Friday, August 30, 2013

Kids and technology

I sometimes wonder if my kids are behind when it comes to technology.  And then I immediately think of how ludicrous that thought is.  Or is it?

Rich and I both grew up without computers.  My family didn't own a VCR until I was in high school and I can't even remember when my parents finally had cable tv installed because I had long since moved out by that point.  As children, our parents threw us outside and that's where we stayed for the day.  We had to learn how to keep ourselves entertained.

My kids aren't perfect and we do hear, "I'm bored."  Last week, I asked Rich if he remembers saying that to his parents.  "I'm bored."  Because I can't ever remember saying it.  I asked my mom if my brothers and I said that to her and she said no.  When my kids complain of boredom, I'm one of those annoying parents who has a story.  You want to hear what's boring.  I'll tell you what's boring.  Try being stuck in the back of a station wagon for three days as your family drives from Massachusetts to Florida.  I had a walkman and that was it.  What's a walkman? you ask.  Google it.

Rich has had his iPhone for just over a year now.  I've had mine since Christmas.  Up until July, we had never handed over our phones to the girls in order to keep them entertained.  Do I want an award for that?  No.  That's just the way we've decided to parent.  And there are a few different reasons for that. I honestly don't think my kids need to use the phones for entertainment on a regular basis and that's partly because of how I grew up.  In addition, it's easier for me if they aren't using my phone.  There are two phones (or sometimes only one) and three kids.  You do the math.

A few months ago, I brought Anna to a classmate's birthday party that was held at a bowling alley.  After the kids bowled, they received some tokens to use in the arcade.  One of Anna's friends introduced her (and me) to Fruit Ninja.  A few days later, I downloaded the free app to my phone but I didn't tell the girls about it.  I was saving it.  Sometimes Anna needs to do things she doesn't want to do (medical stuff) and I thought that a new distraction would help if she was having a rough day.  This is why I try not to judge other parents.  To most, Anna's condition is invisible.  Spina bifida has taught me that I don't know the details of other families and that looks can be very deceiving.

So let's clear up a myth:  Having triplets does not mean that it's easier for us because they keep each other entertained.  If anything, they spend an equal amount of time arguing as they do playing together.  So no, it's not easier for us.  In fact, I don't think any parent has the right to say that another parent has it easier.  And it most definitely shouldn't be used as a reason behind a parenting decision.

There are only two things my kids do on my phone: scroll through my photos and play Fruit Ninja.  During this past month, I would say that they've each spent a max of two hours using my phone.  That's it.  I've been hesitant to load educational apps because I prefer for them to read from actual books and to use math workbooks.  They all need to work on writing numbers.  It's easier for me to hand out three books than to monitor screen time.  And, it's MY phone.  Not theirs.

At the end of the day, no matter what I decide to do with my phone, it's a phone and my kids need to learn how to use it as a phone.  It's so odd sometimes to think of how much the world has changed.  The house I grew up in had a rotary dial phone.  It will be interesting to see what my views are and how different (or not) life will be in the future.

Parenting - is there an app for that?  (There probably is.)


Christi said...

Loved this! I have three who are not triplets. We got iPhones around the same as you. They are not a toy!

EngrSandi said...

I agree with your opinion on phone usage by children. Mine are teens and have their own phones, but never played with ours before that.

I am curious, however, if the girls are using computers at school and/or home? It seems that most schools are, even as young as 1st grade. I know my boys were using computers before that, mostly because my husband is in IT and we wanted them to be tech savvy.

Anonymous said...

Love this also! Another blog I follow,
wrote about why she doesn't want her children to have electronic devices. Read her post dated August 18, titled, The Next Best Thing.


Anonymous said...

Great journal entry.

Some parents are SOOOO ridiculous these days. I have seen what looked to be a 3 year old with an IPAD!! It had that plastic fisher price ipad protective cover, but still, are you really letting your toddler play with a $700 device?

And I went to a church function (we don't go at all except for when family invites us for a blessing or whatever) and I looked around and about 4 kids (in different families!) were playing on their phones. I hope those were parent phones and not phones belonging to those kids (elementary age)!

Most kids these days are hopelessly lazy at entertaining themselves. They need someone to think up things for them to do all the time!

I agree that having triplets does NOT mean easier at all. Yes, they have playmates, but it doesn't mean they are playing nicely, usually just arguing! It means a helluva lot more fighting because they are at the exact same mental/emotional/development level!


Sarah said...

I totally agree with you. I am shocked at how much technology has taken over. My son is starting 8th grade this year and the school provides every student with an ipad. (have since 5th grade). They expect over 80% of the work, learning, lectures, videos, projects will all be completed on the ipad. The students don't have textbooks any longer as it is all online. There are some very scary things about that and some very real distractions to learning when 11, 12 and 13 year olds have ipads at their disposal the entire school day. We've been told that the schools are phasing out their libraries and going to everything digital. It is such enormous change and makes me frustrated as a parent. Things have changed so much in past 5 years I shudder to think what they will be like in another 5. I think what you and your husband are doing is GREAT. There will be plenty of time for the girls to be learning with technology likely through the schools. How awesome that they are learning now to play and to interact and to not be constantly in front of a screen. Hang in there!!!

Carolina said...

I could not be more proud of both you and agree with your parents' decisions, particularly in this topic.

I am a researcher of educational technologies and I can assure you, based on evidence, how BAD is to let your kids be raised by technology.

The firs years of life are so important and children should explore their world, the should get as many experiences as possible, use THEIR imagination and creativity, dream awake. Learn to observe, to focus, and to think is far more important skills than to navigate an iPad or iPhone.

Additionally, the radiation consequences that technology brings have been tested ONLY on adult skulls, no in children's. So we do not really know how this might affect them. (this is a new paper I am reading at the moment. Of course marketing will not say this.)

There is A LOT of things we do not know about how technology will affect our future generation. But based on my experience, through different interventions in north Europe and Africa, that kids raised by the technology are less creative than those who technology was only one of the multiple tools in their environment or even when they start to use it "late".

I should ask to parents, what is more important to leave to your children: to be a critical thinker or a technology user?. Age will come when children are introduce “formally” to the technology and use it as a TOOL. ICT is NOT the center of one's life, it is only one of the tools we have. Yes, ICT is a powerful, but at the end it is a tool. Also a bit a dangerous tool if one does not know how to use it. Ask to all those teenagers whose life has been affected by social networks, or even committed suicide due to excessive video games.

If kids are thinkers they would understand ICT as a tool, equally as knives or crayons, etc. Each tools can help you to use certain objective, but the tool is not your life.

Often the critical thinkers transform themselves into technology developers and innovators. The technology users are often only consumers.

I could give a huge speech and references (books, papers, etc.) on this. If you need literature let me know.

Support children to be thinkers, help them to question, to build arguments, to be observes to learn by themselves, IS the most valuable assets adults can leave to newer generations. Computers will not do that. Additionally, as you once said in a previous post, adults are also at charge to transmit certain values and respect towards life. Those are the ONLY things we, as parents and adults, leave to the newer generations. To use“x” or “y”technology is complete secondary, because those are tools and tools that are constantly evolving. ICT should NOT be the centre of one's life.

All the best!

- Carolina

PS. Also I must mention that my life depends of ICT, I am an electronic engineer, before being an educational technology researchers. So, I know what ICT is and means from different perspectives. Technology is neutral, as any tool, and it is up to users to utilise it on our favour or against us. Sadly, I have seen a considerable amount of people using technology against themselves, which makes me raise more this type of awareness.

What you are doing is AWESOME and thanks for sharing. To read a book to your children every night, or sharing a day at the beach will let them a richer experience (to your kinds and yourselves), than to watch a together a youtube video. Life is much more than ICT!

Tip: As a child on long drives we played with word and number games with my dad. Actually I learn to divided on traffic jams as there is a lot of car-plate around. Today, I know sill works with the kids that surround me, because we had played the same. We do not need ICT to entertain ourselves, we mainly pay attention to cars, trees and whatever is outside our window.

Sarah said...

I think they may be using computers this year at school. They didn't last year - although some were placed in the room at the end of the year - the kids never used them though. Last winter, here and there (maybe 3 times a month) they would do some stuff on the Disney website. I can't even remember the last time they did anything on the computer here at home though.

My dad was a teacher and the last school he taught at before retiring was moving to iPads for everyone - teachers and kids - instead of books. This was a high school.

Admittedly, I'm not the best Catholic but when we do take the girls to church, they sit and listen. We were at a friend's first communion last year and the kids in front of us, who were old enough to sit quietly, were playing on an iPad. Rich and I were quite surprised to see that in church.

I do read the Amazing Trips but I'm behind on my blog reading so I haven't seen that entry. I'll have to check it out. I really like Jen - I think we have a lot in common.

Carolina - Wow - thank you. That was a lot of useful information!

Michele said...

My husband doesn't have a smartphone and my Blackberry is for work, so no games there.

Last year I let the in-laws get them iPod Touches. Mostly because they were asking for a Nintendo DS or other game system, and I felt like at age 7 it was a little "late" to be buying something they'd grow out of soon. I also wanted them to be able to play music.

We don't take it out with us anywhere for the most part, and they mostly use it for music and taking pictures/videos of each other. I think they have 2 apps each at this point.

Krissy said...

Recently I had to give my duo a lesson in how to use my android phone AS a phone. First it has to be turned on, then unlocked, then the phone icon has to load, and finally you have to use the touch pad dial screen and hit the green phone button. I made them practice, because I realized that although I had trained them on how to dial 911 on the house phone, it was much more complicated to do so on my smart phone.

We are pretty like-minded is seems regarding technology. I was just telling my husband we need to come up with a plan regarding when and how we allow our six year old B/G twins to play pbskids or video games...they are asking and we need a game plan. I hate video games because I see how addictive they can become, but I don't want to ban them altogether. I would rather try teach my kids balance. I recently listened to this broadcast and thought I would pass it along.{34C009B7-6EAD-4E8A-A879-2C0C582622BB}

Counselors Arch Hart and Sylvia Hart Frejd discuss the impact of technology's influx into everyday family life, and help parents to better understand and manage their family's interactions with digital media.

Anonymous said...

When I hit around second grade, I became a major bookworm. I would read for hours - at the table, if I could manage it. This was during the computer/video game boom but we didn't own any of that yet, and I still found a way to become a "houseplant," as my mother would say. It may have taken direct orders ("Get outside and roller-skate!") but I spent a good deal of time outdoors. I technology needs to be moderated like most other things, but I think it can absolutely co-exist peacefully. It's just another way of doing the stuff we've always done. :)

Esther said...

Great post...Just to make it clear, I truly try not to judge other parents because everyone's situation is so different and well, no one is perfect!

I've debated this for a while, too. My twin boys did not use anything until they turned 4. Until them, some TV and that's it. I travel with them internationally every summer and I have yet to use an I-thing on our 20-hour journeys.

At 4, however, I did let the boys use my I-phone for apps. Most apps are educational ones. And I think that it's helping them with some fine-motor skills. I do not have an issue with them using it right now, as long as it's not all the time and as long as it does not replace their creativity for free play and learning to be in a store and behave properly.

I am OK with them using it because they will be using all that in school. At least our private school, not sure about the public school in the area. And I do not want them to be the ones that do not know how to use an I-thingie.

But you are right, we grew up with walkmans and Nintendo at times and were just fine!!!

So, yeah, it's a tricky subject...but do what you think is best and it's all going to be juuuuuuust fiiiiiine. :)

CJ said...

Don't Judge. I let me 4 year old twin boys use the ipad and my phone. (mine and my husbands) They started last year when they were 3. Educational and some are just fun games. Oh well. Don't Judge.