Confession: I often resort to pulling up baby-appropriate videos on my phone to keep the baby entertained when we go out to eat. Sometimes I feel a judgmental stare, but most of the time, people will stop and ask us where we got our iPhone tripod and how awesome it is to have access to technology like that whenever, wherever. (Seriously. This happens EVERY TIME we go out and use the tripod stand. People LOVE it and we’ve considered selling them on the side for a slight mark-up.)
And let’s face it, judging or not, just about everyone can agree that they’d rather my child be entertained by a video for 20 minutes than screaming his head off and disrupting not only our dinner, but everyone’s dinner in the restaurant.
Technology and its place in the family is a hotly debated topic, and it will continue to be so until the next attention-grabbing thing comes along. Some of you may remember this post from last year entitled Dear Mom On The iPhone. It made waves several months later among many, MANY bloggers and received quite the response, such as Dear Mom Judging Me For My iPhone. First of all, this was the first time I ever considered that someone would judge me for looking at my phone while my child played. Second of all, it made me second guess picking up my phone in public while my child played. And to be honest, I feel conflicted about that. On one hand, it’s important for me to be present in my child’s life. I only get a few hours with him after work in the evenings. But that doesn’t mean my attention still isn’t divided between him and running errands to the grocery store (while he gnaws on a cookie in the cart) or fixing two separate dinners (one for him and one for the adults) or trying to put away some laundry, water the flowers, feed the dog, and whatever else I can squeeze into those few hours at home each evening. The truth is, he rarely gets 100% of my undivided attention for the entire couple of hours before bedtime each night. And I’d imagine this is the same story any SAHM would tell as well. It takes a lot to keep a home running, whether you work or not. Also, no one – no matter how many hours they spend at home – are spending their entire days playing with their kids all day every day. And guess what? THAT’S OKAY! (This is what I have to tell myself all the time anyway.)
So when I’m at home, I try to put the phone down and only pick it up when someone calls or texts or when it’s time to play his bath music. Or when I need to snap a picture because that’s almost a daily occurrence. Granted, there are times when I need to be on the lookout for a work email or the allure is too much and I mindlessly open FB or Instagram, but I catch myself within 30 seconds and put it back down. It’s a work in progress for someone like me who treats her phone like her 3rd arm.
But that’s me, and though it’s a daily battle, I feel like I balance my attention to D versus attention to what’s on my phone fairly well. But what about D? What’s too much tech for him? There are some families that don’t even own a TV; some families practice time limits for tech – be it a half hour a day or 3 hours a day; and some, like the home I grew up in, not only don’t enforce time limits, but the ADULTS have trained themselves to not be able to sleep without a TV on in front of them. (While I grew up in that sort of household, let me just say that I do not live this way anymore.) I’m more of a middle-of-the-road type of person. Everything in moderation is my motto. I think technology can and should be enjoyed, within limits.
Then I read this article on Today.com about a family who thought it would be a good idea to go back to 1986 - around the time they were born – and completely do away with all forms of technology beyond a basic tube TV, a rotary phone, and a Nintendo. (I question the need for a Nintendo, but hey, I guess they were around in 1986.) I was intrigued until I read this paragraph:
Instead, shutting their family off from the normal barrage of technology opened up new doors, both literally and figuratively. After dinner, the family has to find an activity to occupy their time. They adopted a dog so they could go on walks. They play outside or go to the splash park.
So…you had to get rid of modern technology in order to go on walks, take care of a dog, and go to the splash park? We do all of these things quite regularly, actually. And the best part is, I usually have my smartphone there to document it all too. This article did absolutely nothing to prove to me that living a life with reduced technology is any better or more enjoyable. In fact, it sounds a little worse:
“The road trip we recently took to Minneapolis was the worst,” says McMillan. “It would have been a lot easier to hand them a DVD player when they were both screaming about sharing stickers in the back seat of the car.”
So remind me again why not letting them watch a DVD on a road trip is such a noble thing to do? Why you’re a better parent? Or why your kids are smarter/better for it? I’m not seeing how this is a good thing.
I guess I just feel like I read about so many people denouncing today’s technology – either for themselves or for their children – and we glorify it as if they’ve overcome some huge obstacle like losing 100lbs or running a marathon. How many times have you heard (or said) “I’m quitting Facebook!” or “I’m taking a blogging break.” or “The Internet is such a waste of time, I’m going to go off the grid for awhile.” (I’ve actually said all of these things. Multiple times.) And others respond “Good for you!” or “I need to do that too.” or “I wish I was able to do that for a while!” I know everyone needs a break from their day-to-day once in awhile, but shouldn’t this discussion be more about finding balance and using today’s technology for GOOD? Why does it have to be so all or or nothing? Life is filled with gray areas and this is definitely one of them. Expect more on this topic in the future.
Something I really hope to figure out soon is how to use technology to help educate my toddler. My friend Sara posted a list of apps for 12-16 month olds that I’m eager to check out. And another blog I follow, Cool Mom Tech, often features cool apps and tech tools that relate to education, though D isn’t old enough for most of them yet.
So what say you? Do you have a “no screens” policy for yourself or for your kiddos? Do you limit it to say, 1 hr per day? Do you have a list of cool toddler-appropriate apps to share? Or will it be crayons and wood puzzles until your kids are in kindergarten? I wonder how many 2 yr olds will be getting an iPad mini for Xmas?