Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Technology, parenting and making more work for yourself

My MIL shared a story with me and D about her discussion with her tennis friends.  When she told them that D and I do not have cable/satellite, they were stunned.  They asked if we lived out in the boonies and couldn't get access.  When she told them that we choose not to have it, they sat speechless and aghast.

I am not a Luddite by any means.  I love, love, love my MacBook.  I like being able to text people on my cell phone rather than having to talk (because I really dislike chatting on the phone).

But I want pretty strict limits on what we own technology-wise and how often our kids use it.

Technology is expensive, both in terms of initial outlay and upkeep, especially if upkeep in your world means replacement every 2 years.  Upkeep to me just means buying more memory, more disks, more songs for the iPod because unless something is broken, I don't believe in getting the latest and greatest (although my techie-nut husband disagrees).

Technology also quickly becomes addictive, which I can attest to given my FB habit.  Technology can be a huge time suck (Where did the last 3 hours go, anyway?) and a self-limiting demon.  You forget what you did and how you did it prior to the technology becoming a part of your life.  You simply aren't as present in the present as you could be if you weren't swiping your finger across that screen.

Using technology is a constant battle of restricting and redirecting MYSELF, and it is even worse when technology is in the hands of children.  Despite our attempts to limit technology, we have a little 5-year-old boy in the house who is deeply obsessed with Disney Universe, which the kids received for Christmas.  And N is on Strike 2 of "Thou shall not enter someone's home listening to the iPod because it is rude not to say hello and be friendly," which means she will soon lose access to it.

So what am I doing to try to keep the technology monsters at bay?

*No televisions in bedrooms (for parents or children).

*No Kindle (for me or kids; D does have one but it is the plain, no "bells and whistles" one)

*I do not own a smart phone, and I will continue to have the most basic features possible without a monthly plan even when my aged phone kicks it and I have to purchase something more 21st century-like.

*No satellite/cable television.  We do stream Netflix, and we have an antenna in the attic to get local channels.

*N has an iPod Shuffle (No camera, no recording device, no games)

*We have an Xbox that is on a family timer.  The kids cannot play video games during daytime hours during the school week.  One hour limit.

*I have an iPod (It has a camera/recording device but we only listen to music on it.  There are no games on it.)

*The children do not own any portable game players (like DSs)

I sometimes hear parents lament the struggles they have with their children over technology.  Their child is posting inappropriate things on FB.  The child is spending too much time texting or texting things like answers to homework to friends.  And I can't help but think there is a relatively quick fix to this (although not painless for the parent, to be sure.)  The person who buys, maintains and pays for continuous access to the technology controls the technology.  End of discussion.

This is not to suggest children should not be allowed certain technologies, but there should be clearly defined "rules" associated with their use and consequences for failure to abide by those rules.  The hardest part for the parent when it comes to technology (or anything for that matter) is the enforcement of the rules.  Punishment of a child is always akin to punishment of the parent, but that is the nature of consistent parenting.

Parenting at its easiest is still a whole helluva lot of hard work, so why in the world make it harder on yourself, with more to monitor and fight about and, for crying out loud, spend money on. 

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