This link made it onto my twitter feed and it got me thinking about how my children use technology.
Now, first off I should admit that we are very much a Pick Your Battles kind of family. My husband and I choose what we’re working on with our children and we try not to nag and moan about everything else. Technology is not one of our chosen battles, so I knew before I read the article that I probably wasn’t going to change the way my boys use technology.
Nonetheless, the article made me think. Firstly about how my boys use technology and secondly about whether it is doing them harm or good.
We’re probably a fairly average UK household. We have one PC in the living room, a work laptop that travels with my husband, a home laptop that belongs to me and a notebook computer (we have plenty of the paper kind too!) that belongs to my husband. My husband and I have smart phones. The boys have a gameboy each, and a ds each. We have an X-box and Wii console, both are attached to our single TV which we also keep in the living room. (Ok, having listed it, that actually sounds like quite a lot!)
The boys play on the PC most days for half an hour or so. They are allowed to play preselected games and sometimes will request that we help them find a new game. They watch TV most days (though I do ensure they have at least one TV-free day a week). They sometimes watch the Cbeebies channel, because the toddler likes it. But usually they watch movies or programmes that I’ve chosen for them and pre-recorded. We take the game boys or ds games on long car journeys and if I want them to be quiet for a bit (e.g. waiting at the dentist)! They play on the X box and the Wii at the weekend or in the afternoon, when we’ve achieved a lot that day (probably only once a month, we may not be getting our money’s worth!). I let the boys play on my phone if we have unexpectedly long waits (e.g. A&E trips or delayed trains).
I love the way I can use technology to keep the boys quiet. Not a great quality in a mum, but it wouldn’t help to pretend otherwise.
I also like using educational tools. I have used the Duolingo app to teach the boys French and we have used quite a range of educational websites.
I think that my children need to be confident users of technology. An ability to use a PC, a touch screen and – in some walks of life – a computer game controller is expected from pretty much everyone these days. Even buying and selling groceries involves touch screens these days. I am pleased that my children can pause the TV, Google an unknown fact and zoom in on a photo on my phone.
I don’t believe that my boys spend less time playing outside because of technology. Despite the number of electronic toys available, their current favourite toy is an old fence panel that needs to be taken to the tip. I don’t think playing on computers will make them less healthy. I suspect that having a car limits the amount of time they spend outside and makes them less tolerant of ‘bad’ weather, but that’s another matter.
I don’t believe that technology makes my children less sociable. I hear them chatting away to other children about Pokemon games and Moshi Monsters. I think that technology can be a great shared experience for them.
I honestly don’t know whether all this technology will turn out to be too much and whether my boys’ generation will bring in a new more sustainable attitude. But, right now, I think my job is to prepare them for the world I think they will have to live in.
Having reviewed our use of technology, I realise that I have been acting as a human filter and heavily censoring the media that my boys are able to access. I think that we need to start making a plan for phasing out all that control and beginning to teach the boys how to make sensible selections of their own. I’ll let you know how that goes!