I opened my front door to see my daughter’s friend and her mother. Her mother came by to drop something off and got to talking, as so many of us do. My eyes kept drifting to her daughter, who had taken several steps into my home without even looking up from her game.
“Honey, say hello. ”
“Hmm-o,” she grumbled back, still without taking her eyes off of the tablet screen.
The mom was too busy and probably exhausted to protest, even though I could tell that she was less than thrilled with her daughters interaction or lack thereof. We want to say that this is not the norm. We want to insist that moderation is key and we draw the line somewhere, but is it true? First, it’s only when you’re not feeling well or so that they can check out an educational game. Somewhere along the line, it drifts. On multiple occasions with more than one family, we’ve been on play dates where electronics have been at the focus. A beautiful day outside with just the right amount of sun and breeze and a fenced in yard yielded to the children’s desire to play with a tablet or watch episodes of their favorite show.
It’s not just our children. I’ve spoken to adults who are scrolling their Facebook feed while we’re having a conversation. My generation is pegged pretty heavily for being like this and now we’re passing it on to our kids. We’re all being sucked into this virtual world. People tell me that it’s a necessary evil because we’re such a technologically advanced society but I have to disagree.
One day seven years ago, my oldest wouldn’t respond to my call because she was too enthralled with the television show she was watching. That wasn’t the first time but I decided that it was the last time. From then on, I just redirected her to other activities and it was pretty easy. When the others were born, I just didn’t introduce it as a regular thing so they never got used to it.
What do they do instead of television, tablets, and video games?
They play! They play really similarly to how I did as a kid just minus TV and computers. They play house and school, Barbies, cars, Legos, and the older ones are allowed to ride their bikes to the neighbor’s. In old school fashion, we walked door-to-door and familiarized ourselves with the neighbors who had children. We allow them to play with their friends outside in the yards.
I know that society has come away from the freedom of riding bikes down the street and playing outside because we’re afraid but I firmly believe that the world is not scarier than when I was a child. I think that the terrifying news is more readily available to us in our Facebook feeds but I believe that “It takes a village to raise a child” is a timeless motto. Just a few days ago, one of the neighborhood boys veered to the home of a new neighbor without mentioning it to his mom. Well, every parent in the neighborhood was out on foot, bikes, or in their car calling for him until he was located. We don’t live in a neighborhood that has block parties and brings you casseroles when you move in, but we take care of our kids together. It does take an amount of effort on your part, though. My husband takes the kids through the neighborhood homes selling Girl Scout cookies and they introduce themselves to every neighbor. We met and exchanged numbers with all of the parents. You will hear us at dinner time every day shouting the kids’ names like it’s 1990 again.
What about the younger kids?
Realistically, I know that you are probably not on the floor reading, coloring, and building Legos all day and I don’t blame you, neither am I. I’m all over the puppet shows or Legos but you’re on your own for the Barbies. I know a lot of people are into the “self-soothe” thing for babies and similarly, that’s what you have to teach the kids to do in regards to entertainment. To quote my own mother, “life is not a three-ring circus”.
During the summer, we go somewhere at least several times a week or as of this year, we set aside entire weeks for Vacation Bible School. If you’re not religious, summer camps are an option. I can imagine even making up your own summer camp with moms from a mom group. Gather up around four or more other mothers and set a couple of hours every day to craft, teach, dance, whatever! We also go to festivals, local events like the OCNJ summer stuff, and tons of other stuff in our area for up to about two hours away (a long car ride where they fight the whole time is still better than fighting all day!).
We bought a smaller house than we really wanted because of its BIG yard! We previously lived in Philadelphia where there were no yards and certainly no fenced in yards. I love that I can cook and look out the window to see my kids playing on our trampoline or play set.
We’re also big on teaching them responsibility, so all day is not just a free-for-all either. Even the little ones will have their chores to help out with some of those messes they are making. Actually, that brings me to another point…
My house is definitely messier than it would be if we did a bunch of technology. A tablet is one thing, you put it in a drawer or something. The dolls, cars, and Lincoln Logs take up a little more space. We are constantly working on cleaning things up right after you use them but it’s a work in progress. I will clean up their messes to a point but I’m not spending my day cleaning either because I have work, lunch, dinner, and you know what, sometimes I craft too. (Moms, it’s okay to have hobbies…we’ll talk about that sometime!)
So you don’t do electronics EVER?
The title was easier to say we don’t but it’s more like don’t really do electronics. We will watch movies together sometimes. We love superhero movies and of course, Disney. We’ve tried to do educational games and apps on tablets but I feel like it never lasts. It just works better for us to use workbooks that don’t break or need to be charged. They have their own laptop that we got for school but I think we’ve opened it twice in the year we’ve owned it.
Have you always been against it?
Not even! I hear lots of people pre-kids declare, “My kids will never watch TV!” and people with kids will go, “Yeah, we’ll see when you have kids!” I watched tons of television. I once rang up a $280 phone bill when you used to have to pay per text message. AOL chats and MySpace were my jam. I didn’t see the harm, I turned out fine. This is just how it happened and it’s worked really well for us for so many years already!
I just wanted to put all of this out there. Maybe it’s something you’ve thought about doing and now you feel like you can try it. Maybe it’s something you think is impossible and you’re interested to hear how it’s done. Maybe you think it’s not the right decision and that’s cool too.
What’s your stance on technology and kids?