Are we losing our children to technology?

Home Heart Harmony - Are we losing our children to technology

It’s been a while since I talked ‘family.’ Our kiddo’s are growing waaaay to fast and, as we approach the end of yet another school year, it is scary to think about how much has changed around here, even in just the last 12 months! As many of you will know, we had a power cut last week which knocked out our wi-fi router. As I mentioned, it was a long week but in lots of ways, it was soooo good to have my children back for a few days! That sounds so awful doesn’t it? I’m aware of how bad it sounds. The way in which we spent the week really brought to the forefront of my mind an issue which has been troubling me for quite some time now so I thought I would ‘share’ with you all. They say a problem shared is a problem halved don’t they?

Our daughter is 11 and our son is 9 and they both have access to iPads and laptops. When we decided that they would be allowed to use these devices, it was largely as a result of their insistence that they ‘needed’ them. All of their school homework was posted online and they often needed to use a computer to complete it. They assured us that they were the ONLY children left in the entire universe that didn’t have a device of their own! Hmmm, I’m not quite sure that was the case (in fact, I think the truth was being seriously stretched).

However, having given the issue significant consideration (and having got sick and tired of the constant arguing over my laptop) we decided to take the plunge and invest in some technology for the children. This was both the best and worst decision we have ever made! Don’t get me wrong, these devices and the ways in which they can be used are incredible! (Let’s remember that I am not exactly whiter than white when it comes to the issue of technology over-use! I have both a personal and blog Facebook and InstaGram account, I write a blog and share it with the world electronically. I know that there are two very strong sides to this argument!) If I’m honest, in situations where children are required to sit still and quiet for a extended period of time, these devices are an absolute gift from heaven! However, the trouble really starts when you need to get them away from the screen and back into the real world.

I have spoken to many friends and acquaintances who are parents and they all seem to be struggling with the same issue. Whether it be the family PC, a smart phone, a tablet, an Xbox or Playstation or even the Wii which was purchased with a dream of ‘family game nights,’ everyone seems to be facing the same dilemma. We all want our children to be accepted by their peers, we don’t want them isolated socially because they can’t take part in group messages, oovoo chats, FaceTime or IG direct messages, but at the same time, we want them to be a part of the family, we would quite like to spend some time with them every now and then and ideally, we’d like them to just put the sodding thing down once in a while! Speak to parents of older teenagers, and you hear a much more serious story. Hushed conversations reveal real concerns about burgeoning gaming addiction, unlimited access to pornography, cyber-bullying and young lives wasting away in front of a computer screen.

I do sometimes feel like the situation is spiralling out of our control and we often discuss ways in which we can act now in order to prevent more serious problems from developing further down the line. I really do feel strongly that we need to get a handle on this issue A.S.A.P! As a solution-driven person, I am always looking for ways to resolve a problem and I would love (seriously, really, please tell me) to hear how you are all dealing with this situation in your own homes (or if it’s even an issue). I really feel like I need advice on this! It seems like such a simple problem to solve but in reality, we don’t want our children to be the only ones whose parents are coming down hard on them. We don’t want to be fighting a constant battle. We want them to be happy, to be able to communicate and socialise with their friends, we don’t want them isolated or targeted for torment. But, our priority is our family, our time together and the health and well-being of our children. With that in mind, for what it’s worth, here are a few ways we have tackled, are tackling and are planning to tackle this issue with our own kids (with varying degrees of success and failure!) Please, share yours with me in the comments:

  • Limiting the time spent on devices to a set period each day
  • Only using devices at the weekend
  • Confiscating devices one (or more) hour(s) before bed
  • “Earning” device time with good behaviour and/or chores
  • Turning off the Wi-fi at certain times of the day or week
  • Not allowing the children to know the password to download new apps
  • Linking all the children’s devices to our own Apple ID so that we share photo streams, apps, internet favourites and accounts.
  • Setting parental controls with PIN codes known only to us.
  • Talking regularly with our children about ‘self-monitoring’ and the need for time away from the screens.
  • Encouraging them to participate in regular clubs and activities outside of the home.
  • Not taking their devices everywhere with them.
  • Discussing cyber-bullying and things which could harm themselves and others if shared online.
  • Getting out of the house together regularly to enjoy time as a family

I realise that these are not always realistic and I know how hard it can be to encourage the children to spend their free time doing things other than the one thing they want most. It does feel a bit like we are quietly fighting a never-ending battle but it’s one we are determined to win! Don’t forget to share your tips for tackling this problem in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

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P.S. – Sharing this post over at Twinkly Tuesday here, here and here!

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14 comments

  1. Jenny steward says:

    I thought recently that yes, I use technology a lot myself but I’m in my 30s and not 9 so my use of technology and Owens was not comparable. When I think of what I was doing when I was 9! I was mainly outside, on a bike, and it was amazing – I loved it! Interesting to hear your thoughts and good luck in the ongoing battle x

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Thanks Jenny, yes, you are right, I need to use technology for work and to stay on top of things like trends and developments so it isn’t really comparable. It’s interesting what you say about how you spent a lot of time outside as a child. I did too (and I think that’s common of our generation) and to an extent, I do find it much easier to get the kids away from their gadgets when the weather is good. I suppose on a rainy day, it’s not the end of the world if they while away some of their time doing the things they enjoy, even if it does mean sitting in front of a screen! I guess it’s all about getting them to understand the need for time out.

  2. Ginny says:

    For what it’s worth, we’ve instigated a new routine. We have a lockable charging station (http://www.inclusive.co.uk/ipad-charge-and-sync-cabinet-p7486, others are available. Or a lockable drawer, I suppose?) in the office (and chargers are otherwise limited) into which all tablets, phones, etc. go at 9pm. They come out again after school at around 3.30 (because studies show children shouldn’t have screens before school http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-33022500). And weekends are pretty lax. Parents have administrator passwords for all devices, and can lock children out should they choose. Our big two also go away to a summer camp for 10 days, where no electronic devices are allowed. Also, we all try to give up screens/devices over Lent.
    So, our answer; periods of abstinence, controlled usage the rest of the time. And, hardest of all as a parent; trying to practice what I preach and setting a good example!

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Thanks for your great tips Ginny, exactly what I was looking for. The lockable cabinet is a brilliant idea. I have often thought that I could do with somewhere to lock the kids’ devices away!

  3. Anita Cleare says:

    Children are all different in their tendency to get sucked into technology. Some can self-limit successfully, others need firm boundaries or they would tech all day every day. I use tech time as a reward system for my youngest teenager. He earns tech time by doing other important stuff like joining in extra-curricular activities and reading books. That works well for him. #TwinklyTuesday

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Hi Anita, yes, it’s funny how each child is affected differently by the situation. We see huge differences even in the way that our own two children respond to technology. I think a reward system is a great way to motivate them. Our youngest has been doing extra chores to earn time on his devices lately but I still want to restrict the overall usage so there is a limit to how much time he can earn! I have recently suggested that I plan specific activities for our device free days (like baking, game or film night, dog walking and craft activities) to distract them from the lure of the iPad!! They seem to think that’s a good idea for the time being too. Thanks so much for reading xx

  4. Janice Wald says:

    Hi,
    #TwinklyTuesday. I actually wrote a guest post about this topic for Lifehack. I think your ideas are good and suggested many of them myself in the Lifehack article. Nice to meet you.
    Janice

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Hi Janice, thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, I think it’s an issue that troubles many a stressed Parent! I would love to read your article (just searched Google but couldn’t find it). Please feel free to leave the link in the comments here. Xx

  5. Morna says:

    Interesting read! My kids are too young for this to be a major issue yet but I know it is coming….. I like the idea of switching off the wifi and the linked Apple ID- that’s a clever one. Will keep this in the back of my mind for when the time comes…..

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Thanks Morna, yes, the linked ID (and secret pass code!) has been great for keeping a really tight control of what they are looking at, downloading and photographing. The only thing to bear in mind is that you need masses of storage! Thankfully, Apple have just hugely increased the amount of iCloud storage you can get and it’s not that expensive xx

  6. Leanne Cornelius says:

    I haven’t yet come across this problem as my daughter is only 6 months old, though she does have an app on my iPad which she loves haha!
    I can imagine it must be so hard now as all children want what others have.
    I like the idea of turning wifi off at certain times, I think that would be great for the adults as well as the children as most of us are guilty of checking fb, etc a little bit too often!

    #TwinklyTuesday

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      Yes, that’s so true. I can’t really tell the children to use their devices less, if every time they look at me, I am using mine! (Must try harder!) Thanks for stopping by xx

  7. Caro | The Twinkles Mama says:

    It’s a tough one isn’t it? I’m always amazed how many of my friends let their children (aged 2 and 3) use an iPad. I’m always horrified — if only for the reason that I don’t want the twins touching a £450 item that I can’t afford to replace if they break it! I can see that they’ll need to start getting tech savvy as they grow though — it’s the way of the world these days isn’t it?

    Thanks so much for linking up with us #TwinklyTuesday

    Caro | http://www.thetwinklediaries.co.uk

    • Sue Parfitt says:

      It does seem to be Caro. My husband gets really frustrated when I say that to him. He says it’s like I’m using it as an excuse (which I suppose is a little bit true). We have to agree what’s the right way to tackle the issue within our family home regardless of what other families are doing. My son is always telling me that his friends’ Mums don’t restrict them as much as we do but all I can tell him is, this is what we feel is right for our family and they are doing what they feel is right for theirs. It’s a constantly rumbling debate and sometimes I feel like throwing the whole lot out of the window!! I think it’s a pretty common issue though! Thanks so much for reading. xx

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