kids & technology

This is a topic of conversation that seems to be popping up more frequently around my circle of friends. Due to the fact that a few of us now have school aged kids, where the allure of the ipod / ipad first starts to really take hold.

In the past, we haven't had any video games in our house, other than a wii box used solely for Netflix streaming purposes. Mike was never into games, I never played them, so it was never on our radar as parents seeing that it wasn't in our interests as kids. The ipod, however has been. Arlo was given an old phone a friend of mine passed along that he plays games on (mine craft in specific) and can even text (us and a handful of friends and family we have programmed for him) as well as a private Instagram account to share photos with us too. So far, it's been ok - as long as we monitor his time (and downloads) on it.  That's not to say we haven't hit a few bumps in the road. When it comes to these types of things I would say we are fairly lax, figuring - like their time with television - "everything in moderation." However if I start to see that the first thing he runs to after getting home from school, is the phone, I know there's a problem. We've had a couple bouts where it appeared  he was getting a little too "hooked" for our liking and had to crack down on it by simply putting it away or reinstalling stricter guidelines in regards to game time. Luckily his after school interests were quick to return to the regular: skateboard, and the neighbor kids out front. Handball, baseball, bikes and kicking around the curb until dark. After homework and before baths he is allowed some time to play the games and mess around on the phone. And on the weekend, he has much more control over his time with it but we still remind him to leave it home or in the car during dinner out, visits with friends and so on.

With the younger boys, it's been much more difficult. We recently bought an iPad and it has proven an all together BAD idea. The source of non stop fights and constant frustrations. They sneak it into bed and leave it carelessly around the house, outside, all over the place. It's gotten to the point that I now have to put it away, up high, out of sights, and only bring it out as a treat. To watch a movie or play their favorite game. (Right now all three of them really enjoy the Tocca Mini app, so they each get to design a doll, snap a photo and package it before passing it over to the next one in line) Again, at this age, it usually winds up too much of a headache for me than anything else. Except for a couple weeks ago when I decided last minute to drag them along to an early morning dr. apt and we ended up being stuck in office for close to two hours. That day, it was the iPad, and the iPad alone that saved us from a couple major (public) breakdowns.

So, yes, it does have it's benifits, its just a matter of deciding when and where to allow for them. Whether we have their interests in mind or ours. Sometimes handing over a phone to distract them so we can finish up something else can be all too tempting on certain days, during specific hours. So far, we're figuring it out as we go. Pulling back when needed, doing our best to instill a healthy balance between the whimsical aspects of early childhood that involve lots of innate, imaginary playtime indoors and out, while still allowing a little room to grow into the kinds of modern "conveniences" this generation is no doubt surrounded by in their households these days.

How 'bout you guys? Any advice / tips / insights in regards to kids and technology? Would love to hear from you on the issue.