Back to a simpler time?

I had a conversation with another mom today who admits that her children are on the computer all. the. time. And when they’re not on the computer, they’re on their cell phones.  And when they’re not on their cell phones, they are on their iPods.  And she feels like they are never interacting or engaging with the family, anymore.   And she longs for what she calls, “a simpler time.”

The conversation made me evaluate how we, as a family, use technology in our lives.  The kids get home from school and after a snack promptly plop themselves down to play the Wii or Plants vs. Zombies on the iPod or Club Penguin on the computer. I know they’ve worked hard at school and they are just decompressing doing a thing they enjoy. When they have homework or research that has to be done, they are on the laptop in clear view of a parent.   My son has a cell phone but hasn’t become a slave to texting or checking his phone. Yet.  He does have a texting app on his iPod and it can be a time-suck for him, occasionally.  I spent more time than I should on the laptop, reading information, being entertained and working on school-work.  My smartphone is a great distraction.   My husband can be a slave to his work Blackberry.

We like our technology in this house.  We enjoy the entertainment value and we use it as a functional tool for school, work and play.  I can say with relative certainty that we aren’t as ‘plugged in’ as some families I know.   We spend a considerable time outside, reading together and playing board games.  We insist on family suppers and face-to-face time (and not the iPhone kind).  We don’t watch reality TV but instead sit together and watch a few sitcoms during the week.  On the weekends, aside from the historically traditional Saturday Day Morning Cartoons we don’t watch
a lot of TV or play on the computers, unless it’s a family movie night.

I don’t think we are a family whose family time is diminished or extinguished by kids ignoring us because they are texting or MSN messaging or by the adults in the family answering emails all night while then kids are by themselves.  I think we are a family who is using technology effectively, efficiently and moderately while still keeping our human connection alive.

So our conversation turned to the idea that we should, for the benefit of human-contact, unplug our families for a week.  No internet, no TV, no video games, no cell phones, no iPods, no Nintendo DS.  And in theory, the move to a slower-time, a less ‘plugged in’ time sounds kind of relaxing.

But could we do it?  Well, we use the internet a lot around here.  We do school work, research information before making purchases, and order books, music, and all kinds of things online.  We look up recipes and phone numbers.  We keep in touch with our friends and family through email and Facebook.  We do our banking and bill paying online.  We do any number of other things.

I think there’d be one heck of a tech-withdrawal for everyone if we chose to ‘unplug’ but I think we could do it.  But do we *have to*? Honestly?  I am proud of how responsibly our family uses technology.  We are not slaves to it and
can take a break from it.  It is a tool that keeps us connected globally and locally and entertains us.  And through our usage and with our expectations and rules about technology, we are hoping that our children learn to be responsible users of digital media as they go.

I won’t be unplugging us.  I will continue to vigilantly monitor our usage, though.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, while I’ve been blogging this, I’ve been letting my kids play Lego Batman on the Wii.  We need to start making supper together.  We’re all shutting down for a while.

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2 responses to “Back to a simpler time?

  1. Nice reflection Trina and an important conversation. In the end, it’s not about technology but purpose and intent. I touched on it somewhat here http://ideasandthoughts.org/2011/08/30/not-better-but-different/

    I do think that we’re very much in the infancy of this new world and trying to figure out what works.

    During these discussions I’m much more willing to hear from people who do use technology. To many who rarely use technology I would retort back that they don’t connect enough. Many are quick to use the phrase, “it’s about balance”. I think it depends on what you mean by balance. If means regulating screen time, I’m not so sure. We’d be fine if our kids read books for 4 hours a day. We’d likely brag about what a voracious reader our child is. Why don’t we brag about the 4 hours they spend online? I’m not saying we should but the range of activity and purpose for using technology is so vast, it can’t be lumped into screen time. We have to be more specific.

    End of rant. Thanks for yours.

    • Thanks, Dean. I read your post and I agree (love the pictures!). Rereading my post I realize it may sound as if the extent of my kids’ technology use is gaming, but that is far from the truth. When I see a Storybird production they have created or a video that they have done together, or the fun they are having playing on a math website, I am as proud of them as if they had been enjoying reading. When they communicate with their friends safely and respectfully through texts or MSN, I am proud of the social beings that they are. It is different. But the same. And we embrace it around here.

      Thanks, again.
      T.

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