My house had been without internet since last Thursday’s snowstorm.

The gloomy weather brought my son to a time long before he was born, when his mama was a child in the dark ages, when kids had to play outside and use this thing called an imagination for entertainment — also called the 1980s and early ’90s.

At first, there was the whining and cries of “I don’t know what to do!” Then, probably only an hour in, my sweet 10-year-old found his imagination again — it had been in storage since he was about 7.

For those glorious few days, he dusted off his stuffies that he loves so much and finally opened a toy he got for his last birthday a month and a half ago. He played. He sang songs. He wrote stories and drew characters. And he managed to be sweet and attentive. My 18-year-old daughter even built a snowman in the front yard.

Thank goodness for early spring snow and power outages.

By the time the internet returned a week later, my son spurned that time without his tablet in his hand, and left a trail of tossed stuffies and abused toys in his wake.


A little bit of attitude returned; he demanded I make him lunch the first day back on the Wi-Fi; he declared he was too old for babysitters now. It seems he also forgot who he was talking to…

And me? I find myself now longing for a few days without the internet on a weekly basis. I wonder if Fidium can throw a mom a break?

Marla Hoffman

To be honest, I was glad when the Wi-Fi returned. But the goings on of the past week have made me contemplate how good this new-age technology could be if my child’s whole demeanor changes with the flick of a switch? How much positivity is this 10-year-old really getting from these devices?

Much like other parents out there, I struggle with the good and evil of screen time.

Electronics, for better or worse, have changed our culture, our access to the world, even our patterns of behavior and thinking. For parents especially, the things that go bleep and bloop in the night can, quite literally, make us lose sleep.

Questions toddler-crawl through our heads: Am I doing this right? Should little Susie have less screen time? Should I relax a bit and let little Jimmy have a little bit more time on the Xbox? Should I allow little Stan on YouTube? And if I do, what should or shouldn’t I let him watch? If I let little Becky watch TV after school does that make me a gauche mom?


The answer to all these questions has alluded me. Mostly, I think, that is because there’s no one good answer. Exactly zero parents I have talked to know for sure. Most of them, like me, are just figuring it out as they go.

By and large, parents feel torn, pressured and eventually judged for however they handle this issue.

Experts from ScreenGuide ( say among the negative aspects of letting children use electronics, it can lead to: less physical activity, which can lead to obesity; not spending enough time with their family and/or friends; poor affect on sleep quantity and quality, leading to serious consequences on the brain; antisocial tendencies, leading to negative behavior changes; access to websites that may be inappropriate or harmful — among many others.

From my own experience raising a teenager, I see how cellphones, social media and apps like Snapchat — where a person could have almost full access to their friends and frenemies — can have a negative effect on self-confidence, relationships, self-worth, and, ironically, at the same time an undue sense of self-importance.

Then we have the other side of the arguments, where parents, schools, the scientific community and society as a whole have been able to wield our devices for some pretty amazing outcomes. On the most basic level, technology use in schools has changed, for better or worse, how children are learning.

My son, who is in fourth grade, has been using a school-issued iPad to accompany instruction since first grade. The kids practice grade-level math, language, reading, reasoning skills, vocabulary … even music, and more. The iPads and computers at school are always used to accompany teacher instruction, never as a replacement for actual teaching — it’s a tool to reinforce lessons.


The most use I had for a computer at school when I was in fourth grade was to play Oregon Trail and Pong. How times have changed.

Since early in the coronavirus pandemic, iPads were used when schools went to remote instruction days. While schools have reopened since, electronics are still being used now to have remote instruction days during snowstorms and other events, making use of Zoom and accessing online classroom materials.

Through the use of technology, humans have unprecedented access to what’s happening around the world. It has increased communication with family and friends across the globe, aided in scientific research, led to the development of medicines, created new technology, and provided access to pretty much any kind of information you’d want to know — right at your finger tips.

All this, not to mention the philanthropy that exists online. Fundraisers, philanthropic organizations, websites that promote nonprofits, support groups for people struggling with illnesses such as cancer and Lou Gehrig’s disease. There are far too many to list in this short column. But it is nice to know there are so many people and organizations out there wanting to do good for people, animals, the planet and other worthy causes.

Good and bad — tech is in nearly everything. As I try to teach my children about responsible use, sometimes I struggle distinguishing what’s too much, too little, or just enough. As much as adults try to set good, healthy examples of how to use tech and the internet responsibly, we know there are certainly too many adults who get negatively swept up in social media.

When schools are telling our kids that they should limit their screen time, but then hand them an iPad a moment later, I can see how they’d be confused, too. After all, we want kids to get to the point where they can self-regulate. But I fear many of them will not self-regulate for a very long time considering there are few good examples — inconsistent ones at best.


The positives of the internet are worth a stroll. And the negatives aren’t going anywhere.

Some will argue that parents need only find a balance of time in front of a screen as well as time away from it. Easier said than done in this digital era. But it seems most people overwhelmingly agree there needs to be more time away as a whole — for both children and adults.

How you do that is up to you, it appears. Do what you think is fair. Get input from your child and spouse, and maybe even your child’s doctor. Some children are more mature than others — so get to know your kid.

The reality is that technology and the internet are going to increasingly be a part of our lives. It’s here to stay. We have to learn to coexist in a productive and safe way.

So how do we do that? How do I convince my kids that time spent away is just as good?

…I guess I’m back where I started.

Marla Hoffman is the nighttime managing editor for the Sun Journal and can be reached at

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