Updated: Jun 12
Written by: T.M. Brunson
For Generation Xers, we had television to get us through our teenage angst and our wild 20s until we settled down in a new career and/or got married in our 30s. For this new generation, they don’t know any life before cell phones and tablets. I never thought I would hear my own kids say, “Way back in your day...” That’s a phrase that I reserved for my parents!
WHAT WE PLANNED
Before kids, we had all kinds of dreams. We weren’t going to yell at them. We weren’t going to let them watch tv a lot. We definitely weren’t going to let them play with tablets before a certain age. No phones until they were 13.
The tv would never be our babysitter.
We would engage them in outside activities or arts & crafts. We would spend time with them and love them and be that picture-perfect family...
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
We yell. A lot. They watch tv (sometimes before school), after homework, and on the weekends.
The four-year-old knew how to swipe on a tablet before she turned two! The 11 and 12 year olds have phones. Smart ones, at that.
When my husband and I have to do things around the house or work, we turn on a movie or Netflix so shows will keep running until the “continue watching” message.
We did run them to auditions and they even booked a few commercials. So that was a positive. When we lived in California, they were involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities after school and at the YMCA. Karate, Zumba, gymnastics, swimming...you name it, they did it.
But then we moved to the east coast. And everything changed.
I never thought that any of the six girls that I have would be gamers. However, they are all into tech—especially my oldest. I am seriously considering a tech camp for #s 1-4 this summer if I can get scholarships for them to go.
#1 (yes, I have numbered my children) built her own “Gatcha Verse” and posts them on her own youtube channel. I have never seen her so engaged in something. And, she gets excited with each new subscriber that she gets.
#2 loves to play video games, but she’s moreso into watching her favorite shows on her tablet. She also likes anything that deals with singing, theater, or dance. She is the artsy one.
#s3&4 want to be youtube influencers. They have been trying to produce their own videos to put up on their own youtube channel.
I think some of my kids are addicted to the tablets. When they are not charged, they seem to go into some state of withdrawal. It makes me jealous of my friends who are in device-free households.
Once, we took #1’s tablet from her for three weeks. The first week was rough. She was begging every day for us to give her her tablet privileges back. The second week, she was only asking once or twice a day; but she started to do other things like read, watch TV, or sleep. The third week, she was in a much calmer, relaxed state. She still wanted her privileges back, but she wasn’t adamant and in a rage like in the first week.
We said no phones until they turned 13. Then one kid started walking to the middle school to pick up her sisters. Then track started. Then choir field trips...
We needed a way to stay in touch with them.
Enter the iPhone7 and the iPhone8. We gave them phone privileges with the intent that they can be taken away at any time—not listening, talking back, not taking care of their personal hygiene, not doing their chores, or slipping grades can have consequences.
And every inch has been followed by a mile—the selfie photos, Roblox, YouTube videos...thank God they aren’t into social media...yet.
I’m learning from other moms about setting up phone contracts with your kids. It’s a contract between a child with a phone and their parent/guardian that helps clarify rules and responsibilities on both ends. Thank you, Nathalie, for the advice!
ACCESS AT THEIR FINGERTIPS
So what makes our sweet, adorable kids turn into tech monsters?
The world is at their fingertips. I can’t even imagine having this kind of access when I was growing up. One the one hand, I like the educational aspect of it. They can absorb so much from different educational videos that provide supplemental learning to what they are getting at home, in general, and in the classroom.
#5 has been into devices since she was two. She used to take my phone, press the home button to turn it on, and then find my photos to swipe through them (looking for photos of herself!)
By the time she was three, she was able to find her favorite shows on Netflix and press “play.” The girl cannot read, but she can navigate her way through a device to get to Netflix and then find the show that she wanted to see. And, if something is taking too long to buffer, she would look at you and say, “It’s taking too long to load.”
Who says this at the age of three? The word “loading” wasn’t even in my vocabulary at that age, let alone knowing how to use it in a sentence.
That is the sign of the times. I just don’t want it to get out of hand.
We are an Apple household. So, this now four-year-old knows how to get the AppleTv remote, turn it on, go to YouTube, Hulu, or Netflix to find something she wants to watch. She knows how to pause, fast-forward, and rewind.
So, don’t think that the girls have access all day and all night, because they don’t. There are times when we say “No devices” and to find something else to do.
One day, when they told me they were “bored,” I took them to the closest Barnes & Nobles and got them each 2-4 books. Almost $300 later (and a promise to myself that next time, we will just go to the free library), they were excited about their purchases.
For one day.
Two kids read two of their books within one day. #4 just wasn’t interested anymore. I told them that they had to figure it out. They needed to find something else to do like write a story, color, play board games... and when they are “forced” to do something other than be on a device, they will think of creative things to do.
Some of them build a clubhouse with blankets and such in their room and play for hours. Others will play a game of Monopoly or Chess. They all want to hold/play with their baby sister.
And, sometimes...those rare times...two unlikely sisters will pair up and play so well together (when they are usually at each other’s throats!).
Sometimes I will take them for a walk, or their dad will take them to the park. We haven’t been in a position for them to have (and store) bicycles, so we haven’t done that since we left California. But, things are changing—for the better.
So whether you’re a device-free household or your kids have free-range, I believe that, used in moderation, having access to technology can be used more for good (in my family). If you don’t have kids yet, think about it. Have a plan. If you have to deviate from said plan a little bit, like we did, hey, at least you started out with a plan.