January 26, 2012

Family Fridays: Beating Technology

While the grandparents were watching our kids, my husband and I snuck out on a date. By ourselves. Did I mention we were without our children? Oh, I did? Ok, it’s just that we rarely get this opportunity so it’s pretty exciting. Anyhoooooo, we went out to dinner at the Pioneer (a great staple in Ketchum, ID) and got all cozy in our seats, drinks in hand, when we both noticed the table next to us. Two kids, probably around 5 or 6 or so, were totally entranced with their video games on their ipods. The parents (looked like two sets) were happily drinking and laughing and telling stories – now before I trash these parents, I will say that it looked rather nice to be fully engaged with your friends while your children tended to themselves – but those kids were totally and completely zonked out on these ipods. I mean, a HUGE piece of chocolate cake goodness was brought to the table for dessert and the kids did not even glance up to check it out. They completely missed out on CHOCOALTE CAKE!!!!! That’s when the red lights started going off in my head.

The table left and was replaced by another set of parents and their children (these were younger, maybe 3 or 4) and they TOO reached in their pockets for their ipods and started playing before they even took off their jackets. Say what!?!? What ever happened to shared family meals where everyone talked to each other? And if you want to gab away with your friends get a babysitter. I guarantee those kids would be happier at home, racing around than sitting in a restaurant listening to you go on and on about your flight or your boots or your work.

Anyway, we came away from that dinner shocked and scared. I think it is a very steep upward battle to coax your children away from technology and games and facebook and what have you. You need a lot of ideas in your toolbox. You need a lot of energy. You need a lot of alternatives and options. That’s not to say that you have to BAN these gadgets from your children, but letting them play on them for over an hour while you eat with your friends is just rude.

I am glad I saw these families though because just a few days prior to that night I was thinking I may have to get Maya her own ipod or something because she keeps grabbing for mine to listen to music and books on tape and she has started to accidently erase some of the content (not that big of a deal since it’s all saved on my computer) – but after watching these kids obsess over their games and such, I whole-heartedly am saying no. You cannot have your own gadgets until you are much older and can manage the time on them more effectively. I am reminded of an article I read in the NY Times about technology and Waldorf education – they don’t introduce technology until much later in school and tons of Amazon, Apple etc.. executives send their kids to Waldorf schools primarily because of this. I thought that was so interesting – the people who are creating this technology do not want their children exposed to it 24/7. Food for thought.

And I should talk. Both my husband and I are constantly checking our emails, looking up sport's scores, checking blogs on our gadgets...we really need to reel that in if we expect our children to stay clear of these same gadgets. I don't think they are completely horrible though - like I said, my ipod has been fantastic at keeping Maya busy listening to stories and books on tape while we are on a long car ride or I am trying to cook dinner. I have not introduced her to games on it - I wouldn't even know where to start. So for now it is simply a vehicle for music and stories. We don't own a TV, so there is no television shows on ever and hardly any movies. We occasionally watch Madeline episodes on the computer or a Pooh movie at the grandparent's house, but these are special occasions - when we are sick or completely exhausted from staying up with our baby the night before. I would say Maya watching a movie maybe once a month. And that's ok by me - a little can go a long ways.

I should also add that being a parent comes with a LOT of baggage - not everyone will agree with how you raise your kids - you will get strange looks at restaurants whether you are letting your kids use ipods or letting them use whipped cream from dessert to draw on their napkins...we do what we can to stay sane and everyone has their magic tool in their back pocket. I just want mine to be a different tool than games and TV - this isn't to say my way is better. I am sure that letting your kids draw all over their kiddo furniture is teaching them a lesson I may regret some day. But I'm ok with that.  Furniture is replaceable. Childhood is not. 

1 comment:

  1. And that's why we didn't let you girls have a Nintendo when YOU were children...we fostered lots of "free time" to exercise your imaginations...and the creativity both you girls have shown over the years is "proof in the pudding" that the having to come up with something to do other than games on a Nintendo was a good thang. : > ) Mom


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