Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kids and gadgets

Recently the Indianapolis Star published an article (link here) (and text only here) about parents using electronic gadgets, such as an iPhone or iPad, to entertain and keep their children busy.  I have witnessed this phenomenon, mostly at restaurants while dining with my family.

I have a problem with this, and ultimately, my children will have to deal with this problem.

Photo credit within Indy Star article
For the record, I am not against children having access to technology to stay with the times.  What I am against is giving it to them to 'buy their silence'.  Let them learn how to keep themselves occupied, let them participate in the conversation, let them learn some table manners, let them learn to be social.  I admit that I am not without fault, in that I, too, find myself seeking solitude with my portable device when in a public situation.  But I am an adult and I know better, and at times have the conscious thought to put it away and strike up a conversation with the people around me. I even had an adult today muse about how we don't talk to each other anymore, that it is all email, Facebook and texting.  

Admittedly, each parent knows what works for their child.  I seek to offer examples from my experiences.  A recent experience places my family of 6 at Cracker Barrel, where the family sitting at the table next to us had 2 children.  One looked to be about 3-4 and the other was bound to their pumpkin seat.  The elder child sat at the table the whole time we were there watching movies on an iPad.  It was still used even after Grandpa and Grandma showed up to have dinner with the family.  I would be more than miffed if my child did not acknowledge their grandparents sitting at the same table with them.

More often than not, when talking about our Volkswagen Routan with people, they are amazed that we do not have an entertainment system installed.  Following these comments are frequently stories about how they could never survive with out their DVD player, and how it is a God send to get to the grocery store 10 minutes from their house.

And these are the same people who compliment us on how well behaved our children are and able to entertain themselves.  Do you think that there is a correlation?  

We intentionally did not get the DVD player.  It was a hard decision, because there were features that we would really like to have had that were included in the package and we were not able to have installed separately.  I enjoyed playing the alphabet game growing up and would like to afford my children the same opportunity. I also enjoy having conversations with them about their day or what they see as we drive past.

My greater goals are for my children to learn how to entertain themselves, to foster and grow their imagination and their interpersonal skills.  I don't totally cut them off from any type of electronic entertainment.  They do get to watch a 30 minute show each day, if they choose to.  They are starting to learn how to use a computer.  
We are just being intentional with our children in how we choose to incorporate technology into their lives, with these long-term goals in mind.

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