Thursday, February 2, 2012

Electronic Devices

This morning, Teagan was very open with me about her feelings.

"Mom, I'm going to be jealous today."

The before and after care program at her school is run by the YMCA.  As a fundraiser, the Y was letting kids bring in their favorite "electronic devices" if they donate $1.

My kids don't have any electronic devices.  No iPod, no MP3 player, no electronic readers, no tablets, no handheld gaming systems.

Teagan asked to take my phone, Daddy's phone, our computers, Daddy's Kindle.  Not going to happen, of course.

Part of me was sad for her- she knew she would be feeling jealous and she knew she would feel left out.  She would be different.

Part of me was... kinda proud of my parenting.

Jeff and I talked about it- did we possibly have something she could take?

Nope.  And we didn't spend time thinking about it.  In our family, kids don't have their own electronics.

I explained to Teagan that in our family, kids don't have TV's in their bedrooms, kids don't have their own computers, and kids don't have electronics.  In our family, kids entertain themselves by playing together, reading books, playing with toys.  Yes, the adults have electronics.  We're the adults.  And we share our toys when it's appropriate but that truly doesn't happen often.

I know she's anxious about the day ahead of her.  But this is one of those things where we stick to our guns. Because electronics and kids have never been a focus, even when electronic media is available, it doesn't hold attention for long.  The biggest screen time my kids get is watching TV and we limit that to Nick Jr 90% of the time.  On rare occasions, they will get on and play various games together.  On even more rare occasions, they have played a game on my phone when we've had a long wait somewhere.  I will say that since getting my Droid 3, I haven't loaded any games for kids on my phone.  Teagan has asked for a handheld game system for her birthday but I honestly don't know that it would hold her attention.  Plus, having one would mean rules and restrictions on how often she can use it.

It's not that I am somehow completely opposed to kids having electronics.  It's not that I'm a big advocate of limiting screen time.  My kids are 4 and almost 7.  I guess, in my mind, those kinds of entertainment things are for older kids, for teens, for adults.  I'm not against the idea of getting Teagan a handheld game system for her birthday- I just truly think it would be a waste of money because I don't see it being something SHE is truly interested in.  I think she wants one because other kids have one.  She never pays attention to that stuff when we go to Target, for example.

She would, however, love to have her own e-reader with books and a few games on it.  But we aren't going down that path just yet, either.

It's interesting to me that there was this little tug of wanting my kid to feel like she fit in.  I went without so often as a kid that I can really identify with that feeling.

And I find great relief in knowing that I was able to tell my kid that this one isn't going to happen because of how we work as a family- not because we can't afford electronics, not because we can't afford a donation to the Y.  But because we value our kids being kids that use their brains and bodies.  Because we value reading and books and magazines and dolls and cars and balls and blankets and building forts and having a dance party and loving on our dogs and snuggling on the couch and telling stories and playing restaurant and going for walks and heading to the park and going out for sushi- all are higher priorities than having electronic devices in the hands of our kids.



C. Beth said...

What a great post, Liz.

Lola said...

Ashley has access to many electronics in our house- but only one of them is HERS- her Leapfrog Explorer. I like it a lot because it can be used as a digital camera, a gaming device, a reader or short videos. She uses it quite a bit- and many of the games are educational.
We also got a Kindle Fire for Christmas- and because you can use Netflix through it- she started to take it over. I knew it was a problem when she was using it without asking- and became upset when we would not allow her to watch it whenever she wanted to. She now has to earn time and recognizes that the Kindle is a special thing she gets to use on rare occasions.
I think it is a fine line and a hard one at that- because so much is electronic these days- but we also have to teach them to be kids with natural imaginations and not simply electronic driven.

Momza said...

We have found that by assigning a particular age to a privilege--be it having a personal cellphone, a lap top, one-on-one dating,having a Facebook account,their own email account, solo trips to the Mall, etc.--eliminates these kind of discussions, or at the very least, alleviates feelings of guilt or deprivation. You and Jeff decide what you feel is an appropriate age for each privilege and together inform your child. It's about not saying "NO" but more "IN TIME" works for us.

Alison said...

This is one of those issues that makes me glad I'm not raising kids in this day and age! Sounds like you've got a good handle on it, though. I bet it felt like a nice confirmation that you're living your principles.

I wonder if Teagan will notice how the kids staring into screens aren't able to run around and play with the other kids--that they're cutting themselves off from some kinds of interactions. (Probably not; that would be too perfect a lesson!)

Michelle said...

While I realize your post was about parenting, I must get on my soapbox about the Y. My daughter attended YMCA before/after care last year and I was furious when they had this "fundraiser". Seriously? They also had kids "donate" a dollar to watch a movie. Children whose parents did not "donate" were not allowed to watch the movie. This screams discrimination to me. How can the Y of all places ask for more money? I pay them to watch my child and I expect all children to have access to the same activities. I called them on the movie deal....asked if they had permission from the producer to make money off showing the film. Needless to say, movie day was pulled. I couldn't do anything about toy day, but am SO glad I found another childcare option. The activities (gym, crafts, etc.) were wonderful, but I was very disappointed in the way the program was run.

Good parenting, Liz. And good for Teagan to simply say she would be jealous as opposed to throwing a tantrum.

Anonymous said...

My kids got/get a cell phone when they turn 16 and are driving. My daughter got texting when she went to college. It has been difficult to hold to these ages as technology advances and costs have come down. But really, technology for 4 and 7 year olds? And a fundraiser to boot. I think not. Simple, IMO is what childhood is for. There is no need for all that stuff, at such a young age.

My son is a HS freshman and one of the carpool moms was trying to tell me he needs a phone..really? But here's the deal...we got another line a few weeks ago when my dad moved to another company and he now has access to a cell phone, that he shares with his dad. On the last three weeks, he has sent and/or received 4 text messages not from me, made or received zero phone calls and has added two phone numbers to his phone book...yeah right, he seems to really NEED that phone...psh

Leticia said...

It is, by far, my #1 regret...letting DH's obsessions with all things gadget-y flow into their hands, eyes, and hearts.

I never wanted to raise my kids in the digital ages. I didn't want them to play video games and never dreamed when I had my first that things would develop as fast as they have!

If I could turn back time it is the one parenting choice I would change. I would have stuck to my guns and kept saying NO! <3

Liz's Mom said...

Doesn't Teagan have a Leap Frog computer? What about her child digital camera?

I agree with Michelle. This is not a fundraiser--just a money grab. Parents should not be put in this position. Can you speak to them about this?

Garret said...

I never thought about the donate a dollar for a privilege thing. That's awful. When I priced out the Y for a gym, they were much higher than anyone else. They say they're higher to offset those who cannot afford. What a great program but if you're already paying a premium price for a service, why ask for more? Unfortunately I think this teaches kids how it's important to have money and the more you have, the more you get.

I can see when our jobs do the "wear jeans to work if you donate to xxxx". That happens all the time and to me is different.

MCM Mama said...

Have to agree with the others on having to bring in money in order to play. That bothers me more than the electronics LOL.

My kids keep asking why we don't have a tablet, since all their friends' parents have them and let them use them. (Drives me crazy when they go to playdates and end up on the iPad instead of playing outside or with toys. But that's a whole 'bother rant LOL).

BTW, I tagged you on my blog today

Lori A (!!) said...

110% agree with you on the electronic issue. Our kids play with their imaginations, each other, and the real 3D world. I think giving young kids technology too early leaves them always longing to be entertained. As hard as it is for adults to take the time to "be still," I sure don't want my young kids to always be tied to a gadget.