by Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.
It is human nature to find fascination with things that are off limits. The DO NOT ENTER sign ignites our imaginations as to what might lie within, the secret cupboard where the gifts are kept is always the target of sneaky investigations, the age restricted movie is the one we dress up to get into.
And so it is with technology and kids. If you say ‘no’ or block things it leads to an internal conflict and most likely some form of rebellion. They want to find out what it is that you’re hiding and then will do it behind your back.
The generational gap has become the digital gap and it is growing. We are the infants in this world – we don’t know how to navigate it, we don’t know what the rules are, and we’re totally out of our depth in controlling it.
We need to embrace technology. Our children’s world is a digital one, and if we’re not closing the gap we’re going to get lost on the other side of a chasm that we won’t even know how to bridge later on.
Like all things – relationship and communication are key.
Get involved online WITH your children. Use technology to enhance your relationship with them not to break it down. You need to educate yourself on the programs, places, and sites that they are into. Get onto them. Make yourself at home. Share it with them.
Let technology be a family thing. Use it together. Look things up. Share videos. Play games together. If you need to replace the board game with an online family game, so be it. Let them see technology as a way to connect with you not a place where you don’t belong.
You need to overcome your own fear of technology and the online world. Find a way to link it to what is important to you. Then link what’s important to you to what’s important to your kids. Make the connections. Communication is all about bridging two worlds – the world in my mind and the world in yours. Find ways for you and your children to connect through the technology and not in spite of it.
If you need to block something be clear about why. Communicate. Let your children be involved in the rule making around technology. Let them understand your concerns and the risks involved. Children are far more likely to follow any rules if they understand why they’re in place and have agreed on the consequences.
Technology is not going away. It is very much a part of your children’s lives. Find the good in it and enhance that. Use it as a tool to bring you closer together not further apart. Embrace the digital gap by becoming humble to learning from your kids instead of always being the teacher. It’s their world, and if you want to be a part of their world you need to be wise enough to admit that they are the masters of that world and you are merely a visitor. Be a welcomed visitor rather than a hostile invader. Embrace the digital gap and enjoy the ride that your kids will take you on.
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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.
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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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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