I have no easy thoughts today. Technology is a bear in our house. At once we feel there is too much (computers, iPhones, television…) and not enough (it would be nice to have an internet movie streaming box, or a DVD player, or better speakers…should the kids have their own iPod in their play room???). And this, as much if not more than any other place, is where Papa-Bug and I disagree. I want to err on the side of too little technology in our kids lives. He wants to give them more access than I feel is good for them.
Kim John Payne argues that about seven-years old is when a kid is old enough to use screen media. Based on the little I know about emotional and mental development and perparadness, I think he is probably right.
But I have an iPhone, and the kids see me use it. But the pictures of their cousins are all online, along with videos, and I want them to feel connected to the far-away members of their families. But the internet is full of amazing resources for the homeschooling child.
Here is what technology use looks like in our house right now:
Family Movie Night on Friday night – this is a recent institution, to try and pull back from a more erratic schedule and make our TV viewing more intentional and less about parents being too tired to handle bedtime.
Television or Movie on Tuesday night – I get home from work with just enough time (sometimes) to scarf some dinner before bedtime. It’s the only night I work outside this home, and it really confuses our evening schedule. Additionally, I am blitzed when I get home so unwinding with the TV Box helps me a lot.
Brother-Bug gets 30 minutes of computer time a day, his discretion – he has a log in and desktop with internet links to his favorite (and parent approved) sites. He uses it up first thing in the morning and knows that is all there is. Since setting this up, we have had much less begging and whining. He whines just a little when he gets logged off at the 30-minute mark.
iPhone use for Brother -Bug at parental discretion – I keep only educational apps on my phone. Papa-Bug has a slightly wider selection. We try to save iPhone play for Brother-Bug for times we need quiet or patience, or when it’s a special treat. If he asks and we say NO, that’s it. Whining and begging for iPhone uses loses future opportunities to play with the magical technical device.
Sometimes there is more screen time than “scheduled” – looking at pictures or finding relevant YouTube movies with a parent. Next week, for example, we are going to watch some of “Cars” while we try to make a map of Radiator Springs for a school project. However, I try to keep education mostly off the computer so far.
I try to keep my phone checking and internet browsing to a minimum, but it is a struggle for me. I want to read blogs, keep up with email and Twitter, and all the rest… One thing I have found is keeping the ringer off on my phone. I can check it occasionally throughout the day and if there is an emergency I will be called at home anyway. I turn on the ringer when we leave the house or if I know I am expecting a call. I love my phone for the number of managerial tasks it can handle for me. In many ways it frees me up for other, more important, tasks. And it frequently sucks my attention when I least have attention to spare. It’s a quest for balance.
Sister-Bug doesn’t really figure into it much yet. I know in my guts that she is too young to watch movies and TV, but she does anyway because Brother-Bug does and we like to do movies together as a family. She doesn’t play computer or iPhone games yet, but she does like to turn my phone to the lock screen to see the picture of her lovely self.
When it comes down to it, media and technology are an important part of the world my kids are growing up in. Part of my job is to help my kids grow slow, giving them plenty of time to Simply Play. Another part of my job is teaching them how to use (not abuse) and negotiate (not sink into) the media morass into which they were born. I don’t know if I am doing it “right”. More and more of the time I want to take the kids far into the woods where Dora the Explorer won’t invade their priceless childhood with her marketing schemes.
((There is a future post coming about Licensed Characters and their place in our home))
But that is not practical… because there just isn’t service for my iPhone out in the middle of the woods.
What about you invisible readers out there? I feel like I am constantly in a battle for technological balance, and I must renegotiate my position from day to day. How do you feel about technology and kids or families? How do you use technology in your homes?
Some of this post was inspired by The Happiest Mom’s post on being a “tech mom”. I don’t know if I am a “tech mom” or not. It might depend on the day.
Over at the Simplicity Parenting Blogthere are lots of articles about media, technology and Simplicity Parenting. I want to peruse them more, but right now I have been on the computer for about as long as I can be. Time to start dinner!