Done in Silence

Beet the system!
Beet the system!

This year, we experimented with giving the beets a bit more breathing room. It worked out real good. 

I bet I get more questions pertaining to kids and screens than anything else. It’s amazing what a stranglehold these devices have over children, probably because it’s amazing what stranglehold they have over parents. By-the-by, I’m clearly no exception, because as I’ve pointed out a time or two before, it’s not like I’m scratching these words on the fire-lit walls of my cave with a sharpened brontosaurus bone. On the other hand, relative to the screen-immersed extremes of contemporary American culture, we’re just a bit off the back. We don’t have a TV, although we do have a cell phone, one of those el cheapo prepaid jobs. Every time I need it (maybe once per month), I spend a frenzied 30 minutes or so trying to find the damn thing and then another dozen or so minutes trying to figure out how to retrieve the number, which is hidden deep in the bowels of its click-through menus. So. Computer. Cell phone. Not exactly luddites now, are we?

At the risk of upsetting some readers, I’m going to say what I really think: The immersion into modern digital technology is messing up our children. It’s messing up us. This does not mean there are not good things that come of these technologies; it only means that the damage wrought by these technologies outweighs their benefits. By how much? Hell, I don’t know, but I suspect by a whole awful lot. At least by a hanging half of milk-fed pork. Probably more.

I think things took a dramatic turn for the worse with the introduction of smartphones and tablets, because the introduction of such devices marked a turning point between the need to consciously choose to interact with these technologies and constant, almost ubiquitous presence of them. In many ways, they have become our culture’s default engagement point with the world around us. In our house, we make it as difficult as realistically possible to use the family computer: It’s stuck in the far corner of our living room, it’s generally powered down, and it always has a cloth draped over it, kind of like a diaper. There’s not even a chair next to it, so if you want to use the computer, you have to schlep a chair from the kitchen, remove the cloth, and wait for the damn thing to power up, at which point the brontosaurus bone/cave wall approach starts looking pretty good. Or hell, with all that trouble, why not just read a book or play guitar? Or, I don’t know, talk?

I don’t really know what to say to folks whose kids are already good and hooked on video games and smartphones. As I’ve mentioned before, we just didn’t go that route, in part because we are not of the ilk that deems these technologies essentially benign or even beneficial. You want to know what I really think? Ok, so that’s a rhetorical question, ’cause I’m going to tell you no matter what: I think these things are bad fucking news. I think they erode resourcefulness and discernment. I think they have become a delivery mechanism for the idea that our lives are incomplete, which is a very profitable idea. I think the over saturated experience they offer dulls the senses. I think if my kids were hooked on ’em, I’d do something really drastic, like put them all through a wood chipper or take the chainsaw to ’em. I think whatever short term ramifications I had to deal with on the back end of these actions would be preferable to the long term ramifications of allowing their continued use. I realize that’s easy for me to say, not having to deal with either. But still.

Sometimes people ask specifically what we’ve done to avoid the creep of these technologies and devices in our lives (again, being clear that we haven’t avoided it entirely). I’ve already mentioned one of those things – arranging our technology in a such a fashion that our use of it simply cannot be unconscious. This means no mobile devices beyond our barely-used cell phone. You want your kids to spend less time looking at screens? Then you better spend less time looking at screens. Ain’t no way ’round it. This is the hard truth that many parents seem unwilling to acknowledge, probably because they’re just as addicted as their kids.

At my reading last weekend, someone made a really salient point, which, in approximate summation, is this: Every minute we’re with our kids, we’re teaching them. We tend to think of teaching as proactive, as being about books and papers and talking. And sometimes, it is. But the truth is that often it is not, and I’m beginning to think that perhaps the most important things we teach our kids are done in silence.











57 thoughts on “Done in Silence”

  1. It’s the parents’ responsibility to guide, to model, to control if necessary. To teach discrimination. Sometimes by letting the child make mistakes.

    At least a dozen times a day I am grateful for the Internet, for Wikipedia, for information at my fingertips. I remember growing up in the 50s and 60s and having a lot of questions and being frustrated at not being able to find the answers.

    1. I know it is very useful in that way, but please don’t take things from Wikipedia as the Truth! I’ve read some really awful Wikipedia entries on subjects I know something about. I also enjoy looking things up for a quick, brief overview of something that I am curious about, but I know that it is always better to gain a whole picture. Books, lectures, classes, real life experience, etc are always better than having little factoid clips from Wikipedia – especially because it is such a vehical for industry propaganda.

  2. A guy once told me the moment you and your horse lay eyes on each other is when the teaching begins. I think this applies to humans, too.

    Thoughtful post Ben. It’s key that the parents lead.

    Remember when if you had a question you went over to the book shelf and pulled down a big Encyclopedia and looked up the subject? I’m outing myself as old! Oh you young ‘uns.

  3. Hi Ben,

    Love your work, been reading it for a very long while now, even used your The Town That Food Saved book in one of my courses a few years back. Do you have any Deaf/deaf friends? I taught at Gallaudet University for 41 years, and during that time I saw very up close and personal what immense positive differences changing technologies have had in the education and learning opportunities for very young and older deaf people. That is also true for deaf people throughout the world. Just wondering how you might view technologies today if your eyes worked but your ears didn’t. Thanks.

    jk Sent from my iPad


    1. Thanks, Joseph.

      What you’re talking about sounds to me like very conscious/appropriate use of technology. However, I still believe that as a whole, society is not better off for these devices. Not to mention all the non-human aspects of the world.

      1. Have you heard any of the talks Gordon Neufeld has given about it? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oq8ULEfvF78) Pretty interesting as regard attachment/relationships/development but also in terms of societal impact. He mentions that it takes humans 200 years to adapt to technologies/inventions. The way things change now, we barely have five minutes. Another interesting stat from the wonderful world of education: our ancestors at the turn of the last century processed in one year’s time what our teenagers process in one day now. With the little sleep they get, I doubt they’re doing even that.

    2. So appreciated this comment, if purely for showing the other side of the story. Some of the nicest people I’ve known are deaf. Technology is not evil, just the misuse of it, which can be said of just about anything.

      So what is the fate of the beets? Love me some pickled beets.

  4. Spot on, again. I have a child on the autism spectrum, and electronics are almost literally the devil. The TV went 5 years ago, or so. Tablets and smartphones we now do, and not so seldom as you, unfortunately.

  5. Bet you aggravate a few people with this one Ben.
    It’s a controversial subject to be sure, and one worth discussing.

  6. I was just talking about this very thing to a friend this morning. We just have to check facebook quickly lest we miss out on something in the lives of people we don’t even know! Ridiculous. You are exactly right when you say we as parents need to use these devices a lot less if we expect our kids not to want to use them as well.

    On another note, I just finished Home Grown last night. Great book. Your writing is a beautiful thing. So many sentences highlighted! I am actually going to revamp my daughters home education and use some of the principles found in the book. And now I went to order Nourishing Homestead. Here is my question: On the Chelsea Green website it is $30. On Amazon.ca it is $23. Is there a bigger benefit to you if I order from one or the other? Because I will order from the one which gives you biggest return.

    1. Thanks for asking. My cut is the same regardless of where you purchase the book, except if you purchase it directly from me, in which case I do quite a bit better. So if you don’t have the option of purchasing from a local independent (always my preference, simply because I like to support book sellers), then the best thing for me is if you buy it direct from me.

  7. On our road we have a stable that has a barn on either side of us. They are about 1/2 mile apart.The stable is primarily a teaching facility for children. They daily ride from one barn to the other and back again.

    My husband witnessed a scary thing 2 days ago. He saw a small child (8 – 10 yrs old) on a horse, being led by an adult, from one barn to the other. The child was TOTALLY immersed in her phone world, WHILE riding the horse. He remarked, “Well, at least she had her hard hat on!”

    Very scary, as a rider should be paying undivided attention to the horse, otherwise it’s an accident waiting to happen. I doubt the owner/instructor of the stables was aware this was happening. She is very conscientious about this sort of thing. The adult was not her, probably a parent.

    This screen thing is sometimes VERY scary….

  8. I agree with your post. My partner and i have a difference of opinion on screens which has resulted in at least 10 devices in the house (not counting ipods and work stuff!). This is a ridiculous state of affairs and i can certainly vouch for the cost on every level of this amount of screen availability. I feel sad as i write this for my own family and all the others like us who don’t even seem to realise what an adverse effect it has. I’m seen as odd for wanting to cut way down and never mind the R18 games that children as young as 6yrs play from our school. And they say home schooled kids are poorly socialised?!!!!! I’m not sure which is worse, the mindlessness of folk just accepting excessive screens as the normal state of affairs or myself for knowing how bad it is and then not infuencing positive change enough?

    As noted above there’s loads of instances when we can cite screens as being a really effective and useful tool, but generally adults and kids are using them in a mindless and excessive way which is to the detriment of living our lives fully and experientially. (‘cuse the spelling, lost without spell check!!)

  9. Without my iPad how would I read your blogs? It is nice to have an alternative source for news on the internet although I don’t know how long that will last.

  10. My heart and soul agrees 100% but we have let laptops in our home for the teenagers – we work on balance with them, we figure it is better than rebellion – one has it figured out the other does not (balance that is). We have none of those little screens, none of us so the teenagers have to be sitting at their desks to use the computers. We also don’t have high speed at home so that limits them to 2 afternoon library visits per week (where I am now) and helps them to plan ahead, make lists, and utilize the internet while they can.
    Mike and I were at our oldest son’s play at his college yesterday afternoon and at intermission – there wasn’t anyone talking to anyone except Mike and I – all heads were down with the light glowing on their faces.

  11. I LOVE your parting comment: “perhaps the most important things we teach our kids are done in silence.” I never really thought about it . . . but how very true!

  12. I thought this would be about growing perfect beets? Let’s not go into extremes. .. not sure if there is an age when kids start gravitating to the screens, mine had choices to play some prescreened educational games on the iPad and after they master them they are no longer interested. Given the choice to learn outdoors or on the computer screen they always choose outdoors. Of course it is sad that some kids do not have that choice. ..iPad has been gathering dust. We had not had tv since kids were born but we do watch YouTube howto do shows, good classic films, foreign films. And we learn a lot from that, myself included. All or nothing is a wrong attitude. Peace. 🙂

  13. My wife taught elementary school for 33 years here in NNY and in one and two room schoolhouses in Northern Vt before that. She has seenf irst hand how the screen time that most children are getting these days is affecting some children in very negative ways. Their socialization, communications skills and in some cases their ability to empathize are suffering. It takes a lot of self-discipline to navigate all our technology, and that goes for adults too.

    1. I firmly believe that violent video games directly contribute to the lack of empathy that many teenage killers exhibit toward their victims. They “kill” so easily and so often in the virtual world that killing in the real world is just an extension of the game.

  14. Not that I’m a big fan of beets, but are beets that large “woody”?

    When I was in high school, I remember the girls clutching their cigarette packs in the same manner that today’s girls clutch their cellphones. Forty years later the life support system being clutched is certainly more useful, and healthier too!

  15. YES.
    In a waiting room the other day, of about 15 people or so, I was the only one sitting there (knitting) without my face glued to a tiny rectangular screen. Even people sitting next to another person- whom they had come in with, sat there on their phone. It was eerie, felt rather like a science fiction movie.

  16. I basically agree, except to read the New York Times, your blog, and grab an occasional recipe. That being said, all things being equal, for the species, I would support feeding the chipper.

  17. Speaking here as an addict. We’re working on the screen addiction (no more facebook) but there are days where it comes to mummy’s sanity vs reasonable screen time. I totally agree with everything said though. The iPad screen is broken and is unlikely to be fixed again, the tablet stays in hiding and we have no tv or xbox etc. We do have laptops though and the kids watch iview or films. We’re selective about it though. My son at Joey Scouts was making a film of what they love to do and all his fellow Joeys said they love to play their xbox/PS etc. My son said “play in the garden/trampoline/sandpit”. Maybe we’re not as bad as I feel we are. 🙂

  18. Amen, brother! Must back away from the soap box, and restrain myself from jumping up and singing out our story of screen-free kids.

  19. Funny, my family has just tonight agreed to have a screen-free month. We’ve done screen-free weeks and fortnights before and they were lovely. We have had times when I felt our use of screens was balanced but that was a long time ago. I know my oldest gets overstimulated and addicted to them. Except for the fact that my husband and I both work on screens (I may also have an addiction of my own). And damn it but my 8yo totally called me on it so…

    I believe it’s possible there are children who manage screen time in a balanced way and it doesn’t interfere with their other activities and may even enhance them, but those children are not in my family.

    All that and still your post stings. I think it’s the truth.

  20. You aint kidding. We live off-grid and are trying to get to a place where our four young children have the option of just living off the land without a real need for computers, cell phones, etc.. Right now my husband and I both work with computers so that we can pay as we go and avoid substantial debt which also allows us to spend more time at home with our children (instead of one of us heading to town to work a 9-5).

    It was a difficult and careful decision but I find the irony and the perceived hypocrisy of this more than just a little uncomfortable.

    How do you respond to those who call you hypocrites (I might be projecting here, assuming this happens to you too) because you yourself work on the computer? More importantly, how do you explain to your boys your use of the computer when you’re working heavily on a book or other project? These are things I personally don’t have concise answers for and would love to hear your insight.

    1. I think maybe that the distinction could be made that screen time is for work, for study, for knowledge, not leisure, not games, not facebook. Maybe ‘this is how we make a living, not how we have our family time/fun’.

      1. Yeah, it can be like milking cows for butter currency, harvesting beets for the farmers market, canning preserves for the harvest fair. It’s a tool. Not a drug. In addition to using it for work and study I use it to keep in touch with my friends. And you guys must know I consider you among my friends. I used to write letters on paper but now I write letters electronically. Every once in a while I write letters the old fashioned way when it’s extra special. Good on ya, mate!

  21. So sorry that I am writing this long comment but I was thinking about this post all last night and this morning and asking myself a few hard questions: why do I let me kids have screen time? Why do we live in a massive urban sprawl? Do I really like that my kids know more about Starbucks than apples?

    All of this is sincere, by the way, I’m not about to mock beets or farms or anything like that. I do mock sheep a little bit but it’s way down at the end and it’s more about me than them.

    So…. I let my kids have screen time because, um, because then I can have screen time, too? Because then they can play with the kids next door and I can fold laundry? And talk on the phone? Oh hell. That’s weak. I let them have screen time so that we can all run from each other in our tiny home with our massive baskets of fear and grief that we are carrying? That I realize every single human carries? Oh dear. Oh my god. Worse. Uh, because we can’t always go outside? I have to be outside watching when they are running up and down the sidewalk (big urban sprawl, etc.) and I can’t always do that and make dinner (frozen pizza) at the same time? Because I am LAZY? Because I am a working single parent and tired and sometimes a little defeated?? That doesn’t really sit well but I’m glad that thanks to this post I was motivated to ask myself the questions… even if the answers are cringe-worthy!

    Why do we live in a massive urban sprawl? Because this is where my ex wanted to live and then when my ex left I didn’t have the money to leave and was too heartbroken and freaked out to make any changes. (Oh my god… because I was so thrilled to be a genuine victim, apparently!!!! Mortifying!) But… urban sprawl also helped when I went back to school and got a degree… my kids were in school and in after care… I didn’t have to pay as much as I might have… oh my gosh… this is slightly better but not much! ANYWAY… the irony is that NOW the faceless and crazy urban sprawl is our community and we love our neighbors and our school. But not the air quality. And not the cars speeding down the street. Blah.

    And I hate that my kids know more about Starbucks than trees or seasons and that they like coffee better than apples! Oh my gosh. I can’t really even attempt to salvage that. I am tired! I need coffee! There is a Starbucks on every corner!

    Here are the other bullshit reasons I give for NOT having a more organic/holistic life:

    1. I am a single parent! (Did I mention that? Did I mention that thirty-five times?) I can’t do it alone! Plus the new person I like isn’t very handy! Plus I don’t have savings! Plus, um, plus I get poison ivy really badly? Plus, um? PLUS?????

    2. I do not want to homeschool. NO! PLEASE! NO! I WILL RUN SCREAMING FROM THE WOODS! Because I am afraid to sit still with my children? Because we are sad about the divorce and the tiny house and dead tree out front and the no garden and the car that has to keep running? Or because I have three braincells left to myself and by God I want to keep them!?! WHAT AM I SAYING? THREE? Oh, poof, gone.

    3. This is kind of valid but probably not really: I am afraid of livestock. ALL OF THEM. Not kidding. I had to gather eggs with a friend ONCE years ago and I ran out of the coop hollering because I almost got pecked on the wrist. ALMOST PECKED. Almost pecked by a tame hen. Oh my god. I know I could try harder but cows are huge. HUGE. Goats and sheep are bigger than they look on everyone’s blogs. Also one of my kids hates dogs. ALSO. Also blah blah blah pecking hen, barking dog, kicking sheep, etc.

    Oh my god. Have you ever tried to articulate your life philosophy and realized the reason you DO NOT articulate the poor thing is because it’s a wee rag or a shred of something and held up to the light is not even worth calling a philosophy??? Oh my god, put it away, please.

    But! Here is the one thing that I did come up with last night that I don’t think is BECAUSE of screens or is trying to say OH THANK GOD for screens or anything… it is the only TINY shred of goodness I can claim and it is VERY TINY. Here is it: Living with the inability or unwillingness to make a change that might be good for all of us but for which I am not ready or prepared or even completely desirous of making is PAINFUL. I must daily learn to live with real grief and regret… and hourly try desperately to manufacture both forgiveness and accountability for myself.

    I don’t read this blog (or any other blog made by an earth-loving, animal-dealing, kid-raising family) thinking, well, probably they are smoking meth and ANYWAY their kids are going to grow up insane and not even know when to use a semi-colon. And equally true, I don’t (often) look at myself and say, oh my god, you are practically smoking meth (not) and your kids are growing up insane and don’t even know what punctuation is. Plus cannot spell. Plus what is up with homework for a first grader? WHAT IS THAT?

    I know this is going to sound so stupid but I am grateful for the ability to hold on to every bad decision, every selfish act (or neglect) that I make (am sure I don’t see them all) and acknowledge that right now I have not done the right and best thing. I have to sit with that. But just because I cannot do it NOW doesn’t mean I won’t someday. But not now.

    And that’s a failing like a lot of other failings that I have to own but it doesn’t mean that I should lose my worth or my children, or that they are doomed to a miserable life, it doesn’t mean I should be praised, either, and maybe on some level it doesn’t mean ANYTHING except that I am a complex human being like all other human beings, with resources and flaws and strengths and terrible weaknesses; and for a human being staying open to as much truth as you can stand is honorable and worthy.

    As much truth as I can stand? Sometimes it’s not much, apparently. I’m not on facebook because I would lie all the time. I would be such a liar and I would pretend I wasn’t lying, too. I would be good at that. It would take HOURS of my time and it would beat back the proof of what’s missing, too: YO! HELLO! Here is our great urban life! Here is our cool party with spray paint and rocks and sticks! YO! Here we are baking bread! YO! Here I am with my hair so long and so shiny and DID I LOSE WEIGHT OR WHAT? DOES GRIEF LOOK GOOD ON ME OR WHAT?? FOR REAL! FEAR IS HOT! At least I am open to the truth that I can not be trusted to even tell the truth most of the time.

    Urban sprawl with screen time is possibly better FOR ME right now than raising sheep and making my socks from their ass hairs. WHAT? I MEAN IT! Because IF the reason I am raising and knitting is because anything less than that will fill me with self-loathing then I don’t trust the process!!! I mean I don’t trust ME in the process! I don’t mean I don’t trust the farm. The farm is good. But I want to have sheep because it is right and good for me to have them and because I am okay with or without them. Right now I am scared of them and their little sideways teeth and their smell and scared of standing in a field with four dying sheep by myself and having nobody.

    This is so hard to explain because I barely understand it and probably it’s all a way of saying to my children (who are young) I am sorry that I could not bring you back to the land and give you what you most needed but I didn’t have the courage to do it. I hope I am giving you enough love and strength and conviction to do the right thing for you and for the earth and even when I am a little old person wearing diapers (or leaves) I promise to honor as much of the truth and revolution as I possibly can. And I will live in the woods with you if you will have me.

    1. Hi. It’s all right. Just so you know its okay. Everything you said. It’s okay. It’s all right. Just so you know.

    2. Well Miss Mama I enjoyed your comment as much as Ben’s post. It’s nice to hear ( in my own head) your voice as well as many others.

    3. I don’t have children, still I cried when I read this. Fearless self-examination, or at least questioning one’s motivations, the sources of one’s fears, why one is even AFRAID, all of this witnessed by children if you allow them to can only make them better and stonger.

  22. You’ve written about this before and I continue to agree. My husband is in the IT field, something he never thought he would do, but we are grateful for the technology which allows him to work from home. Like many people, we do need at least a little “off-farm” work to make ends meet. Without the technology we otherwise avoid or limit, he might have had to go away from home to work. The freedom for him to be at home and eat lunch every day with our children and be (mostly) available for all the big things (first steps, etc.) has been priceless. His office is not accessible to our children so they never see all the gadgets and gizmos in the “bat cave.” We have cheap flip phones, no TV, and only use our personal notebooks at night after they are asleep. The only place my children have ever had access to computers is at our public library (both children’s versions and desktops.) It is interesting to watch their reaction. I have never drawn attention to them or used them myself for their benefit. While other children rush to the computers first thing and start playing games, mine rush to the books (imagine that!), puzzles and toys. They show a mild curiosity when other children are using the computers but their interest quickly dissipates in favor of the other exciting things – like the water fountain! I hope our boys will grow to see technology as we do – a tool to enhance not a replacement for real life.

  23. I am scared. My wife asked me to move out in April, and, last week, I did. She discourages our kids, 15 and 11 years old, from using the media/screens for more than 2 hours per day, but does not monitor them, does not want to be bothered with having to confront them. Part of the reason she asked me to move out is that I felt so strongly that this watching was detrimental, and she felt judged by me. I get the kids two nights per week. I am scared that my kids will not like being at my little apartment, where they have to now share a bedroom, and where I am likely to uphold my belief that (non-academic) screen time must be kept to under 60 minutes per day on weekends and not allowed on weekdays. All school study is to be done with open doors. How many years will pass before they realize the merits of this position? The 15-year-old never loved life more than when attending a 7-week-long non-tech sleep-over camp in Lake Placid NY, yet still, she cannot bring herself anywhere near choosing that lifestyle while here in Sacramento. Scared to the core.

  24. The single most important idea that I learned at Waldorf, where I was a parent for about 8 years, was to keep my mouth shut. Allow the children to hear their own thoughts, make their own discoveries.

  25. This is going to sound weird but it is good that you are scared to the core because maybe it will make you do something. Just do it with love. Not negativity toward your wife. I went through something similar (bad influence from ex-spouse). It made me think a lot. One of the thoughts was thank god for two parents. It’s totally possible to undo the negative impact of the other. I was able to and now I have a lovely grounded 22 YO daughter who has her head pasted on straight. Of course she has scars but she is way more brilliant than I thought she might be. So have hope and use that fear to make something positive for your kids. You didn’t ask for it but that’s my advice. Hope it helps.

    1. Thank you, TJ. I do not see a risk of negativity, only vast uncertainty/possibility/risk. Perhaps i will have to allow much media in order to avoid my kids’ wrath. Or perhaps, their love is more resilient?

  26. Thanks for having the courage to being honest on this topic and not trying to play the middle and appease all sides – how refreshing!

    My life completely changed 10 years ago when I got rid of the tv/cell phones/etc and finally woke up from the brain-washing of our modern consumer culture. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t go back – or let my kids go to it – for anything. Keep bravely speaking your truth, it is much appreciated.

  27. Oh this is a hard one and I think about it all the time! I read recently that using technology appropriately is a life skill and we actually have to regulate ourself like we do with food etc. This technology is brand new and I think we all feel overwhelmed by it especially when most adults had a childhood without these things. I do think though banning it is very wrong and ultimately unhelpful, like it or not it’s a tool that is a part of everyday life now. I think the focus should be on modelling Use to our children and discussing how and why we use it. I can only hope that the worry around this technology eases in the future, remember similar things were said about paperback books and the radio whine they were first introduced. I do think as a parent it is my responsibility to offer a rich and stimulating environment for my child so technology becomes a holistic part of my sons life and not something to use out of boredom and laziness on my part. I have hope we will begin to self regulate and this brand spanking new technology will just become a part of life and not dominate our lives. The internet provides wonderful access to information and education that is available to all and that can’t be a bad thing, we just need to get over it a little bit and think long and hard about how we use it.

    1. I think that I agree that banning is unwise. Most importantly, we need to keep our eyes on the prize, which is what we want to create, and less so on which tools were are willing to use to build those creations, those prizes. Certainly, we must carefully model use of the tools but remember that they are just tools and not what we are about and up to. It is so easy to get distracted without realizing that distraction. Similar to the fish not knowing it is in water. I wonder about the lives of those in colonial times. How much time/energy did they spend on being right vs surviving, and wherein lies the greater satisfaction/joy/productivity(you choose)?

  28. Love love love your blog. It pulls me in. Listening, reading, connecting, relating to what your saying. I just purchased my husband two of your books. Saved and Homegrown. He is reading Saved and really love it. He is reading to me…this is something he has not done with me and for ever…if ever…it’s good…drawing us together…reading by our wood stove in our cold (-29 today!!) Alberta winter. Thanks Ben. Looking forward to reading more or your books and blog. Looking forward to your new book coming out in 2015 as we just moved to a little acreage. We are homesteading and most of our friends (if they really are called that) think we are nuts!!! We grow our food, wear sheep made slippers and are looking at cooking our potatoes on the wood stove…gasp . Thanks again…Guy and Nadine from Alberta
    p.s. my primary language is french…your sure making me use the dictionary and increasing my vocabulary…love it !!

  29. This has been a struggle in our home, though as a person whose parents made conscious choices in the ’60s and ’70s not to have a TV and to live simply in the country (which we as children fought, of course, but now are grateful), it’s more second nature for me than for my husband to teach electronic media independence.
    I read this post to my teen daughters, and although at first they reacted to what they felt was a personal criticism, or one of those typical old folks “Yez are going to hell in a hand basket” rants, we had a good talk about it. I ended being able to reaffirm their good sense in and self-restraint about their smart phones, and felt that in any case, revisiting the topic periodically is a good idea. I encouraged them to continue to make conscious choices, not just let habits happen by default, and to question trends and pressures to “keep up.” They also get that they are privileged to influence their friends. It was interesting that my 18 year old daughter said that all her friends know they use their devices too much, and want to be more in tune with the world. I just hope that as a community we can continue to resist the monetization of their every moment of attention, and to nurture true individuality in an age of hyper-driven cultural diffusion.

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