Monday, August 6, 2012

Plug into your Family

The other day at work, while reviewing a child's plan (I coordinate a program for kids with disabilities), I read something that took me by surprise.  One of the goals for this two year-old who isn't talking yet, was to decrease iPad use.  This made me wonder, are we failing to teach our kids the art of playing and social interaction and  instead relying on technology too much? (Note:  By no means am I trying to suggest that the child is not talking because of its use.  The child has a true speech delay.  Nor am I trying to implicate his parents, but to rather shed light on the current state of parenting in general.)

When I was growing up, I couldn't wait to get a pen pal.  Checking the mail was an exciting part of my day (for some reason it still is although I could do without the bills).  As I got older, I would stay up all night long talking on the phone to my girlfriends.  Now verbal communication and letter writing has given way to texting, emails, and Facebook.  Why talk on the phone for 5 minutes when you can send 10 grammatically incorrect text messages?  Hanging out on the porch playing cards with friends is being replaced by Words with Friends.  I'm as guilty as the rest of the world. My children know how to operate all of the electronic devices out.  The oldest has her own Nook and there are discussions of what to get the youngest.  It is nothing for my four year-old son to grab my phone and start playing Angry Birds (he's better at it than I am).   Sending my kids outside is likely to end in complaints about the heat or boredom.  Children are becoming way too dependent on technological advances as a means of entertainment.  That innate ability to play is being destroyed.

So, how can we combat losing our children and gaining a group of robots. Here's a few simple suggestions:
  1. Have dinner with the family.  Actually sit at the table (not in the car) and talk about the day.  My dinner time usually includes very corny jokes by my daughter.
  2. Plan a family game night.  There is nothing like watching my husband play Cootie with my son.
  3. Go outside.  Wash the car together. Talk a walk around your neighborhood. Play catch.  It doesn't matter, just do it together.
  4. Write letters to the grandparents (though some are tech savvy, they'd much rather receive a handwritten letter).
  5. Have a dance off with your family.  Tonight after dinner, we taught my daughter the running man and the roger rabbit while listening to Janet Jackson.  Meanwhile, she told us how old school we are and asked to listen to Beyonce.
  6. Turn off the tv, computer, tablets, etc.  Every year, in April there is a National Turn Off The TV/Screen-Free week.  It is geared towards taking back family time.  You don't have to wait until April.  With school starting soon, reduce or eliminate screen time during the week.  I attempt to limit our time to one show per kid during the week.
Now, I'm not trying to sound high and mighty.  My household is by no means perfect.  In fact, I struggle to consistently enforce some of these.  We do manage to have dinner together almost every night.  And we frequently dance together.  I know I have a battle on my hands to reduce the tv and nook use since school is starting.  But we can replace that time by playing games.  And when we do the most amazing thing children stop fighting with each other.  They start taking turns.  And we all start learning a little more about each other, simply because we're talking to one another.  Let's go from an iFamily to My Family. What other suggestions do you have?

The Lipgloss Junkie

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