I’m sure there are many people who remember our grandparents being worried about the amount of TV we watched as a child. Most have also heard the stories about Elvis and rock 'n’ roll being bad for you. Well, welcome to 2018. My brain is not mush because of the countless hours I spent watching Mary Kate and Ashley, Grease, the Princess Bride and Lifetime movies.
We are deciding to parent based on hope and joy. We see joy in the things that our kids find interest in. We released expectations about the TV two years ago and gaming devices a year ago. The kids really did watch TV all day for about two weeks. We like to think of this as their detox from our control of it. After that time, they remembered the outdoors. They then spent time outside and with the TV or Kindles. Over this last year we have been able to witness how they manage their time and they have learned how their bodies feel after extended amounts of time on their different devices. They have also learned what their body feels like after extended amounts of time with friends or being outside. It is all learning.
We tend to not use the term “screen time.” It really does not help to define what they are doing. We use technology to play games (which include Mario, MarioKart, Donkey Kong, Harry Potter LEGO, all the other LEGO games, the Wii and any game they find intriguing on their Kindles). We use technology to watch movies and TV shows. This also varies greatly. We watch Merlin, baking shows, documentaries, Disney movies, all other kinds of children’s movies, YouTube videos (which help us discover really fascinating things about volcanoes and cheetahs and also help us relax and laugh—Ellen scaring people is hilarious). We email, text, connect with people across the country and internationally via Instagram. We FaceTime with family and friends. There are SO.MANY.WAYS to use technology.
I documented one of our days and our technology use during that day to give a tiny piece of insight into how we use technology:
“When the boys got up this morning they started watching The Beast which is a show on Netflix that is as close to American Ninja warrior that they can find on Netflix or Amazon. The girls chose to watch Sofia the First.
"I showed them some really awesome pictures of cheetahs I found from a new-to-me Instagram account. Then I read a story from a magazine on my phone for our devotional.
"Rico was playing his favorite radio station on his Kindle while he made speakers out of a cardboard tube and two paper cups. This was an idea he got from a science book the kids received for Christmas.
"Wheezer has been playing one of her favorite games on her Kindle, Think Rolls. She has to move this little ball creature through a series of mazes. She has also found a new game that allows her to 'care' for a baby.
"Mimi’s Kindle is finally charged again (they haven’t been using them much with all the family in town and Christmas extravaganza we have had going on). She is playing her favorite songs from Phantom of the Opera and Moana and singing along with them.
"Freddie spent the morning hanging out and watching others on their different devices and then helped Jordan pick up some piano actions. He also found a Youtube video of some boys in Asia trying to find large snakes.
"They played with each other. We ate lunch and then headed to the aquarium for awhile in the afternoon. When we got home we watched Lego Ninjago (our rental was about to expire) and then ate dinner.”
I find that their usage, and mine, varies with the weather and the amount of other things we have to do outside the house. In the heat of summer we are inside more because it is just miserable to be outside. In the depth of winter, we are also inside more because we dislike the cold! Sometimes the kids find a game that they really want to beat and will spend quite a bit of time conquering it before they are ready to do other things (i.e. When Freddie discovered the LEGO games, of which he is a master!).
It is new to us to have this much technology use in our lives and in the lives of our kids. No generation has experienced this before. Sometimes we get concerned about how it is affecting their bodies, their brains, and their relationships with us and their siblings. With most things in our life we take the “wait and see” approach. So, we wait. We observe and try to connect with them and their interests. And you know what happens? They show us everything that fascinates them. They also find new things to be interested in, sometimes independent of us. Their brains are active and happy, and full of energy and zest for life. They do not hide themselves away. In fact, they want us to be more involved in their games and shows with them.
Healthy use of technology is allowing them to form new ideas and receive answers to their questions instantly and in really fascinating ways! Do you have questions about technology use with your family? Have you released control of the tech?