Unlike Vanilla Ice, I try not to do anything to the extreme. Technology is no exception. I don't swear off Facebook (obviously) but nor do I track my every move and meal. For a combined 45 minutes a day FB is amusing, fun and occasionally informative.
There's an article flying around (I saw it on Facebook, actually) that not only did Steve Jobs' kids never use an iPad while he was alive but that other tech professionals severely limit their kids' screen time. I had to tear myself away from FB and do some thinking. Is technology really as addictive as heroin as the article states? The piece went onto say that if you remove all screen time "your kids will hate you for it right now but thank you for it someday." Oookay.
I set limits, I do.
My kids, aged 6 and almost 3 are banned from using their hand-me-down Wii on weekdays. Not that this affects the 3 year old since she usually dumps her controller in the back of her toy fire truck and drives it out of the room each time her brother plays.
Weekends we try and limit video games to about 45 minutes per day. I feel pretty good about all this, but during the week I've been known to let my son watch a video or two on my laptop (Either Mario or Minecraft) and my daughter definitely watches tv...usually while I'm sitting with her trying (unsuccessfully) to get work done. The Jobs' anti-technology stance when it pertained to their kids spooked me so I decided to try taking away ALL screen time yesterday and watching the fun.
I picked the wrong week to give up drinking.
I blurted out the bad news when I picked up Big A from the bus stop.
"Can I watch a Minecraft video after I do my homework?" he asked as was his custom as we meandered home.
"No," I said. "No screen time today."
"WHAT?!" he said as he launched into his whiny voice. "BUT I've had a hard da-ay! I was doing my best at scho-ool." Any whiner who can turn a one syllable word into a two syllable word is good, very good.
"I no watch t.v.?" Little D repeated. "No. I say no!"
They both became as grumpy and irate as I am when I'm on a juice cleanse.
"We're going to the park!" I announced over the din.
I loaded their protesting little selves into the car as they moaned and groaned.
"You may hate me for this now," I quoted from the article, "but you will thank me for it one day!" That actually shut them up. They were intrigued by the concept of "hating me" and talked it over in the back seat.
We had a lovely two hours at the park. We ran into 3 families we know. Yay and everything.
But I didn't get any reading or writing done, I didn't fold laundry and get to vacuum the floor as I was basking on a park bench. It wasn't very productive.
And then it occurred to me. Did Steve Jobs' wife even work? Didn't they have a nanny? A full-time housekeeper and possibly a cook? And a myriad of resources? My kids' dinner wasn't going to cook itself.
After a long day of school and 2 hours of fresh air, exercise and imaginative play the kids were beat. I came home and put on Teen Titans Go for 45 minutes (which is actually my current favorite cartoon) with zippo guilt as I prepared dinner and did a whirlwind tidy up of my home. I even sat with them on a couch and dashed off a book review as they giggled along with the show. It was "Meatball Party" by the way, in case any other nerds are reading this.
And then we had dinner, did bath time, read books and I put them to bed. I'm sorry I didn't set up a playdough station or finger painting experience instead of letting them watch tv, but
a. I had already done that earlier in the day for my 3 year old and
b. I was just plain tired.
I get a little crazy when it comes to going to the extreme. It's just not for me. I'm not removing screen time from my children's lives. And I don't think other parents should feel bad about occasionally occupying their kids with screen time to make their own lives easier...especially when it's something their kids clearly enjoy. The key word here is occasionally. Don't feel guilty if you sometimes use it to your advantage. Isn't that what technology is there for? To make our lives easier?
We all know the kids who are permitted endless hours upon hours of tv, video games and iPad access. They're obvious. They're impatient, irritable little beings who are often struggling at school. They have no interest in connecting with others. Most parents care for their kids too deeply to allow them 4 hours straight of Call of Duty daily. But I hope parents don't get scared to use small amounts of technology in their children's lives. Like the occasional donut, it's fun! Technology will be a part of their lives in the future unless your kid decides to grow up to be a dairy farmer in a remote area with no Wi-Fi.
Do what works for you, not what worked for the Jobs' family. Their budget for household support staff was probably slightly larger than yours.