The lure of electronics is so strong, that is can feel like an uphill battle to keep them at bay and used for their most productive uses like homework, educational play and within limits entertainment.
I don’t know about you, but in my household, keeping track of and monitoring electronic device usage has become an ongoing battle. When my girls were small, how these devices saved me – providing hours of entertainment on the long flights between Asia and the US. Now, these previously helpful devices, have become the drug my children crave and I have to guard against unnecessary usage.
As my girls venture closer to the teen years, it is not only the small entertainment devices that I have to be watchful of, but also smartphones and computers. It seems one of each is had by most 10+ year olds, or at least that is what my kids tell me. The lure of electronics is so strong, that is can feel like an uphill battle to keep them at bay and used for their most productive uses like homework, educational play and within limits entertainment.
In our family, smart touch phones have not been given to our girls to provide communication between us. Instead they share an 8 year old Nokia E72, which is a smartphone with GPS, but does not have the ease of gaming and messaging apps. It is strictly used for calling and text messaging as my girls take the BTS to and from school on their own. I don’t want them to have a small device that can easily be pulled out for personal distraction at any time.
What happened to observing your surroundings, interacting with people around you or simply just being content with your own thoughts? I recently posted on a Bangkok FB Group looking for another “old” device to the horror of many. How could I not give my kids a device that had “2-3 day battery life”, “GPS tracking” and the “latest technology?”, were some of the comments I received.
These comments coming exclusively from men whom I’m betting don’t have kids. Happily for me, a few people responded that they DID still have an old Nokia E72 hanging around. I found one lady with a pink one, which I have now acquired. So now my girls will each have their own phone, with the same capabilities. These phones are great for keeping in touch, but not as a personal distraction device.
In the US, there is a movement by like-minded parents who are pledging to not give their children a smartphone until the age of 14. I’ve got two years to keep these dinosaur phones working! Given my position on smartphones for my daughters, you all would be surprised to know that I began my professional career and worked for over 15 years in the mobile phone industry. I started in 1991 – when mobile phones could stand on their own or were contained in a bag.
I worked diligently in the Education industry promoting the use of the devices and expanding their functionality as the technology evolved. It is not the technology I oppose – it is the dependence on it to the distraction of real life. On iPads/tablets, I have lost the battle about bringing them to school. Many of the teachers now incorporate applications and or website interaction as part of their teaching.
I can appreciate how these devices can enhance the student’s learning, but what a disadvantage to us parents trying to curb their usage when it is now out of our sight and control for the school day. The schools now need to take on the responsibility of not allowing them to be used during breaks for the isolated distraction of the students. The best part of school is the interaction it provides.
When at home, the control over when the devices can be used and what websites can be reached is facilitated by a parental control app and device restriction settings. I urge all parents to use the restrictions that come with the device, even when you think your children are too young to worry about it. We were very surprised at how easily our then 10 year old could find inappropriate content without them engaged. YouTube is not a parent’s friend! We also started using the app called Our Pact. For a low monthly charge, we can set time restrictions on the device and get reporting on what content their devices have been receiving or trying to reach.
“I don’t know if we have the perfect approach to kids and technology, only time will tell. For now, this is the path we’re taking and hope we can muster
the energy to provide those creative play alternatives of games, crafts or just our attention to overcome their “I’m bored” complaints instead of reaching for the electronic device.”
Computers are now intricate to our girls’ schoolwork. We have two laptops available for them, but they are not THEIRS. The computers are maintained in family areas where we can monitor how much they are being used and for what. We want the ability to peak over their shoulder to see what they are working on and to discourage mindless time spent in front of them when not needed. We have also strictly prohibited any devices in bedrooms, other than for music, and the breaking of this rule comes with heavy – device restriction – consequences.