Saturday, November 16, 2013

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. 

19 comments:

  1. We just recently put a limit on the total "screen time" per day. We have always had limits on Netflix (we don't have regular television,) but like you, with the acquisition of an iPad a couple of months ago, the screen time continued to grow and grow. Right now they're limited to an hour a day total. They've been careful to follow the rules, and once the time is up, it's up, and then they move back into the realm of creativity. Of course, there are days where we might allow a little more, but especially during the school week, this is working rather nicely for our family :)

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    1. yah, we stick to neltflix too. We still have basic cable, but only because I have an odd issue of being without CNN. There is some kind of comfort in that channel for me that stems back to my childhood.

      Anyway, we allow them about 30 mins to an hour too. They aren't too crazy about t.v in general so it's just here and there, or something before bed time and after baths. But yes, there are days when I depend on it more. And allow more time on the ipads and such because it's a way for me to buy piece of mind and get stuff done. And honestly, I don't feel all that guilty about it seeing that they still have a full and creative playtime and activities daily.

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  2. I feel the exact same way. Neither Stefano nor I have ever been into video games so we don't have a system, but I began to let Seba watch a few tv shows here and there and a couple months ago he started saying "can I watch my show" as soon as I'd pick him up from school. It's weird, but I felt somewhat embarrassed. more of myself than what others would think. I started offering up fun activities and outdoor adventures instead. it's incredible how easy it is for them to forget tv or iPads when given and interesting alternative. I'm not an anti-technology parent, but I do think that they turn to it out of boredom or convenience. now I mix things up. a show. a puzzle there. dress-up and all around madness.

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    1. Agreed, it's all about balance. They most definitely turn to it out of boredom, which is why I pull it out of the option bin as soon as I see that happening on a regular basis. But you're right, they forget about it almost instantly too, which is always a relief to see. The way I look at it is as long as they are involved in all kinds of other creative, imaginative play on a daily basis, that they are stimulated by books and stories and parks and playtime, then it's fine as a treat for them and used the occasional "crutch" for us. With one child, I can see how it would be very easy to eliminate the need something like the iPad completely. With three, you start to realize that it's ok to allow yourself some breaks to save your sanity. Like I said, without it that day, the long Dr. Apt would have made me (them) loose our mind. Literally.

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  3. such an interesting topic for parents in the modern world. one i haven't had to address much yet, but i think about the future all the time. lucy does know how to scroll through an ipod already and tried to use the screen on my big camera as a touchscreen too. it is weird to me how quickly they pick up these things! i try not to let her hold the ipod or anyone's iphone (we don't have them ourselves) because if she gets to even a little she throws a fit next time someone takes it away or won't let her. anyway, i am worried because i heard that now they use ipads in schools, and that they don't even purchase school books for classrooms anymore, that they have the kids read books on computer screens....any word on this? is this true at your kids' schools? it makes me want to make my own school for my friends kids and mine where they still use good old fashioned books!

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    1. crazy how they are seemingly born knowing how to work an iphone these days, right Heather!?

      As for the ipads in school, no! Not ours. They still use and love books and visit their library weekly. I'm there one day a week to help in Arlo's class, and I go and watch them pick and read their choices proudly. So no, that would be awful if it were the case. I for one, still cannot bring myself to read a book online, or on the ipad. For me it takes away from the experience as a whole, so I would be heart broken if they took actual books out of my children's classrooms. I mean, that's just seems to be a cold, stark image of an learning environment no parent would be ok with.

      Very 1984ish, right?

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  4. Really interesting post Jessica and good to read others comments on this subject. I think there are some amazing kids TV and apps out there and my daughter's dad and granny both work in TV so we are obvs a bit more pro than others. Her granny is v tech driven and thinks she should have an ipad now so she's at the forefront of technology. I'm probably more of that school of thought. I also think its nice to let kids have a bit of what they love and my girl certainly seems to love TV and apps. I don't worry too much because she also loves a gazillion other things and is v v active. We spend heaps of time outdoors and doing other things - to be honest I don't think I could keep up with her energy without a bit of TV. One day I tried to have a no TV day and I got so snappy and stressed!! I cannot wait to watch Disney/Pixar films with her these long winter afternoons! That said I am concerned about total screen time and some of the negatives - too much TV def sends my daughter and me crazy, sometimes she can't follow fast enough and gets lost cue meltdown. Also it can become an easy fix - after a recent bout of illness we watched so much TV and then she got a bit fixated and wanted it all the time. I def feel like a 'bad mother' if I'm wacking the TV on all the time. In general I try and limit TV to 20 - 30 mins when I'm at my lowest ebb - so pre dinner. TV in the morning makes us both a bit wired and stories are a gentler start to the day. We do have a Sat morning kids TV rule though because we both grew up with that and loved it as kids. And recently, since we discovered lego, we've had a few no TV days because she'll play with lego by herself (up until now the only thing she'd do on her own was TV/apps). As for apps, I like them, some are really good and they are a godsend on long bus journeys/traffic etc. I worry about the iphone screen - it's way too small (my eyesight has got worse since iphone ). But interestingly since my iphone shattered and I've not let my girl use it for apps she has not noticed at all. On another note I am really concerned about my technology habits and spiralling use of the internet!!!! I'm def getting some bad habits (checking email/twitter/instagram first thing etc) and I worry about what she'll pick up from me!!

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  5. PS my comments relate to having a 2 year old - my friends with older school age kids do seem to be far more concerned about things like ipads/apps/games much more so than they were about TV. Mainly because the kids are asking for ipads and its becoming a status thing in the playground ("ive got an ipad - you don't etc)

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    1. oh gosh, I didn't realize it could be used as a status thing. But it makes sense. Luckily I haven't noticed anything like that with my boys, but I'm glad you brought it to my attention to keep an ear out for now.

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  6. sorry for somewhat off subject TV rant - too much coffee! wish you could edit comments sometimes! again - v interesting subject!!

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    1. don't apologize! I loved reading your thoughts and reflections on the topic, Phillipa.
      And the more the merrier, after all :)

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  7. We struggle with the same. My boys are still young enough that they don't know about ipads and apps, etc... but Hooper could watch Curious George all day everyday. We even call him out often for "talking" like George. I hate it, but sometimes I need a break and plopping him in front of the TV works. I don't make any apologies, you do what you have to do to maintain sanity in the home. Before I was a mom, I used to judge people that brought electronics to the dinner table at a restaurant. I don't judge anymore. We all do the best we can.

    On another note, my bro + sis in law were in town this weekend. They have a six month old girl and refuse to let her watch TV. I get it, a lot of people are like that. But I couldn't believe it when they scolded me for holding her in a position that allowed for her eyes to find our TV screen. I was so taken back by how neurotic they were. Different strokes for different folks.

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  8. good topic! we struggle with this every day. we tend to use the ipad and ipod as a reward. if the 5 year old earns a star in class, then he can have some time with the ipad after homework, if the 3.5 year old does the same, then ditto. when they misbehave, they are not allowed to use it and they understand that it is a privelage. i am however gulty of using it as a pacifier at times, when there is just no way to handle two crazy boys at the same time, ie. road trips, doctor visits, important phone calls. moderation and monitoring is my motto!

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    1. mine too!

      We're using it more as a reward these days too. They seem to respect and appreciate it more that way anyway. I've also taken to putting a timer on their turns so they understand they are each getting equal time with it which has helped cut down the fighting.

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    2. I may have to invest in an egg timer. ;)

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  9. So happy to hear yours and others thoughts on this, in particular with boys. I have three, 14, 10 and 5 (you know me on IG as jessaspen). Fifa is being played as i type this (ha!) I grew up without tv and loved the fact that I had to invent my own fun, but when I met my husband, who was raised on TV I missed a lot of pop culture references, which I didn't like. I have always wanted to have a balance in our household and so far it seems to be working fairly well. We, of course have had periods of time in which it becomes too much of habit or automatic go to with tantrums, etc to follow. In that case we usually hide whatever it is away and go with the strict guidelines. I feel like as with everything in parenting it really is harder for us as parents to keep the balance and set boundaries as often its easier to just let it happen, especially when in the middle of a conversation or project, dinner, etc. The handheld devices are the most difficult for us to keep in check. Our older boys are super active, playing with neighbors, skating, soccer, etc, but the second they come inside they automatically go for their ipad/kindle (which we held off on until a couple of years ago). The youngest doesn't have any hand held device yet, but loves movies on netflix and it's a constant battle, I am still trying to find the balance with him. When the technology is all put away (out of sight out of mind) I love the things they come up with to entertain themselves, so inventive and full of magic. And I love that they will go to books or magazines for entertainment if the ipad isn't an option. Also I find that the more I restrict it, the more inventive and calm they are. But with the older boys I find that it becomes such a mode for socializing, older boys are so funny to watch interact and they seem to need something like a ball, skateboard or video game to hang out. We continue to navigate our way through it mostly based on our gut and what feels ok or not. Moderation in most everything seems to be working best for us. Wow! that was a ramble. Thanks for the topic! P.S Your pregnancy has given me such a baby fever, will love to live vicariously!

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  10. My hubby and I go back and forth with this subject so much. He has done so much reading up on the effects of TV on children etc and it just freaks me out. I have seem the ends of both spectrum's and right in the middle is where kind of are. We as parents don't use our phones or iPad around the kids (3ys and 6 months) My son can watch some shows if it is to help me out. Sesame St or charlie brown to help me get dinner done etc but once it is done they (TV shows) go to bed and it is time to play with his sister or dad or me or outside or all of the above. When he was smaller he had night terrors and after we figured out it was because of the TV we put a end to that and since then no more night terrors. But what every works for your family to survive because at the moment we are all just trying to survive and I mean survive in a good way.

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    1. I agree. I don't think - whether you're against it completely or not - that judging other parents who allow it is a good thing either. I've seen and experienced that to a degree. Where I believe, like you said, to each their own and whatever helps you get by and works for you and your particular household is what matters most. Also, Charlie Brown and Sesame Street are two of my all time favorites as well. I actually really admire almost every aspect of S.S - and tend to pick that one when I need to finish up emails or get dinner done. "we're all trying to survive" - that's a fact. I remind myself this all the time, to keep it in mind when it comes to how I view other families, parents, households, and their decisions within. For the most part, we're all doing the best we can.

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  11. Hello. I recently stumbled upon your blog. I must say I've been enjoying perusing through some of your posts. I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, love camping and thrifting too. So I guess you could say I dig your style.

    Anyhow, I have two boys (3 and 6 years) and we struggle with how much technology to let into their lives too. We have a Wii with the most basic of games on it and it's rarely used. We try to keep phone games limited to educational type apps for the kids. The 6 year old does indulge in Temple Run sometimes which my husband has on his phone. But just like with the t.v. we try to keep it limited and make it count. We do like to look up "how it's made" videos on the ipad. Our boys love seeing how just about anything is made. They can also be convenient to use when you're out and in a pinch to avoid a tantrum or keep them busy and occupied instead of them being bored and creating chaos, although we try not to rely on it much.

    I'll say we just try to lead by example and not let our phones, ipad, computer or t.v. get in the way of our doing things in our own lives. We try to get out and do stuff as much as we can. Whether it's getting together with friends, going camping in the summer or skiing in the winter and always taking hikes and playing lots of catch in the yard. Leading by example is the best we can do. On the other hand we love Charlie Brown too and The Muppets. They're are old favorites of ours that we like to indulge our children with once in a while.

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