The Haves and The Have Nots

I’ve mentioned a few times that I stayed at a friend’s house last week.
My kids spent long hours playing with older friends, doing things that we don’t normally do.
Nothing bad, just different from the norm around here.
One of the the biggest things I noticed was screen time.
My children were memorized by the technology that their friends have.
Leapster, DS, iPod, iTouch.
They loved them!

We have none of those.
I rarely even let my kids use the computer.
And only occasionally the Wii.

I must admit that there is a reasonable amount of irony that I am Mrs. Technology and my kids barely ever get screen time.
I don’t intend to share my laptop or my iPhone for a variety of reasons-the biggest being I don’t trust them to not tear it up.
(And, if we’re being honest, I sometimes don’t even trust Marshall to not tear it up.)

It’s not that I’m opposed to my kids playing video games –
I think there are some games that really do have educational value
And I think it’s important for my children to be technologically savvy –
But it’s just not a threshold we’ve crossed yet.
And I’m wondering if we should have.

I am frequently taken aback by people my age who don’t know how to use technology.
Now I know that I am a big geek and I spend a  lot of time face-to-face with my beloved ol’ red,
But I’m talking basic computer knowledge.
(It’s almost irresponsible to not know a little bit these days.)

And, like most parents, I want the best for my kids.
I want them to be able to access a world outside of our tiny town.
I want them to have the ability to use technology to help them grow and learn.
I want them to be able to keep up in this digital world that is certain to become even more technological.

But where is that line?
How young is too young?
Shouldn’t they still be focused on imaginary play?
But can’t imaginary play be virtual?
And with some gaming systems, they can even play together.
Isn’t that what I really want?
For them to learn a little something new
and practice playing well with others?

Oh, I don’t know.
(This parenting gig is hard, yo.)

When I think about this,
I tend to get annoyed with myself.
I just wrote about letting go of perfection,
and yet here I am struggling to find the perfect answer to my conundrum.
Hint: There is no perfect answer. 

My children are the only grandchildren on either side.
We have many friends who gratefully pass on hand-me-down toys (and clothes).
My children are certainly not lacking in the toy department.
Is going out and buying an expensive gaming system really the most responsible thing to do?
They are all under the age of 6.
They’ve done nothing to deserve getting video games.
Nor do they need technology.

My internal dialogue is pummeled with thoughts like:
“There are starving children in…” and
“It’s your job as parent to get them the resources they need to prosper” and
“Quit over-analyzing every.single.thing!”

So over-analyze for me.
Where is that line?
When should game systems come into play?
And how to do you balance it all?
Our days are already happy and full –
Will another screen detract from that?



8 Responses to The Haves and The Have Nots
  1. Liz Sanders
    July 26, 2011 | 11:32 am

    OH man, tough one. My kids live and breathe technology. Rhett, ( who is 4) can work all of the gaming systems we have, and the ipod/ipad. When given the choice they will go outside over the games, but could sit for hours in front of them if I said it was okay. During the school year they get games only on the weekend, but in the summer they can play them, (for the most part) when they want. When I do turn off the game they are still imagining that they themselves are in the game and have great imagination play.
    As far as how young is too young it all play into who is destructive and who isn’t. We have been through 4 DS games because Wyatt has anger issues and broke them, (even if they were not his own, he just recently broke the only one that was his and will not be getting another one) Rhett however, has never tried or accidentally broken one and we are going to get him one for his birthday in Feb 12′.
    I will say that the ipod are super sturdy and the one we have that is Peytons gets used by everyone and is still in great shape. I think an ipod touch is a great choice for an electronic device for kids to share because you can put different apps on it for each child, most of which you can get for free. Also Otterbox protective cases can make the virtually indestructible. They are great for when you need a few minutes of downtime to entertain the kids or for the car, waiting rooms at the doctor/dentist.
    In the end you know what is best for each of your children and if the can show the responsibility for such an object. The price can be high, but in the end if it can be taken care of it will last them for a while.

  2. Issa
    July 26, 2011 | 4:01 pm

    Hmmm, we have iPad’s and iTouch’s and a Wii. In a way, i do think it’s easiest for kids to learn technology under seven years old. In this day and age, computers are everywhere. They are a part of every profession and I think it’s important to learn the technology. It may just be games now. But a game player today could be the next Steve Jobs. You never know.

    So we have them. My kids are allowed to play with them. Oh how it makes punishments easy. ha. You get in trouble? First thing to go in my house is your electronics.

    However, I do limit the amount of time. Even when on car trips.

  3. Issa
    July 26, 2011 | 4:03 pm

    Oh I wanted to add…the longer they go without, the more obsessed they may be about it when they finally get one. If that makes sense?

    My girls have always had iPods. Truly. They have. So they can easily play on an iTouch for 20 minutes and then not care for the next three days.

  4. Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith
    July 26, 2011 | 9:14 pm

    My six year old asked for a DS for her birthday. Her cousins, ages 4,5, and 8 already had this video game system. In fact, it was the ONLY thing she asked for. I explained to her, it was an expensive toy, and that we would have to ask family to help buy it. I explained to her, it maybe the ONLY gift she would receive for her birthday. She said that’s okay, Mommy. This is what I really want. So, thanks to my family, she did receive a DS, a DS case, and a few games. Funny, she only plays it when we are in the car, or it’s raining. She still reads more than she plays the DS. I think the idea of having it was actually more appealing than the reality.

  5. Lorie
    July 27, 2011 | 10:30 am

    I read an article recently about how younger children are incredibly adept when it comes to technology (computers, gaming systems, iPhones & iPads/iPods, etc.), but many are falling behind when it comes to life skills ( I’m okay with my kids having limited access to technology. I’d rather use our time developing skills that will prove beneficial when/if technology isn’t available to them. I know that some tech skills are necessary in professional settings, but a lot of what I see for younger kids isn’t skill development, it’s entertainment/distraction and prevents authentic interaction with parents/siblings unless the parents are VERY intentional about knowing what there kids are viewing/playing.

  6. punkinmama
    July 27, 2011 | 12:05 pm

    I say they’re not missing out. They *will* learn these skills; they won’t be the adults who have no clue. Sam learned how to use a mouse in preschool. I was surprised one day when he knew how to use it properly. Sam does play on my iPod Touch when we’re in the car mostly, or when we’re in a waiting area that doesn’t have toys, or when we go to dinner with other adult friends and we want a chance to have a conversation with them. He also plays on kid sites on the computer (though now that I think about it, I can’t remember the last time that happened – busy summer!). He also has a Leapster that he gets to use at “rest time”, especially at school, because I do *not* want him falling asleep & he has to stay on his cot.

    I love that he knows technology and it frees me up a lot of times, but I also know that is a lazy parenting move and given how much you do with your kids, I don’t think they’re missing out! And they probably won’t be obsessed with it yet, because they are too busy having so much fun!

  7. Tara
    July 27, 2011 | 9:27 pm

    I’m with you on this one…I want to delay giving my kid real electronics (other than these noise-maker toys) for as long as possible. He knows his parents are Blackberry and computer junkies, so he’ll learn. One day. I think it’s great you’ve delayed introducing technology this long, that you’ve given your kids the chance to be kids and use their imaginations and run and talk and read and color, without having all those things tempered by a screen in their faces.

  8. Andrew Allen
    August 5, 2011 | 6:36 pm

    As a kid, I was only allowed to watch TV 30 minutes on weekdays and 1 hour on weekends. We got an Atari and Nintendo (original version) as a hand me down when I was at least 9 or 10. As an adult, I hardly ever watch TV, never play video games and think doing so improves my creativity not to mention productivity.