About six weeks ago, one night when I as at my wit’s end after a day with whiny kids, Chris and I had a big discussion about how we can better support our kids’ development and growth during these trying times. It seemed like they were often frustrated, and Mack was especially aggressive with his sisters and me. We came to a realization and decision: the iPad was a problem and the iPad had to go.
Here is why we came to a decision many might think of as somewhat radical in these modern times:
1. Tablets have been largely available for only about three years. Therefore, there has not been enough time for doctors, researchers and parents to determine what effects (if any) regular use might have on growing minds and bodies. Quite frankly, I don’t want my kids being guinea pigs.
2. As much as we wanted to believe that the educational apps were great, they weren’t. Kids are smart, and they can easily tell the difference between fun and not-fun. No surprise, all three of our kids often opted for the few “fun” games we had on the device. I didn’t see mindless games as a productive use of their precious time; after all, kids are only awake for about 12 hours a day, and only 2-3 hours of that is “free” time, so why should so much time be spent on their butts staring at a screen?!
3. The ease of the iPad means that our kids never really concentrated on one thing for long. As soon as an app became challenging or boring, they quickly swiped to the next option. They were constantly changing their focus. I feel that this became a problem in their real lives, as their attention spans were shortening in every way imaginable.
4. While we did limit our kids’ overall use of “screens” to an hour a day, some days even that wasn’t enough for their greedy little fingers. Inevitably, they would get mad when time was up and lash out at me or each other. Not only did I not have the desire to micro-manage yet another part of the day, but I didn’t like being the “bad” guy either.
5. The iPad made it all too easy to keep boredom away. All it took was a whimper or whine and I’d hand over the device, which was lazy on my part and theirs. Since we took the iPad away, the kids are much more creative with finding ways to keep themselves busy when I am not able to distract them.
6. While Evie was content to play “quiet” apps that involved pretend cookie baking or Fancy Nancy dress-up, Mack wanted action. He loved what he called the Tinja Nurtle game, and at first I saw no harm in it. But, the more Chris and I thought about it, the more we realized that high-stress video games are NOT appropriate for little bodies. While playing the game, Mack would get amped up and stressed out – no doubt bursts of adrenaline raced through his tiny veins. But, because he was sitting and not moving around, he was not physically releasing that aggression while playing the game. All the tension and stress would build up, and he would erupt later in the day. Mack needs activities that allow him to practice sensing and reacting to natural male aggression. In my opinion and observation, iPad apps are the worst activity for a high-energy boy like Mack.
Ever since we took the iPad away, we have noticed a SIGNIFICANT and REMARKABLE improvement in our kids’ overall behaviors and attitudes. They are less likely to blow up at little things, and they have more fun with each other (and us). Life is better now that we don’t have the constant temptation and distraction of the iPad.
When I tell people about our new policy, I get a lot of questions…
What do the kids do all day? Well, now that screen time is limited to just a bit of TV, the kids are living life. Evie spends more time on crafts, like homemade Valentine cards:
And Vivian is busy making trains out of little chairs:
And Mack has rediscovered many of his long-forgotten toys:
But iPads are the way of the future – aren’t you worried your kids will miss out? Um, no. The kids use iPads at school, and in my opinion that is more than enough exposure for them.
What if you need to get something done around the house and the kids need to be distracted? My first step in this situation is to include them in whatever I am doing. Evie is old enough to fold kitchen towels and napkins, and Mack knows how to empty the silverware from the dishwasher. Even little Vivian likes to “sweep” the floor. And, if they just need to chill out I’ll turn a TV show on for them. Now that they don’t have the iPad, TV feels like more of a special treat for them.
But don’t they beg for it and drive you crazy? Surprisingly, not really. I told them that we think the iPad turns their brains to mush, and that explanation seems to suffice. They know that the iPad just isn’t part of our family anymore.
What about when you travel or go out to eat? We take the kids on several flights a year, and Chris and I agreed that we will allow the iPad on airplanes as it is a surefire was to keep the kids quiet and contained. Our fellow passengers will thank us, I am sure! As for meals out, we will probably handle this on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes mama needs a nice dinner out, so I think it will be ok to let the kids watch a movie so Chris and I can actually have a conversation!
And, with all that said, Chris and I still use and enjoy the iPad, but we use it for different reasons than the kids did. We read magazines, follow recipes and take occasional home movies with it. It is a remarkable tool for the home and family, but only when used within reason.
OK, so does this decision make me a mean mom???
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