My kids were born pre-iPad, but were thrown head first into technology as they boarded the roller coaster from Hell, also known as Adolescence. And while we all parent differently and do what is best for our specific families here are three things I wish had done differently when it came to technology:
1. Keep Screens OFF the Table
Now-a-days, its totally normal to go to a restaurant and see children everywhere looking at a screen. I get it! It’s easy to stop a little one from fussing by giving them some entertainment! And no one wants to hear your 2 year old melt down, while trying to enjoy a meal. But guess what happens when that 2 year old turns twelve, and you take her phone away? Now THAT’S loud!! 98% of the battles we had with our eldest teen daughter had to do with her phone or some sort of electronic device.
Get out of the habit of pulling out a device at the table. Bring some crayons, a coloring book or puzzles. My kids spent hours stacking those little creamer cups or making “trains” out of sugar packets.
When my 3rd child entered a phase where he would instantly turn into a tiny Satan when we dined out, we stopped going. Seriously. We banned him from eating in public. This was a difficult adjustment for our family, as my husband managed several restaurants at the time. But we did it anyway, because the stress and embarrassment of taking the kids out just wasn’t worth it. This also led to awesome home-cooked meals with family and friends. We no longer had to rush through dinner, but could enjoy relaxing evenings, chatting while the kids played.
2. Using YouTube as a Babysitter
It’s oddly cute that kids can sit quietly for hours watching other kids play with toys. It’s also AMAZING how much work you can get done during that time! Or have an actual phone conversation with another adult! Or (my favorite) go to the bathroom. ALL. BY. YOURSELF!!!
You know what else is odd (but not cute)? Ho in just a few taps, you can go from sparkle pony puppy cakes (isn’t that a real show??) to some seriously questionable content that you DO NOT want your child viewing. Now maybe at three they won’t “get it”, but by six they will. And your security settings will NOT keep them out. There are videos to show kids how to unlock parental controls. There are videos to show kids how to hide their viewing history. And kids are watching them, because they are generally sneaky ninja geniuses!
My Mommy Spidey Sense told me one time to check out my son’s YouTube Viewing history. It was so cute how many songs he listened to…”he’s trying to figure out what kind of music he likes,” I remember thinking and smiling at my big boy growing up! And as I continued to scroll, I discovered that there was probably no need to have “The Talk” with him, because apparently he had seen it ALL on-line! My baby was certainly not a baby any more!!
3. Watching More Nature Shows and Less Cartoons
I know this sounds weird, but hear me out for a minute! Our mini-me’s are amazing little sponges, and while Daniel Tiger is singing catchy tunes, letting everyone know mistakes are okay, this is something YOU can sing in the car, or on a walk or while making dinner! Because the other 90% of the show is really whiny and pouty … THAT’S where your sweet lille is getting that attitude from!
Nature shows, shows about space or the environment may not have bright colors and silly songs, but they do provide clear, correct language, educational information, and could lead to a love of animals, plants, rockets or planets! Besides, its just easier to talk about Mommy & Daddy tigers or elephants, then realizing your kids are watching adults grind on a music video!
We live in such a digital age of instant gratification and quick fixes. Meanwhile, we are just trying to grab a shower, or throw in a load of laundry. If someone had figured out the “right” way to parent, we would already have downloaded the audio book. No one really knows what they are doing! And if un-screening is too drastic for your family, try to incorporate just one of the suggestions into your day to day! I sure wish I had!