My boys are ages seven and nine. They’re pretty much done with me.
Seriously! I’m the big, bad mama who makes them do their homework, finish their dinner, clean up after themselves and watch their language. And all this could be tolerated – even appreciated – if I didn’t have one, unforgivable, tantrum-inducing power:
The ability to take away their electronics. Oh yeah. I’m a baddie.
To fully appreciate their addiction to tablets, video games, computers and the like, here’s what happened when I told Ryder to “go outside and play on the trampoline.”
Yoink! That 3DS disappeared in a heartbeat. There I go again, being the bad cop!
Now before you bestow über-parenting respect on me for carefully monitoring their screen time, I must admit that the amount of time they stare at electronics does not bother me at all. I spend 14 hours every day basking in the eye-twitching white glow of a desktop computer, and I have no illusions that my boys will fare any better. They even read books on tablets!
However, I do have a keen desire to connect with my kids, especially while they’re young. I find amusement in almost everything they do and say (have you ever had a conversation with a seven-year old? They’re hilarious!) and would love to bottle every moment of their innocence. Similarly, I want to teach them, guide them, show them exactly how to be awesome human beings with a penchant to over-achieve, just like their fierce mama.
But how can we strengthen our connections with loved ones in a digitally connected world?
It’s not easy, but we try. And here are some tips to try if you’re looking to balance family time and screen time:
Model Healthy Electronic Use. This is a big one for me. Because my job requires me to be digitally connected at almost all waking hours, it’s not unusual for me to check my email, send a tweet or (mindlessly) scroll through Instagram while I should be mentally present. So I’ve learned to leave my phone in another room while preparing dinner or silencing my ringer if I’m helping the kids with homework. (I still look down at my phone while waiting for the kids in the school playground because #introversion.)
Create “Technology-Free Zones”. Electronics are forbidden in our kitchen and my boys’ bedrooms. It was a bit of a pain policing this rule in the beginning, but now that I’ve established there are consequences to sneaking screen time under the covers, we’ve been able to develop a more open relationship when it comes to technology and its use.
Encourage Family Time. I’ve read many tip sheets that say “encourage other activities”. As seen from the photo above, this doesn’t always pan out. But kids, especially young kids, are more likely to want to do something with their parents than alone. So my husband will take the boys to the basketball court or I’ll enlist a sous chef while cooking dinner. Involving kids in family activities is a much more effective way to promote togetherness than simply taking the electronics away.
Promote Learning Through Play. Do I mind if the boys use their tablets to read a book, play word games, design levels in video games or watch how-to videos? Not at all. Like I said, I don’t discourage screen time, unless it’s infringing on our ability to connect with each other. So as long as the boys are learning, I say let them have at it! It’s my job to ensure that the instructional YouTube video on origami doesn’t suddenly morph into unboxings of Kinder Eggs. (And that happens, a lot. Sigh.)
Screen Time for All. I’ve found the most effective way to manage screen time is for us to simply all be connected at the same time. That way, while I’m catching up on work at night, the kids can play online games and my husband can binge-watch a few episodes on Netflix. Luckily, our seamless and fast Internet connection with Ignite Gigabit allows us to all do our own thing without worry about someone else in the family “poaching” our connection.
(Before Rogers Ignite Gigabit Internet, we would strain our shared internet connection. But now we have enough bandwidth to ensure all our connected devices experience quick, uninterrupted internet service. Since we’re not staggering our online activities, we have more time together to connect. It’s a beautiful thing.)
How do you stay connected with loved ones in a world of distractions?
This post is sponsored by Rogers. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.