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Are you raising a technological wizard or a creative, imaginative thinker?

by Lindsay Grubb, wife & mom to a nearly 3 yr old daughter and owner of L Communications where she helps you get the right message across to the right audience. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

A few weeks ago I had a major deadline. It was 10pm and I still had to write a 2800 word article that night. Ciara didn’t want to go to sleep. I pulled out my laptop and sat on my bed, trying to work while she entertained herself, waiting for her to fall asleep. My plan failed. She became excited and rushed off to fetch her laptop and her “homework” book. She then proceeded to work next to mommy, but it’s hard to write when you have “Mary had a Little Lamb”, playing over and over through her laptop and your head.

At almost three, she knows what a cell phone is and comes running with it when it rings so I can answer it.

Yesterday she told me to put down my phone and play with her. It made me realise how addicted I have become to technology, even outside working hours.

What are we teaching our children? It is true, that in this age of information, it has become critical to teach our young ones computer literacy. They need to know how to use MS Office, email and the internet, but are our children losing out on the carefree childhood we experienced?  As a child I spent all my time outside, playing with my friends, riding my bike, climbing trees and jungle gyms, scraping my knees more than once.  Isn’t that something we should be encouraging in our children?

In a world where technology is progressing rapidly, and the majority of children know more than we do about computers, cell phones, iPods, Nintendo’s and Playstation’s, how do we know when it’s the right time to introduce technology to our children?

There really is no right or wrong answer here. I think it’s a case of balance. It’s necessary to have our children prepared, but we need to help them to embrace their spirit of adventure and encourage a vivid imagination.

In South Africa our children are scoring a C- on their “Healthy Kids Report Card”. One in three children watches more than three hours of TV per day. Our children are at risk to predators on their cell phones on programmes MXit, and they’re putting out too much personal information on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I think a good time to introduce technology to our children, is when they have a clear understanding of the responsibility and consequences linked to its usage. Online consensus through a number of different articles on the topic seems to be that eight years old is a safe time, but this means they’re not computer literate when they go to school, which seems necessary these days, so I’m not entirely sure.

What do you think is the best age for introducing your children to technology and should we be leading by example and limiting our usage or is it more of a “do as I say and not as I do” situation?

Copyright © Lindsay Grubb 2011 – All rights reserved

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Limit TV Time with a Token System

by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.

“If your children own the job of managing their TV time, they will quickly learn how to budget and maximize their fun.”

When we lived in the US, there was an annual campaign – a movement of sorts – called “National TV Turnoff Week.” I remember feeling that while turning TVs off for an entire week is a wonderful idea, there should be a plan for the rest of the year as well. But that’s the hard part. If you’re like me, you hate always saying no to “Mom, can I watch TV?”

We found a way around that by using a TV token system.

This is how it worked in our family: Every week, each of our children received one “TV token” to watch a 30-minute show. Everyone was allowed to watch TV when a token was used, giving our four kids a total of two hours of TV privileges for the week. Sounds impossible? Believe me, you will be amazed how well it works, especially if you start when your children are young. We used it for many years and now the kids are so well trained we don’t need tokens anymore.

If your limit is higher than what we used, just issue more tokens, or include other habits you might want to limit, such as video and computer games (when my daughter was little, I even temporarily introduced “mommy, you get me dressed” tokens!). Or put them all into one category called “screen time.” Whichever way you choose, your kids will relish the freedom of watching TV or playing xBox games at a time of their choosing, and you’ll be happy to have enforced a limit. All without any debate other than “Do you have a token?”

The reason tokens work well is that they shift the responsibility of tracking TV time from you to your kids. Just be careful you don’t impose new conditions, such as “after you’ve cleaned your room” or you will quickly open the door to new debates. If your children own the job of managing their TV time, they will quickly learn how to budget and maximize their fun.

You might think it’s impossible to impose such limits on your family, but trust me, it works! And consider the payoff. You’ll be astonished how much your kids will read or how many puzzles and board games they will dig up in their newly-found spare time! So get out your scissors, cut some colorful circles, and you’ll find yourself eagerly awaiting the next “Mom, can I watch TV?”

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