Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Technology Obsession #1

I've been feeling very frustrated with technology lately.  The technology that is causing a rift between my son and I.  The technology that is replacing personal interaction.  The technology that occupies our free time and makes everything quick and easy.

I've noticed that many of us parents feel frustrated and seek the advice of others on how to handle screen time with our kids.  I have searched for a class for my child on video game obsession with no luck.  In an effort to help myself and others, I thought I'd start a little series on technology obsession.

I'm not a PhD in technology obsession, or even master's degree.  I'm a mom of 5 children, I'm a coach, a former teacher, an observer, and also a technology user.  I speak from my own experience,  knowledge I've gained from books I've read, and observations I have been making.

Technology is good and fun.  It helps us, but it also hurts us.  When we lived in Japan, I bought our first gaming system, a Nintendo WII.  I had read many reviews of it in Family Fun and Parents magazine, rating it a great family game system.  The system came and the kids were thrilled- we could play games "together" and some were interactive.  It was great, FOR FIVE MINUTES.  Games that kids play together brought on many fights, "he took my mushroom, I wanted to be Mario, his game is still going and I'm dead"..... This game was supposed to bring my family together with lots of smiles, laughter, and sparkles.

We had to set rules, time limits, etc.  Instead of being the magical electronic Mary Poppins that I thought it was going to be, it ended up causing aggravation, stress, and resentment.  The kids loved it so much, they wanted to play all the time, more often than I wanted them to.

I also noticed, I resorted to it as a big reward.  "Hey kids, if you clean your room, I'll let you play the wii, I know I punished you for not finishing your dinner, but if you vacuum the living room, I'll let you play the wii.. If you put all the toys in the front room away, I'll give you five extra minutes on the wii..."  Soon, it became an issue of the kids holding out to do what they were supposed to do until I offered the wii as a reward.

Along came the Nintendo DS', (which I will never resent them), for the 20 hour trips from Japan to Boston.  They were a lifesaver for that 20 hour journey.  What I don't like about them is now whenever we travel, the kids can't seem to think of or want to do anything else but play their devices. What happened to the alphabet game or guessing game, even for a ten minute trip, they began asking for their devices at all times in a moving vehicle.

Moving back to the states, commercials were in English, kids could see and understand what was being sold.  Next thing you know, we have to live up to some expectation and be super cool and get the X-Box for Christmas.  We lived in a place with cold winters and surely the Xbox Kinect will keep them moving, smiling, having fun, and just enjoying being trapped inside for months.  "Mom, he's off the screen, he's in my way, I want a different song, I want my game now!!!" More torture.

Finally, with a graceful swoop in like a bald eagle, come the Kindles.  Oh kindles with your free time capabilities to control the kids' time usage and your e-books for reading time- how you will be perfect for us!  NOT!  I don't think my kids have read one book on those damn things, and not to mention, free time, not so easy or convenient to set up.  Kindles are just a porn magazine hidden inside a National Geographic.  Next thing you know, I'm changing my amazon password because the kids started accessing it through the devices, etc etc.

After all these devices, you'd think I'd learn.  Well, I have learned some things- that's what this series of posts will be about.  It's inevitable kids are going to play video games, kids are going to fight, kids are going to have too much screen time, and kids are going to be sneaky.  But we, as parents, can find what works for our family and our kids to prevent these devices from taking over and ruining our families.

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