From July 11, 2012
Three years ago, I blogged about technology, and while so much of it still rings true, I realize that each year, younger children are accessing technologies, and we need to attend to what this means for your youth.
I will digress with a bit of history. When my twins were turning thirteen, we were purchasing their first cell phone. There was no camera, no internet and no texting. It was a phone. The intended purpose for them to have a cell phone was for those moments when they were out and about; they had an easy way to reach us. They actually shared the phone! When they turned fifteen, they had earned the privilege of having their own phones, with limited texting added. I can only imagine parents reading this and laughing. I feel like my kids’ experience with their first cell phone is as outdated as mine - my first cell phone was a box phone that I carried in a big black bag whenever I went to my car! And I thought I was cool!
I am aware that children are exposed to technology earlier and earlier these days. Watching a toddler maneuver apps on an iPad in the mall recently, I realized that the next generation of children will be more skilled at computers than coloring in a coloring book. Schools are even doing away with cursive. Students learn the basic letters and are learning to write their names, but the years spent learning cursive are making way for keyboarding and computer literacy. Children are taught in school to prepare Powerpoint presentations and are turning pages of a book with the flip of a finger on their e-readers. Backpacks, once weighted down by books going to and from school, are becoming lighter as school books are now on CD or accessible through the internet.
So my advice to parents is to supervise and assist our youth in getting connected, but remind them of two things always: 1) it is a PRIVILEGE to have access to the latest and greatest technology and 2) imaginative play, running around outside, and face to face interactions with peers still provides the healthiest opportunity for the development of strong social skills. Papers still can be written by hand, house phones, a.k.a. landlines, do ring up their friends, reading a book by the fireplace is still one of the best, most relaxing pastimes around, and spontaneous play outside in the fresh air is F-U-N. In other words, balance is key!
Set healthy limits. It is okay to set time limits on the computer, television, or X-Box. It’s also important to put all electronics away during certain parts of the day, or even week. As a role model for your child, practice disconnecting from the electronic world when interacting in the real world (dinners together, in line at a grocery store, out with friends, holidays…). And most importantly, find time to play – without electronics. Whether it’s a card game, board game, sports, art, or dramatic play, show your children how to HAVE FUN interacting in real time! If you start this when your children are younger, they will grow up knowing these non-electronic activities are also important parts of life!
I will end by sharing one of my favorite memories: when I was a child, I used to love to create forts. Fashioned between my sister’s and my beds, blankets topped the forts and were held in place by books and pillows. Flashlights, cards, more pillows, and toys were inside. Another blanket acted as the door to the outside world, and we hid away and played in the fort. I remember giggling often. Two D batteries to power up the flashlight were all the electronics needed for hours of fun!