I have a confession.
Me – the mom who prides herself on having children who love books and nature and kickball; the mom who created a lovely little bubble in those early years where technology only occasionally made an appearance (usually in the form of Elmo’s World); the mom who extols the virtues of limiting screen time and DVD free car rides…
My five-year-old is screen-obsessed. He recently morphed into an I-can’t-get-enough-don’t-tell-me-no tech junkie.
I’m concerned, friends. Concerned that the first thing he asks to do in the morning is not to get out play-dough or build Legos, but to play his iPad. Concerned that, if I suggest he play a while instead, he just follows me around asking, “How much longer?” instead of battling imaginary dragons. Concerned that he would be in front of a screen all day long, if I let him.
And, of course, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out how or why this happened.
MAYBE it’s because second children are inevitably exposed to more, faster, and his little brain isn’t ready for it.
MAYBE it’s because we made the mistake of giving the boys iPads for Christmas, unintentionally creating an “expectation” of daily tablet time, rather than it being a special treat to play on Mommy or Daddy’s phone.
MAYBE it’s the fault of arctic temperatures holding us hostage indoors all day long, where I find myself justifying an afternoon of Kinect as “exercise.”
Or MAYBE it’s just how kids are these days.
No. No way. I refuse to accept that this is The Way Things Must Be.
This isn’t a problem we expected to have, as parents. Most of us didn’t imagine raising our kids amidst iPads and smart phones. These things didn’t even exist when I became a mom eight years ago. Did.Not.Exist!!! That is how quickly things have changed.
So we can cut ourselves a little slack, if we are caught off-guard by the way technology has crept into our day-to-day, one app at a time, until here we are, in a place we never imagined ourselves. Namely, wondering if there are iPad detox facilities for preschoolers.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that this worry – this GUILT (there’s the g-word!) – is probably a sign that we’re doing something right.
We do set limits, even if our kids resist them. I recently implemented “screen time coupons” to make the limits more tangible for everyone (and – bonus! – encourage cooperation), and I’ve been using the OurPact app to help me follow our rules. The clearer the limits, the less preoccupied my little guy seems to be.
We create sacred spaces and times – like car rides and meals and bedtimes – when there are no screens.
We talk to the kids about our values and why we set limits, including the importance of having hobbies and passions that make us more interesting people, which won’t happen if we have our noses to the screen 24/7.
And we do spend a lot of time doing other things. We read and practice basketball in the (freezing) garage and play board games at the kitchen table. Yesterday my little guy spent an hour creating elaborate story lines with his action figures. It isn’t either-or, it’s both-and.
I’ve concluded that this tightrope of ambivalence is simply part of being a caring parent. My concern means I’m paying attention to where we’re headed, rather than following blindly. It’s what motivates me to examine our family’s choices and make changes when things aren’t working.
I know my goal: Allow my kids to experience the benefits of technology while keeping the negatives to a minimum and ensuring our lives aren’t dictated by our devices. And I know that it is my job, as mom, to keep us balanced.
Now where are those screen time coupons?!
This post is sponsored by OurPact, a digital app for iOS that helps parents manage their children’s screen time.