How much is too much? I suppose that question could apply to anything in life, but I’m talking tech.
I carefully looked over my children’s Christmas lists for Santa this year, and I seriously wondered why they thought he had a direct line to the Apple store! iTouches, iPhones, MacBook Airs, iPads, iPods… They either think Santa is rich, or he’s just too busy to make anything himself!
My first point was about consideration for other family members who may be gifting to them. Those family members probably won’t be able to and should NOT spend that kind of money. My next point was about which gadgets are age appropriate. The fact that the entire 5th grade just got brand new MacBook Airs was not helping my case.
Imagine this scene: I’m on my iPhone, my laptop is open, and I am researching on my iPad- at the same time. Neriah is in her music zone with head phones stuck in her ears (thank God for those). Rain is playing on David’s iPad, and Sierra is glued to a new app she just downloaded on her iTouch! Shaya loves the matching game and cupcake making apps, but we’re not quite in a man-to-man tech zone yet, so he’s still playing with his action figures and using his imagination. On other days, my kids are making home videos on their Flip cameras (no, I didn’t buy those, they were gifted at our flip commercial shoot), and Neriah is actually learning how to edit and make movies. They also fully understand how to work digital cameras, Rain included. (She happens to be quite the 3 year old photographer!) I think there is value in young minds developing those skills. I also embrace the fact that it is a very different world than the one I grew up in, and any way you slice it, tech is totally integrated into their lives.
So here’s the deal. Because I own an online business, an e-commerce site, and I blog, I have to be realistic about how much I personally expose my family to Techville. But
my kids spend a LOT of time outdoors, playing in the sun, jumping on our trampoline, riding their bikes and rollerblading. We love to walk to our neighborhood park and go on imaginary adventures, we love family movie nights- NO gadgets allowed! But I still have to set the rules to escape living in a total cyber-world, so here’s what I do.
No computer time during the week, with the exception of homework computer assignments. There are NO phones allowed at the table, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. On the drive to school, I demand a little conversation, sans iTouches, or I would simply be the chauffer. I try to plan fun physical activities on the weekends so the kids get enough exercise. No one has had a cell phone until this Christmas. My girls have been begging for years, but I have explained that they are never without an adult or in a situation where someone in charge does not have a phone. Phones have not been necessary. Almost every kid in 5th grade at my daughter’s school has a phone, but I could care less- Neriah has not needed one.
Over the last year, she has worked her butt off to get straight A’s, and a phone was her reward. She is also dancing four hours a week, and I like to be able to communicate with her during that time, so I finally broke down and gave her my old phone. I do not allow cell phone use at home when a home phone is right next to them (and free).
I tell all my children that trust is HUGE in our family. They know what they should and should NOT do. I do not allow You Tube searching at their age, because of what may accidentally pop up if they misspell something. I don’t want any pornographic images opening up on their screens, followed by a desperate need for an explanation. When I was a kid, we were sneaking that stuff, it wasn’t accidentally shoved in our faces. It’s sick that we have to worry about that. Many families rely on the Internet monitoring devices, like the Cisco wireless router, to help with this problem. I have their whole lives to explain the birds and the bees; I do NOT want the Internet doing it for me.
I allow my older girls access and passwords into my iTunes account so they can download free apps. They must ask for permission to purchase, even if it’s only $1.99. When an unknown charge shows up, they pay me back asap. Neriah got $50.00 from Nana for Christmas, and the next morning had to hand me $45.00 for some charges she didn’t discuss with me. Bummer, but no exceptions. She can’t break those rules.
We have a heck of a lot of tech in our lives, but it’s not overpowering the things that matter most. By the way, the first thing that goes when there is a punishment is the iTouch (and soon the new phone). It’s works perfectly!