Put That Thing Away!

Weeks ago, I came home from work to find my daughters completely immersed in “screen time.”

Screen time is commonly known as time spent on any electronic: TV, computers, tablets, hand held video games and even cell phones.

girls and me
At their most recent violin recital.

Josie, (aka Instagram Queen), was on my iPad scrolling and commenting on various pictures. Scroll, comment, scroll, comment. Ava was on her laptop watching YouTube videos of past and present winners of The Voice. They hardly looked up as I put my things away, changed my clothes and started dinner. I asked them how their day was, what happened in school…and they responded with grunts and monosyllabic answers: “Good, fine….” I noticed that I had to nudge and then nag them to practice violin, something they used to do more willingly.

So I made a decision. With husband’s agreement (it won’t work if only one parent is enforcing it), I decided to confiscate and hide all electronics until violin practice and homework had been completed. Do you know how hard it is to hide an 84″ flat screen TV?  It worked. Ava completed her homework and violin practice and then played catch with Opal in the street. Josie completed all of her work and then picked up dog poo from the backyard! They conversed with me and I learned that Ava is very fond of her new friends Lucy and Caroline at school and Josie is frustrated that her math went from an A to a B.

Ahhhhhh! I had my family back! It felt mean and terrible to do, but I’m their mother, not their friend. I cannot allow them to become Screen Time Zombies in lieu of communicative students and daughters. I encourage you to try this, at the very least, put pass codes on your devices (I did!)  and don’t allow them screen time until the work is done.

The Mother Land

Recently, I discovered that Korean refugees from North Korea are actually discriminated against in South Korea!

I couldn’t believe it. Where is the humanity? The abuse and absolute horrific treatment of North Korean civilians by their government is well-known so why would South Koreans greet them with anything but open arms?  It’s clear that education and empathy are absent.

Enter an amazing South Korean TV program called, “Now On My Way to Meet You.”  It’s an example of using media as a powerful medium for positive social change. The program first aired December of 2011 and, despite the tagline which alludes to “North Korean Beauties,” it does anything but objectify these escapees. You can read more about it and watch a clip here: Cari’s Blog. Basically, these women play games, laugh and recount their stories of life in North Korea for an enormous South Korean audience. The result?  An empathetic reaction where South Koreans are understanding and seeing these women as people.  The culture is slowly evolving into a supportive, loving one towards their sisters and brothers.

Sewol Heroes
Sewol Heroes

I have numerous cousins, aunts and uncles who live in South Korea and I have visited the country three times. In 1999, I was there for two months on an NSF research grant and I fell in love with the land and people. As news of the ferry disaster unfolded, there was a collective sigh of exasperation, shock, and anger all around me. How could this happen? The students were told to stay put? Why?!

If my father had not decided to immigrate to the United States, I could have been born and raised in South Korea. In fact, if that had happened, I would likely have been married with children a bit earlier (and who knows?)  I could have had a high school student on the ill-fated Sewol ferry and be mourning his/her death right now. These connections and possibilities only make me ponder our roles in life. I’m a teacher and I’m proud of it because I can actually impact 32 young people per year. But… can I do more? The producer of “On My Way to Meet You” has created such a critical solution to an enormous problem.  What if we all stopped asking why and started asking how? HOW can I help this situation? I think it’s a powerful question.