors, letters, I never considered them to be truly educational and never considered that my children were benefitting from the computer as a tool.
Now, though, they are older. I still try to keep their computer usage to a minimum. They still have very strict supervision and very limited amounts of time to play on the computer. The internet, however, is a useful tool in their lives now. They use it for research, and for projects, and just recently we’ve started online classes. It is getting harder to limit the time my children spend in front of the computer and I find myself struggling to find where to draw the line so to speak.
Here is where we are now: they get one half hour of “playtime” on the computer every other day. The girls get to play their video games on odd days, the boys on even days. They can only play certain games, approved by Tim and me. In addition, they are allowed one special project on the computer per week. My oldest son has gotten interested in movie making and produces, at least, one stop-action Lego movie each week. So far, we have allowed him the time he needs to do this, not counting it against his video game time but considering it a “special project”. For online classes, we have allowed the children all the time they need to complete their work. For research, I sit with them and together we “surf the net” for the information they seek.
All this seems to be working fine but, at times, I feel the computer desk is like a revolving door, housing one family member after another sometimes with overlap.
Tim heard that the average American family has about 7 internet linked devices in their home. We have one. Just the one. Our desktop computer that sits in the middle of our kitchen. I am sure, at some point, we will decide to invest in a laptop, or an I-pad, or an I-phone, or something else but for now, we are content with our one internet connection. In fact, I suspect this one little computer that we all have to share provides the perfect tool for keeping our family’s computer use in moderation.