Thanks to Renee for this guest post! Love to hear your thoughts in the comments … how plugged in are your kids, and do you have any reservations about it? — SaneMom
These days, everything a child encounters has an automated counterpart. We, in our pursuit of advancement, have created gadgetry to replace the menial things that people do. While on the whole making it very convenient and easy for us to live our lives, this can create a dependence on technology that renders us helpless without it. This is very troubling to us moms, who want our children to be prepared for all the things they will encounter in life, and to succeed in part because of that preparation.
Our children are running around plugged in at every turn — earphones in, a portable game console in their hands, and a laptop in front of them. At our house, it used to be a struggle getting my children to put down their game controllers. I remember I once had to unplug the console from the wall to get my son to make eye contact with me. It takes so much effort to pry them away from gadgets, that they are hardly seen anymore or lose vital social skills. Devid Elkind has discussed the worrisome habits our children have taken up in our digital culture.
- It is a culture of speed: Children are getting information with a click of a button, and when that fails, become impatient and hurry on to another thing or get upset. The speed at which our children process information makes them better multitaskers, but also shortens their patience and hampers their ability to absorb all the nuances of information, only taking in surface data and not fully understanding the idea.
- It is a screen culture: We have moved from face-to-face interaction to screen-to-screen interaction. Talking, sharing and the entire social experience have all been delegated to the screen. With more and more children hiding behind a screen name or an online persona, the youth are having a harder time interacting in person and becoming real individuals.
- It is a stop-gap for thinking: With technology doing the thinking for us, there is only a need to remember small bits of information. The dependency on gadgetry has become so that we fail to function without it. Just think cell phones, computers, cameras and cars.
Since many children find it difficult to completely isolate themselves from the bad attributes of technology, it helps to encourage cutting back in small ways. I make sure that my children have what I consider to be 5 important life skills:
- How to cook a real meal - Learning how to create basic meals from scratch can teach children how to follow instructions, basic measurements and chemistry. It will also give them the confidence to choose their meals, build preferences and show them the value of good nutrition. After watching cooking shows on TV my kids were ecstatic to try cooking, and we now have a family Iron Chef tournament, where each dish prepared by each of the family members is rated and judged the best one. (Everyone’s a winner in my book.)
- How to play well in team sports - Teamwork, discipline, friendly competition and the values of physical exercise are all qualities taught by team sports. Start your child playing team sports to let them move around in the real world and interact with their peers through friendly competition. A fun way for children to get together, sports like soccer, baseball, and volleyball teach children values and life lessons to promote their development.
- To read real books - An e-reader is very convenient in that it stores thousands of books in one console, but an article in the New York Times is debating the fact of whether or not the human brain is wired for e-books. Children heave higher retention with a real book as compared to that of e-books. Real books, with unlimited battery life, offer no distraction and a simpler, easier way to learn.
- To write real notes and letters - Some members of the younger generations have only communicated through electronic means. Text, email, and IMing offer our kids instant gratification, but does not incite the same reaction of a real, written note. Thank you notes written in longhand are much more appreciated, and tend to be more heartfelt. Writing real notes and letters to relatives and friends encourages your kids to go the extra mile for other people, whether in their little notes or for other things.
- Basic survival skills - Reading a map, learning to camp, making a fire without something a match or lighter are skills that may seem a little backwater to some children, but they are very useful in emergency situations. Teaching children how to survive when all comforts are absent will teach them to be more confident, and how to handle difficult or potentially dangerous situations on their own. Last summer my husband and son went on a camping trip in the mountains nearby. My son came home so excited he planned one for this summer, this time with his friends.
It helps to limit usage of TV, computers and games depending on age and interests. Doing so is helping my children become well-adjusted, developed and sophisticated people who are not co- dependent on technology. With the competencies learned from real life experiences in their arsenal, your kids will be ready to mount all the world’s complexities.
Renee Bedford is a mom and wife who believes in teaching her children to be self-reliant and prepared. She knows that not only will these skills keep them safer, but they will also make them smarter! Besides being a committed mother, she also works for the Christmas Tree Market, where they sell an array of classic and unique artificial Christmas trees.