Thursday, March 28, 2013
There are a few things parents my age cannot seek advice from our own parents about. At least they cannot speak from experience. Technology has changed so drastically in just the last 10 years that it can be hard for parents to keep up. And the pace of change continues to progress so rapidly my head spins. Just when I get the hang of one new gadget, software or social media site, a new latest and greatest comes out that has to be learned.
Unfortunately, as a parent, I have to keep up with what is going on with new game apps and what they do. Not because I want to use them, but because I absolutely know my children are going to be wanting to use them. I have to stay in-the-know at all times. Don’t you ever just long for the days when books were only on paper, games were only on boards and the Dewey decimal system was the hardest thing to learn to use? Sigh.
Study after study continues to come out spelling out the dangers and long-term effects video game playing is having on our children and their development, eye sight and brain function. Not to mention their over-all health and obesity challenges. Now we fight with our children not only about using soap in the shower and cleaning their rooms, but how often and how long they can play their video games on Xbox or Wii or a handheld contraption. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.
With all that being said, there can be positives to the video games. As you know, three of my four are boys. And the two youngest boys argue and fight on an hourly basis. And every minute in between. It is so frustrating. But video games can be a source to bridge that gap between them sometimes. And I welcome that whole-heartedly. My hearts desire is for them to have a close bond and friendship that will last throughout their lives. I want all four of my children to be each other’s best friend. To be each other’s safe place.
During spring break on our stay-cation, we spent some down time at home just hanging out with each other and relaxing. Unfortunately, the weather kept us inside more than we wanted. But several times, the boys found their common interest and spent some quality time together.
The three boys all grabbed their “phones” (Seth and Cooper’s are not really phones, only gaming devices, but we call them phones because they think it sounds cool) and sat in Dad’s chair. They all have a game called Minecraft where they can play together at the same time. This is a game where you build a house, garden, cave etc., and you mine for gold and other resources. They strategize together and discuss what they can build and how. They sat in that chair together for at least an hour of harmonious play time.
The next day they gathered in Justin’s room to play again. I could hear them talking about their “resources” and how they can acquire more. It was fun to eavesdrop on their conversation and debates about all the ideas for their virtual world. They even continued to exchange ideas at the dinner table that night, long after the games were put away.
I just want to take a moment to point out, I don’t know why they put all those throw blankets from the basement on Justin’s bed. His comforter is the nice, plaid comforter peeking out from under those layers. I would hate for you to think I am making my teenage son have a leopard print blanket as his bedding. Okay, I can go on now. Thank you for indulging me.
I love seeing them just hanging out together. And oddly, technology is making that happen. It is giving them the common interest despite their age differences they need to spend time together by their own choosing.
The other benefit Dad and I have found with all this technology is that they want it. And we are not paying for it. Therefore, to get it, they must buy it themselves. They have learned to save and earn to pay for what they want. They have saved birthday and Christmas money from grandparents and asked for extra jobs around the house to earn money. At the time of their birthdays, I give them the option of having a party or taking half the money I would have spent on the party as their gift. Cooper’s birthday was last month and he chose the money. Between birthday money and Christmas money, he had enough to purchase his phone.
I know the cons to all this technology are real. We have to continue to learn how to handle it appropriately, monitor what they have access to, and limit the time spent playing with it. It is the world we live in today, and we have to learn as parents how to best find the appropriate balance.
The challenge is finding the creative ways to make more positives than negatives.
How do you handle the issue of technology with your children?