As a child I was mostly outside. I enjoyed using my imagination, creating my own fun and living what I felt like was a nice way of life. Occasionally watching TV and enjoying movies when we didn’t feel like going outside. I was raised in a time where technology was just beginning to “over-run” us. My cassette collection was being turned over to CDs and eventually even those became non-existent to me. We had small flip phones (my dad had one of those old Nokia’s) and hours of time for “free” calls, now there are smart phones bigger than a 4×5 picture frame and a lot of unlimited data plans. My VHS collection turned to DVD and then BluRay. We now stream a lot of our movies and shows on Netflix because it’s easier to pay a subscription than to go out and build an old fashioned movie collection like we all used to have (even though I still buy some of our favorites). My dial-up was replaced by Cable and internet became The Thing of our lives. Years and years to pass and our new generation has been born into a world of technology, whereas my generation was in the middle… it gradually came upon us as we transitioned into the change. For them, it’s first nature. For us, we remember the good old days where our fun was hands on and not face deep in a screen.
It’s pretty much impossible to raise my children in this world without technology when it is all around us in our every day lives. From the grocery store to restaurants, in the public library and of course in their schools. I’m not one of those ‘ban technology nutcases’, but I am one of those parents who limits screen time a lot. It’d be impossible to shut technology out of their lives completely. I know there are parents out there that do choose to live close to or completely without technology in their own home and that’s fine too. Everyone has the right to choose what to have their children around.
I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy just lounging around binge watching Netflix or checking my Facebook or doing online research, or even playing my video game. I’m fond of having the luxury of my cable, internet and other electronics. Can I live without them? Of course. Once in 2014 I didn’t like that I had become glued to my phone, constantly in my hand or back pocket turning it on checking for notifications and things that were irrelevant, so I turned it off for 7 months. It was liberating. I didn’t get online everyday, I didn’t text constantly and I wasn’t attached to my phone. When I finally decided to turn it back on, it took a while to get used to having a phone again. I’d end up leaving it at home or forget it someplace in the house and not find it until the next day. Whereas before, it was never out of my sight. I use a similar method with my children, when we turn off the electronics.
Of course we love our movies, games, TV, computer, etc and that’s fine. Who doesn’t love to just relax and do NOTHING but maybe watch some favorite shows, movies or play a game! Do we spend all of our time on these things? No, definitely not. One thing about us is we have a large family (family of 8) so everyone isn’t always willing to do whatever it is that everyone else is doing. Sometimes it is difficult to find something to please everyone. This is where certain diversity comes in for something to do when we’re not doing any of our usual family things or if it’s a lazy day.
We have several TVs (capable of DVDs/BluRays, Netflix and 2 with Cable) where the kids can have something on that a few of them are willing to watch, but for the most part, the TVs are literally ignored and it ends up being background noise. My husband and I do have an Xbox One that we use for Netflix and our games (that we rarely get to play). My oldest has a laptop and phone that she may get on once or twice a week just to talk to her dad or type one of her books she’s writing (she wants to be an Author).
I’ve never been the mother to let her kids mess around with my phone or own a video game system that we let kids use (destructive as they are), they didn’t even know how to play on video games until they learned how to play on a game system away from our home (family, etc). One day I took all the kids to their Pediatric Dentist office (where they have 2 game systems). There was another small family waiting too and the secretary came out to ask if my kids and theirs wanted to play on it while they waited, the 2 kids from the other family said “Yes!” and before I knew it mine were telling her “we aren’t allowed to play video games”. I quickly studied the face of the other mother who made a glance at me as though she thought I was implying that she was a bad parent because she let her kids play one. That is definitely NOT the case and I didn’t want anyone to think that I thought I was better than anyone else, so from then on… I let the older kids play on the video game when they go to the dentist.
I finally bought myself a tablet the other month to read books on and the younger kids started to want to play games on it.I told them no repeatedly but after million times being asked I finally looked up some educational games for the tablet that they could play and learn at the same time with. So I downloaded a few for them to play (different age range learning games) and a few times a week they are allowed to take turns playing on it and it’s educational. Usually it becomes more of an argument than a recreational item so it doesn’t last long and I put it away.
We have more time away from screens than some people may think. We may even have more time away from screens than other people choose too and that’s fine. We do what we feel in best for our family and if want to sit in front of screens all day one day, we will and if one day we turn them all off and do one of our many activities we will.
Here’s 20 activities that are great ideas for getting away from the screens and spending time together (these are some of our favorites for ages 2-11):
1. Cook together or bake together.
2. Read a book out loud to them or have them read to you (if they can read)
3. Play a board game or card game or put together a puzzle.
4. Do a craft together. (you can probably find a lot of cute ideas on Pinterest)
5. If you have the means you can get a local museum membership and take them on day trips to educate them and let them play with hands on features.
6. Play with toys, dolls, blocks or Legos
7. Build Forts
8. Play outside (possibilities are almost endless)
9. Go on a nature walk or hike
10. Ride bikes.
11. Go flower picking
12. Take a trip to the library
13. Play at the park.
14. Listen to music and sing loudly
15. Take a car ride and play I spy.
16. Go swimming.
17. Have conversations by playing What’s your favorite (the answers may change, but it’s a great way to get to know your child and so they can get to know you.)
18. If you have a hobby, try to incorporate your child into helping you so you can spend time together.
19. Create a nature scavenger hunt and save all the goodies they find.
20. Cloud watching. Look up at the clouds and have them describe what each one they find looks like.
We are a very active and connected family and I love that about us. Do we like technology? of course… Do we let it control our lives? not so much. I will not let my children sit for hours on end in front of a computer or tablet or phone, I just won’t. I’d send them outside to get dirty before I let them sit on computer or tablet (unless it’s raining and then we can weigh some options before the last resort)
In order to teach them to appreciate nature, their family, working together, compromise, rules, structure and how to play nicely then usually technology needs to be out of the equation all together. Several days of the week we do a “technology ban” (it’s not necessarily a planned time or day) which for us means we turn off the TVs, the tablet, phones, computer for a few hours and do something that requires us to connect.
I know that some parents get overwhelmed, I get overwhelmed too. I understand that it’s easier to just turn a movie on and sit the kids in front of it. It’s easier to let them hang on to your phone and let them pop the balloons. It’s easier to put a screen in front of them to keep them occupied and out of your hair while you get stuff done around the house like showering, brushing your hair, finally finishing that load of laundry and getting the last of the dishes washed just to have them pile back up after lunch. I’m not saying that I don’t give my children screen time, because I do, I definitely do. What I’m saying is, it’s not ALL we do. (Even though sometimes even when I offer the TV or games so I can get chores done, it doesn’t work and they insist on helping with the things we’re trying to get done and that’s fine too)
Basically, my point is. My kids enjoy time spent with us and actually doing hands on things versus being screen deep into electronics. They would choose to go on a nature hike or out for a walk before being in front of a screen any day and I love that about them. They know there is more to life than sitting in front of TV or games. They usually tend to beg to go to the park or for a walk, especially when we drive by where they are familiar. The love being outdoors and in nature and I’ve done my best to make it and keep it that way. I’ve never been the parent to let their child get consumed in electronics instead of taking the time to interact with them. There will be plenty of time in their futures for them to have electronics in their lives, but for us right now, this time is the time in their lives that molds them into the people they become and I want them to have as many memories as I can give of us spending time together as much as we possibly can.I’ve chosen to be more involved with my children and their imaginations and their growth as individuals instead of screen zombies.