Electronics. Tablets. iPods. Computers. Gaming systems. Handheld devices. Phones.
They are EVERYWHERE!
I love technology! I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone, my iPad, my iPod, and my MacBook Air. I think the world might end if I didn’t have a DVR, Netflix and Hulu. My husband would not know what to do without DirecTV and all the sports/fishing/hunting shows he likes to watch. Jumping on the trampoline is so much more fun when you can take the tablet outside and listen to music, according to Anne. And Ty, well, one word, Minecraft.
I hate electronics. I know, I just said I love technology, and I do, I just hate what it is doing to the family and to parenting.
Somewhere along the way, television became a babysitter for many people, and now all our mobile devices, gaming systems, and the like have taken over.
What happened to sitting around a table and playing a board game or card game together?
What happened to sitting on the porch talking to one another?
These days, kids have their heads buried in whatever device or game is currently the “it” thing, and parents are no better.
And the sad thing is, we are seeing the fruits of it everywhere we go. Just look around you the next time you are in a public place. What percentage of people are carrying on conversations with the people around them and what percentage are looking at (or distracted from their conversation by) a screen of some kind?
Technology and electronic devices are not bad. But when they are used in excess and in place of human interaction, they hinder the development of the family.
Children need their parents, not a screen. They need to see mom and dad’s eyes, not the tops of their heads.
Our family is as guilty of this as the next.
The problem is it is easy for me to pick up the iPad and check on Facebook. It is easy for my kids to grab the tablet to check on whatever game they are currently playing. It is easy for Mike to pick up the remote and have the television on all evening.
But in order for us to operate as a family, we can’t all hole up with our respective devices and be completely isolated while sitting in the same room.
So we have to set boundaries. In our house, the kids are not allowed to use any electronic devices (exception: Anne’s “dumb” phone when she is away from us, or television when we are watching as a family) from bedtime Sunday night through after school on Friday. And this is true even in the summer. No weekday electronic use. And on the weekends it is limited. An hour-and-a-half maximum per day. Now, there are sometimes when we get lax on the weekends – particularly if it is nasty weather outside, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
There are lots of reasons that we have gone this direction. First of all, we have seen what happens to children with an addiction to gaming and electronics – they grow up to be adults addicted to gaming and electronics. In addition, it is so important for kids to be able to go outside and play, or find ways to be creative inside. But probably the most important reason is that when the kids aren’t distracted with electronics they are present and interacting with us, which means they are talking to us. And with a teen and pre-teen, talking is crucial for us to know what is happening in their lives.
So these things are all good, and it works for us. But, in addition, Mike and I need to work on not picking up the tablet/iPhone/iPad when the kids are around so that we are available to listen to what they are talking about. I know this is an area of weakness for us, but that is no excuse.
Parents, I think it is time for us to put it down, look up and see that our kids are growing up way too fast, and they shouldn’t have to do it on their own while we are distracted by the device in our hands. And when they see us putting it down, they are more likely to follow our lead and put it down as well.
What are the rules about electronic use in your house? Does it work well for you? Why or why not?