Technology In Our House
Digital technology (hereafter "technology") use during childhood can be a hot-button item for many parents and professionals alike. It is a highly debated argument with numerous viewpoints; from absolutely no technology to free reign with technology and everything in between. I'm not here to put this debate to rest. I'm here simply to tell you how we handle technology in our house and why it works for us.
Firstly, I should note that I do believe technology during childhood is important. I feel that having a hard and fast, no technology rule, does a disservice to our kids. Technology is the way of the future and inevitably will be part of their lives. It is becoming a major component of education and is an essential learning tool in most schools starting as early as Kindergarten. There are numerous benefits to the exposure of technology at a young age, including fostering passions, expanding horizons, developing fine motor skills, improving problem-solving skills, raising motivation to complete tasks, and of course giving parents and caregivers a little bit of time to do what needs to be done.
That being said, for our family, the content of the technology our children consume is more important than the use of technology itself. There are a plethora of educational shows, apps, games, and activities to choose from. It is a matter of doing the research, finding options that interest your child, and providing structured time for them to consume content using technology. Keeping this in mind, here are the two technology rules that we live by in our house:
No television, Netflix, Youtube, etc. on in our house without purpose: Ever since Maelle was four months old and started taking note of the TV as more than just a light-emitting box, we have had this rule in place. Note - anything before four months is simply survival. Parenting through the newborn phase of your first is an absolute battlefield and if a little bit of Netflix helps ease the struggle then do it. While our children are awake, our television is off. This is a conscious decision; we do not want our kids thinking that the television is more important than them. We choose to play, engage, and be active with them over watching some form of programming. We want out children to see that our lives do not revolve around a screen. Also, we cannot enforce rules around technology that we ourselves do not follow - as such, we make sure our kids are not picking up habits through simply replicating our behaviours.
There are designated times during the day that we allow shows, iPad games, and app: Every day, at approximately the same time, technology becomes available to our kids. As parents, however, we have the final say in what they consume. We pre-screen or co-view everything they have access to in order to determine if we think it serves a purpose. There is a wide spectrum of content available, from the barely passable "Paw Patrol", to apps that help with fine motor development.
As much as I would like to say these rules are infallible, there are definitely times they are broken. The exceptions are as follows:
Major sporting events: We are a sports family. Even if we do not follow it regularly, come playoffs and championships we are most likely going to be watching. I believe it is positive for the kids to watch sports with us. They learn about different physical activities, rules, sportsmanship, and enjoy the camaraderie and rivalry that is part and parcel of loving a sports team.
Sick days: When my kids are really sick you will either find them sleeping in bed or zoned out watching TV on the couch. If an illness isn't excuse enough to take a day off then at least let the fact that you have to do 10 loads of laundry (to clean all of the vomit off everything) be the reason you let them veg out in front of the TV.
Because sometimes it just has to happen: If I'm trying to get my kids home without them falling asleep so they take a decent nap then I'm not going to feel guilty for pulling out my phone and letting them watch something to keep them awake as I drive. If Linden decides that staying alive by eating isn't on his agenda for the day and the only way to get some nutrients into him is by distracting him with a show then you bet your ass I'm going to do it. Sometimes bending the rules is necessary and that's okay as long as it doesn't become a habit.
For us, we typically give our kids 20 minutes of show time first thing in the morning and 20 minutes of show time after dinner, prior to their bedtime routine. I should note that Linden is not interested in shows yet so he typically wanders around playing while Maelle watches. Maelle also receives about 40 minutes of quiet time during one of Linden's nap. The large majority of that time is dedicated to educational apps and games.
The final (and unspoken rule) in our house is that if they ask for technology they will not get it. This rule is unspoken because it is nearly never invoked; they understand rules 1 and 2 and we have reinforced these over time. Providing our kids with a routine allows them to understand the expectations making the technology battle that sometimes takes place non-existent in our house.
Now, ask me in 10 or even 5 years how the technology wars are going and everything may be different. But for now, this is what works in our house. It provides structure without restriction and allows our kids to discover the joys of technology without overdoing it.