Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Since the dawn of (modern) time, parents have pondered the question: How much technology is too much for our children? Do we allow them to have access to everything and trust them to police themselves?  Do we use video game, movie and app ratings, and parent restrictions to limit access?  Do we give them 30 minutes of screen time to reward them for taking out the trash and doing the other chores we don't feel like doing?  There are myriad paths parents can choose to take.  I'm not sure which is the correct one, but I know the path that I've been on isn't working for me.  And, here's why:  Technology turns my kids into jerks.

Some parents I know have adopted a 'just say no' philosophy.  No television, no computer, definitely no phones, video games or ipods.  I used to think those people were a little extreme (crazy). Unrealistic even. But I have to admit, the older my kids get, the more I think they might be on to something.

My kids watch tv, because I watch tv. They play video games, because their father plays video games. They have phones, because everyone has a phone.  (And, because I think think it's a safety issue.  I am an overprotective control freak, and putting iPhones in my kids' hands is as close as I can legally come to implanting them with GPS tracking devices.)  I think we do a fairly good job monitoring their use and access to that technology though.  No social media.  We read all their texts.  We keep the passwords for everything secret.  They can't even download music without our permission.  I would give us a solid B+.  (I bumped it down from an A because of those days where I just need some quiet time, so I let them play Minecraft for 2 or 3 hours straight.  It happens.  I'm not proud of it, but I'll cop to it.) I let them play games or watch the Disney Channel for a while when they wake up in the morning.  Then I kick them out of the house and make them play outside.  They read books, have play-dates and go on day trips.  It's not all screens and buttons.

But when it is, things go south in a hurry.  After an hour or so of screen time, I will give the kids a 5 minute warning.  The exchange always goes down something like this...

 "Games off in 5, monsters."

"But, Moooooooooooooooooommmmm.  Can I please just finish this?  I'm almost done.  Really.  Then I'll turn it off.  Promise."

"Ok.  Finish up, then turn it off.  I'll give you an extra couple of minutes, but I really mean it.  Game time is over."

"Alright.  I'm almost done.  Look."

"Sweetheart, I don't know what I'm looking at.  Just turn it off ok?"


20 minutes of reminders from me and 'almost done' from them...

"You've had extra minutes.  Time's up."

No response, which if I'm being honest, pisses me off more than anything in the world probably ever.


"Guhhh...I'm almost done. Seriously, mom!"

Then I walk over and press the power button.  Hell hath no fury like a child playing Minecraft scorned.  Voices are raised.  Feet are stomped.  Doors are slammed.  Eventually, they even turn on each other.  One blaming the other for me turning off the game.  It's ridiculous.  It's ugly.

The results are similar when I tell them we don't text while walking through the grocery store, or Disneyland, or anywhere really.  Or, when I tell them that we don't need the iPad to occupy us on 10 minute car rides.  We can actually look out the windows and speak to each other.  Weird, I know, but speaking to each other passes the time too.

While we were on vacation, my son's phone went missing.  Watching him learn to adapt to life without it over the week it was gone was amazing to me.  He read a novel in an afternoon.  He played with his sister.  He spent quality time with his dad with no distractions.  He was extra lovable.  The immediate withdrawal symptoms were trying, but once he got through it, it was all sunshine and rainbows.  Then we got his phone back in the mail...

So, in light of all the unnecessary drama brought into my life by Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and inspired by the temporary loss of the boy's iPhone, I am declaring a tech moratorium.  For the rest of this week, my children will live like Laura Ingalls.  They will be forced to play board games, do craft projects, have fun.  They might even have to do things in real life instead of pretending to do them in an app.  I am excited to see how this little experiment will play out.  I'm feeling optimistic, and like a true woman of science, I will be documenting the results here.  So you can laugh at me.

1 comment:

  1. I like this. We spent the whole afternoon Sunday playing board games as a family. We are a huge technical family too. I am having them read at least an hour a day and work on homework books during the summer.