Let me start by saying I’m all for technology and its advancement. I recognize the many benefits it has brought about in various facets of our day-to-day living, but at the same time, I don’t turn a blind eye to the negative impacts of its improper use. Take gadgets such as video game consoles, smart phones, tablets and computers, for instance. While they are amazing products of technology and innovation for sure, they present a number of issues for families today, particularly if we spend too much time on them.
My children, just like any other kid these days, own several gadgets. My eldest has an iMac (for his school needs) and a smart phone, while my second child settled for a tablet. They also have a PlayStation 3 in their room because they wouldn’t let go of their saved games there. As for my youngest, well, she settled for my old iPhone. Oh, I should mention that my hubby bought a PlayStation 4 for himself and is planning to get a VR, too! 🙂
On one hand, I’m quite happy that they get to enjoy their gadgets and play their favorite games with their friends and classmates. Having their own smart phone and tablet also allows them to communicate with me and their dad. More importantly, they are able to keep up with school projects and requirements because of the apps available in their gadgets. My eldest son’s school encourages their students to make good use of technology and actually gives out homework, instructions and lessons through Google classroom, Edmodo and other online platforms. So, yes, some of their gadgets are really for their school needs.
However, I’ve seen the bad side, too. There have been times when my kids would wake up really early in the morning (and on a weekend, mind you!) so they’ll have more time to play. This robs them of the perfect opportunity to recharge and catch up on their sleep. In some instances, they would skip meals or snacks to focus on their games, and thus adversely affect their nourishment. I’ve also seen them lose sleep at night because their brain is still active from all the graphics and activities on their screens. Worst, I’ve noticed that it became difficult for them to focus when doing their homework or reviewing for an exam.
Because of these developments, I decided to be a “mean mom” and went on to establish a few but firm rules on the use of gadgets. Of course, there was (and still is) some resistance and a million and one questions on why I have to regulate them, but I still did anyway. I just had to remind them that I’m only doing this for their own good.
Number one rule relates to the schedule of gadgets use. They are only allowed to use any gadget on Fridays when they get home from school (but they need to have dinner first), on Saturdays (a.k.a. their unli-gadgets day), and holidays or class suspensions. On Saturdays, they can start using their gadgets only after breakfast so there’s no reason for them to wake up ahead of everybody (because we have our first meal of the day as a family). Sundays are definitely a no-gadgets day as they need to concentrate on studying and prepare their things for the coming school week.
Next rule is about privacy and parental controls. The iMac is placed in our room so we can monitor their usage, and their smart phones and tablets are left with me before they go to bed every night. To avoid exposing them to things they shouldn’t see and learn about at their age, I configured their Google and YouTube search settings accordingly. They’re also using my account so I get notifications of their online activities. Moreover, they are only allowed to accept friend requests from and chat with users who they personally know. Usually, these are limited to their classmates and friends. It was quite difficult to explain to them why this is a very important rule, but after a few attempts, they understood the dangers behind it.
To round up the set of rules put in place, my kids are not allowed to play games that are too violent or have references to sex (obviously!). They know that they cannot download or purchase a game that involves bloody killings and other gory images. Fortunately, they don’t mind because what my boys are interested in are relatively safe games like Minecraft, Roblox, Pokemon and NBA 2K. (Add princess-y and girly games with lots of pink and purple for my baby girl. :))
I also found that setting a good example with regard to proper gadgets use and following the rules is a must. We are not exempt as parents just because we are bigger and older. If it’s a no-gadgets family activity (such as a ‘staycation’), then we should put away our own devices and focus on spending quality time with our kids.
Though it was quite rough at the beginning, our children are now responding more positively. In fact, sometimes they are the ones reminding me to keep their gadgets because it’s almost bedtime.
Yes, the key here is to regulate their use of gadgets (coupled with loving reminders and explanation, if necessary), and not take away their chance to enjoy (and even learn from) these special devices.