Technology, Time, and Togetherness
I admit it! I am a huge technology user. I am one of those women who can be seen checking her iPhone every few minutes for e-mails, text messages, and Facebook updates. I do most of my reading on a Kindle, I have two computers on my desk (a PC for programming and a Mac, ‘cause I’m learning it!), a TV on my desk to listen to Fox News, and an iPad in the kitchen for recipe reference!
But that’s not how it’s always been. When Family Magazine was first getting started, I did not own a cell phone. GASP! That’s right, not only could we not justify the expense, I simply didn’t need it. I didn’t use Facebook much, I stayed home most of the time, I checked e-mails twice a week on the family computer, and these fingers didn’t know about the glories of communicating with a few text messages what would have ended up being a long, drawn-out conversation by phone.
Learning to Love Technology
Technology is one of those love-hate relationships. I love the ability to Google any information or print off free downloads to supplement our lessons. Who doesn’t love to watch movies or TV on your own time using Amazon, Netflix, and DVR. Not to mention the hours we can get caught up in Instagram, selfies, and Pinterest—and that is just for moms!
Kids these days have even more options. In 2010, the statistics revealed that kids spend about seventy hours a week on technology. It seems their daily routine includes about three hours of music, five hours of TV, three hours of gaming, an hour-and-a-half texting, thirty minutes talking by cell phone, and only thirty-eight minutes of good old-fashioned reading.1
So how do we embrace the technology without letting it suck the life out of our time and togetherness as a family? Over the past five years, as our kids have all grown into teens and young adults, we’ve found what works for us by trial and error. Here are a few things we do in our home to find the balance:
Take a day to closely examine how you and your children spend your time. This is something we do every few months, because—sad to say—we are all human, and we all resort to the lowest common requirement. We fall too quickly back into bad routines of staying up too late or starting the day off at the computer or TV.
Being aware also requires knowing what your kids are doing on their electronics. Having devices out in the open and not allowing them in bedrooms is one way to accomplish this, but go one step further. Check where they are visiting on the web and know what games they are playing. Be sure to implement parental control software that includes timers and tracking.
Take it from one momma who knows a LOT about Minecraft: learning what they are playing gives you an opportunity to get into their world and develop a relationship of trust for the moments when you have to correct them.
Start the Day Right
As moms, we have the responsibility to train our children in healthy habits. The desire to check e-mail, Facebook, and other social media first thing in the morning can easily lead to losing valuable morning hours. Determine to get breakfast, school, and housework done before you and your children dive into the devices. Donald Whitney says it best:
Our bodies are inclined to ease, pleasure, gluttony, and sloth. Unless we practice self-control, our bodies will tend to serve evil more than God. We must carefully discipline ourselves in how we “walk” in this world, else we will conform more to its ways rather than to the ways of Christ (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney).
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything (1 Corinthians 6:12).
This year, I have given each child an outline for each day of the week. This includes assignments, chores, and activities. This is also where I have included a set time each day when they are allowed to play video games, watch TV, surf the web, or listen to their music.
Kids are quick to think mom and dad are being mean or don’t “get it,” but these outlines help kids understand your decision when they see how full their day is. These outlines can also play a valuable role in training children about the meaning of responsibility and the reward of down time.
Setting limits is only an effective tool when consistent application is applied by parents.
With each kid growing up so fast, it seems family moments together are more and more difficult to come by. Strategizing is required to continue developing and enjoying a rich family culture and memories. I have seen firsthand how parents and kids alike seem to disperse after dinner, and rarely see each other again until the next morning. So, to combat this increasing individualism in our own home, we have deliberately planned several evenings each week with specific activities. Between playing board or card games, taking a walk together, reading a book aloud, or simply becoming couch potatoes and watching a movie together, with a little prior planning we have guaranteed more togetherness.
Remember, technology is here to stay. If we want to develop relationships with our children, we had better be ready to share laughs around the dinner table over a YouTube video, take an Instagram picture while together in the car, or plop down on the floor, pick up a gaming controller and play!
In My Purse!
Between running kids to activities, tutorials, and grocery shopping, keeping the devices charged can sometimes be tricky. I found an inexpensive and wonderfully useful battery pack that can charge an iPad, iPhone, or Kindle Fire while tucked away in my purse!
Keeping It Untangled!
Requiring all electronics to stay out in the open, the house can quickly be overtaken with long black power cords. How do you keep it a home and not looking like an office with laptops on every table? Create a dedicated space—a bookshelf, cupboard, pantry shelf, or laundry room area—where all laptops are placed before dinner or before guests come over. Each kid has his or her own area in this dedicated space, and should be taught to neatly arrange cords, mouse pads, computer mouses, and earphones.