Neither James nor I am against technology or gaming. But, honestly, what I am becoming a little worried about is the overuse we’re seeing in today’s society. Kids seem to be interacting with technology in some-way-shape-or-form, wherever we go. Now, full disclaimer, this isn’t intended to be a ‘beat up parenting post’, but I do want to genuinely acknowledge the concern I feel with kids constantly being fed technology. It’s not the technology itself that bothers me, it’s the overuse (or dare I say, abuse) of technology that I’m noticing more and more.
While we were out for lunch at a beautiful winery last week, we were seated with a table of kids behind us, only for each of them to be plonked with a headset and iPad each. Nevermind the games set-up for the kids to play with in the vines, or the ability to run freely through the beautiful estate! I can’t help but wonder if we as a society, have passively endorsed this. Do we really just want kids to be seen but not heard? Do we want them to solely be consumers, not creators? The bigger question is, how will this impact our society in the long-term?
Some of the most influential tech leaders in the world (e.g. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs) have publicly stated their aversion towards technology for their own children: “Despite the fact he created the iPad, Steve Jobs wouldn’t let his kids use it.” While Bill Gates limited technology use for his children, I wonder why the tech geniuses of our time have used this approach, while many consumers don’t apply the same sentiment.
Let’s face it, as parents it’s an easy choice to pull out an iPad or phone to placate (read: tranquilise) an upset or bored child. But, I think we have to ask ourselves: is this the right time and the right choice? I worry about kids who aren’t able to sit through a restaurant meal without a device – what do their adult years look like? When work dinners demand a conversation over a meal, or a partner needing their full attention over a glass of wine. Are our screens more important than the humans around us? Is it so horrible, so inhumane, to let our children experience the BOREDOM?!
Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely time and a place to placate the kids, and of course technology can be a force for good (e.g. education). But, day-to-day use to simply avoid boredom? I think for me, I’ll take a leaf out of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ philosophy and continue to question the right amount of exposure or children will have to technology.
These are my top 5 tips for dealing with kids and technology:
- Boredom is awesome. Repeat after me – my kids being bored is a good thing. Don’t solve their boredom with technology. But, next time you hear “Muuuum, I’m bored”. Great – figure out something to do yourself!
- Channel your inner girl/boy scout. Be prepared! I’ve got a bag of things for Leila to occupy herself with for extended restaurant visits. We’ve got sticker books, pens and playdough. At 3.5 years, nowadays she’s so used to going out that we barely need it anymore. Tom will sometimes ask to bring a book for longer lunches but is mostly happy to sit and chat with the adults around him. Overall, the vibe is so much better around the table than seeing them tunnel-vision into a screen!
- Don’t expect perfection. Expecting your kids to be perfect in public is a surefire way to get burned, and quickly. It takes practice for kids to be able to sit through a lunch (or three-course meal) in a restaurant. Rather than giving your kids an iPad or iPhone when they misbehave in the restaurant (which is rewarding bad behavior), be prepared to pack-up and leave. Seriously, doing this a couple of times will quickly teach the kids how to behave.
- Remind yourself (and them), technology is a privilege. Technology should be a privilege; not a right! When kids are continually given a phone, iPad or TV to placate their needs, they become conditions and simply begin to expect it.
- Lead by example. I always feel slightly gutted when I see parents attached to their phones (especially when they’re around their kids). There are times when we all need to work but spending all lunch on social media is a sure fire way to have a teen mimicking this behavior in years to come.
So, there we have it, a few thoughts on a what’s probably a rather contentious issue! What do you think? Feel free to let us know!