Questions To Sit With for a Moment: How many times a day do you interact with your personal handheld device? Think about how many of those times are observed by your children. Are the number of times eerily close?
Mine sure can be...especially when unstructured and traveling.
Often, an adult's response to boredom is to grab the closest handheld device and get lost in the world at our fingertips. What is it that we are inadvertantly teaching our children then?
Warm sunshine, new experiences, new environments...and technology.
Last week I took the wild plunge to travel alone with my minis (2 year old twins) from New York to my parent’s home in Florida. Our flight travel time was easily 8 hours each way. With many hours of potential boredom, I have no shame in saying that you are darn right that technology saved my sanity while traveling!! Their Kindles became their BFFs in the airports and on the airplanes. Did we take breaks? Of course. But they ate up every minute while on them. As did I (music, reading and social media). It was like a day full of all the sweetest candy that you could imagine.
Handheld screen time was also flowing during periodic quiet times at Mimi & Papa’s house.
And then came sleeping in a new place. Despite pooling all of the ingredients for the "perfect" restful sleep (sunshine, daytime swimming, playground, Disney World, evening walks and evening swims, bedtime stories…), the recipe didn’t go as planned. Their mini minds were wide awake when their heads hit the pillow. This engaged “Go to Sleep” Plan B with head rubs, back rubs and singing. The ladies remained wide-eyed and bushy tailed. Reluctantly, I buckled under tired pressure and out came the Kindles as Plan C. They used them until they fell asleep. A great decision? Umm...no. But in the moment, a mom’s gotta do what she’s gotta do.
After the much needed Vitamin D and “familyfix” getaway, we returned to daily life here in NY. We tried to return to the established limitations on technology, but a hard lesson was learned. It was going to take twice as much work to return their expectations and understanding back to the 20 minutes (maybe) a day of handheld screen time. If experiences at home aren’t meeting their stimulation needs, out cries, “Mama, can I have a Kindle?” I expected this and honestly thought that it would just be at home battles to work through. However, a scarier societal habit found comfort in their minds. They learned to use their handheld devices just as we do as adults; as a tool in response to boredom. This has led to a whole new level of impulsive demands in public.
Once I realized what was happening, I took a deep breath and accepted that the habit breaking must start with me, and then they can follow. The three of us built this vacation habit together so we must break it down together. True, they are only two. But I believe that their level of understanding is much more than we can imagine which means leading by example. I will have to be more conscious about when and why my personal technology makes an appearance, which will hopefully (insert finger crossing here!!) help their bored desires transition from being technogically reactive to being more peaceful.
A Few Ideas for Purposeful Technology Use (On Vacation or At Home)
~Learn to Classify Technology Time Like Centers in a Classroom~
*Literacy Time: Kids-ABC/phonics games, eBooks Adults-puzzles, eBooks (have I mentioned that the minis know almost every letter and most sounds? That’s right and they are two. I attribute some of the success to technology’s ability to reinforce parent/caretaker taught skills)
*Math Time: Kids-numeracy apps and games Adults-financial/bill paying
*Art/Creative Sharing Time: Kids-look at family photos & videos, drawing apps Adults-social media, creative apps
*Music & Dance Time: Kids & Adults-find new artists to enjoy together and let the music flow
*Free Choice Time: Kids & Adults-limited free choice time
“Look at pictures.”
“Read a book.”
“Pirates and Ghosts” (a favorite song)
The list of opportunities on one little iPhone, iPad or Kindle can go on and on. These just happen to be pleas that come from our 2 year olds. Wow. W-O-W. The diversity of requests that can be granted through one rectangular item is intoxicating. And that is just from their young, but observant perspective.
Think about the many powerful things that we use our own hand held devices for. Actually, many being the very same things:
And when you really break it down, that formidable device is at our fingertips much more than we likely realize (or want to acknowledge) throughout each and every day. We are taking pictures of the kids doing something that's just too cute. Nana calls to talk or Papa calls to Facetime with the grandbabies. Then Daddy sends a text message to check in, followed by the “Breaking News” notification that pops up. Oh and while the phone is “open,” we should really send that email for work. Or maybe it’s just that mommy takes a little breather and dabbles on social media for a few minutes. Our children see this. And the fact that we are their role models, their everything, how in the world could we expect them to NOT take interest in what we do. It is the way of our world, right? Well, at least a piece of the world…;-)
As I quietly snuggled in silence with Twin A last night, I reflected on the answers to the question I posed to my network yesterday: As parents of young children, how do you handle technology with your own children? The answers were widespread, as anticipated. From very few limitations, to children who have yet to put their hands on technology there was a plan to fit each individual family. In my opinion, each one made sense.
That was when it all clicked. I saw myself through the eyes of my minis and our family dynamics. They see that I clearly love technology-always have and always will. Most of my work connects to technology. But I can also become overwhelmed and all encompassed by it. This is what I can see starting in them, even if they are using their Kindles a collective 60 minutes per week. That’s not much in the grand scheme of life but it’s enough to make them want more. And I get it. The struggles that I have with them wanting and desiring such “limitless boundaries” through the avenues of technology, is actually a reflection of the struggles that I have within myself in this highly connected world. The difference being that I have the intellectual wherewithal to set my own boundaries, which includes being a role model for when (and how) we can collectively (and effectively) deploy the power of personal technology.
As Spider-Man's Uncle Ben teaches, “with great power comes great responsibility” and who says that 2 year olds can’t learn the power of being more technologically responsible. Or 38 year olds. Bring it on.
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~Derek, Father of 2 and Elementary School Principal
Just a girl with a dream to collectively build a healthy mind space for children, while creating a healthier mind space for ourselves.
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