Non Electronic Week – a challenge to unplug our kids

I was in a bit of “technology overload” after our recent trip with the kiddos.  I was also hitting the red mark on my own mommy meter as was tired of all the fighting, whining and “this is so unfair!” attitudes going on here in this house.

Yesterday I declared it a “NON ELECTRONIC WEEK!”

There were no cheers from the crowd of kids.  There was no clapping as I made this proclamation.  I think I actually heard a mosquito fly by my ear as I spouted the words to my kiddos and day care kids.  I live in Minnesota and right now…that is happening every few seconds.

Let’s get one thing cleared up first before I go into the WHY’S  and WELL, WHAT ARE YOUR KIDS DOING INSTEAD? type of questions about this very non-American parenting agenda…my kids are not computer junkies or stuck to their video games 24/7.  When they are lucky, they get to play.  I do get asked every single day if they can play but I don’t always say “yes”.  During our trip to Yellowstone the kids did play their handheld games every once in awhile but while we were actually in the parks, which was most of our day, the games were off.  We did have some car sickness going on with a few every once in awhile and when that was going on we had many ways to distract the attention off of the trees and mountains zooming by but when nothing else worked we did resort to letting them focus on the games in their hands.  I was ok with it at that point since cleaning up puke isn’t high on my list of things I want to do, especially in a car that we are traveling in with 7 people for over 3,000 miles.

My kids do like video games and computer games.

WHY ARE WE DECLARING THIS A NON-ELECTRONIC WEEK?  I always say that I’m going to be REAL here at The Journey and this is one topic where I am transparent with my own family.  What I say may hit a nerve with you and if it does…don’t yell at me, don’t tell me I’m wrong and that I can’t talk about your family this way.  I’m not talking about YOUR family…I am just telling you about mine.  If for some reason you feel like I’m talking about your own lifestyle, well, that is just your own interpretation of this blog post.  Know though that I’m not pointing fingers.  In fact…I don’t even know you so I’m not sure how I could write about you.  

The different factors that I see with the overuse of electronic devices really is having a negative effect on our kiddos.  Unfortunately it is taking a wave of obesity among the kids and knowing that their lifespan may even be shorter than ours, the parents, to make us realize that there are some problems out there.  The violence factor is another issue that I will just touch on based on my own experience but is one that our society should pay a bit of attention to also.

Our Family Devices (as I type these out I am just making myself more aware of what we have in our home for our kids to use as gaming devices):

  • Wii (play maybe a few hours every 3 months…most of the time it is probably longer.  My Mii says that it has been over 500 some days since it has last seen me…and that was even a few months ago)
  • Playstation (this is my husbands but it is in the house and the kids might play on it once every 6 to 9 months)
  • All three kids have a DS.  One was my husbands he gave to the oldest child.  One of the kids paid for half of theirs. One was used and given by an uncle to the kids.
  • My husband and I have iPhone’s.  His has games.  Mine has Candy Crush but I can’t get past a level so I quit playing it awhile ago.  I have tried Words with Friends but…I stink at any type of word games so really, I wasn’t sure why I was trying.  🙂
  • We have three computers…one is just for the kids as they do homework, etc.

The Learning Factor – I know that many types of devices are marketed as “learning tools” for your kids.  I agree that some are…but I really say that with caution.  We used a lot of the LeapFrog devices when my kids were smaller and I sortof missed out on being the one to help one of my kids read.  I missed that magical moment because I wasn’t the one who was helping…a frog did all the work for me.  I’m not sure if we are teaching our kids better by giving them these tools that help with adding, subtracting, reading, writing and various other skill sets…or if we as parents are just willing to let something else teach our kids.  Pretty sure that this is the only generation where electronic devices with specific programs or games have become the main way to teach kids…everything from games in our homes to iPads in the schools.  I don’t even have to go over spelling words with my oldest child…it is all done online.  I understand that this is the norm for what our society is doing today with technology but I am also wondering if we are forgetting that this isn’t the only way to teach our kids.  Are we forgetting the tried and true ways of flashcards and dictating words for spelling tests?  What else are we missing when we start having a device help our kids learn rather than our own words and direction?  I think there is a piece of learning that our kids aren’t getting when they start listening to computers and devices more than teachers and parents.

The Grumpy Factor – when my kids play on the Wii it is like World War  II is breaking out.  They usually get about 20 minutes in the game and then I start to hear whining, crying, complaining and basically every little noise that I don’t like to hear as a mom.  I don’t listen to that.  Plain. And. Simple.  Playing these games is a privilege and if I start to hear the complaining and crying…we are done.  At least 99% of the time my kids play the Wii we end the game playing by me yelling at them to stop because they just aren’t being nice to each other.  I notice that with the DS games, we have some similarities but it is slightly different.  When the kids connect up to each other, we have more fighting and whining.  When they play on their own…it is a little more peaceful.  BUT…(this is key I think) regardless of what device or how they play the devices, their attitudes tend to be more on the defensive side and edgy.  They aren’t friends with each other and love is not being expressed in any possible form.  When we don’t play video games/Wii…we tend to have a happier home. People are listening to each other when they are talking and no one is biting their heads off as soon as a sibling opens their mouth.  😉  Maybe this is just a Williams family thing and only my own kids are challenged this way in the world of video games and electronic devices…but I have seen with my own eyes that this isn’t just my kids.

Some of the video games out there really are a bit on the “crazy” side.  (There are some good ones but I’m not talking about those here)  I think parents truly are unaware just how violent and appalling these games are that are being played and marketing by kids and adults.   There are some games that I personally have labeled “the devil games” because they are just horrible.  There really isn’t any other word to describe it.  I have seen it being played and I just don’t like those games at all.  It has probably been at least 5 years since I’ve played a game that has left me wondering and thinking about the meaning behind certain parts of the games and the reasoning behind specific scenes, especially those where they know kids will be playing.  Regardless of when or what I have played, I do remember one specific game that somewhat shocked me…it was a car game and the point was to earn points by racing, running people over (they were all based on points and specific types of people had different points), breaking into cars, killing people by beating them up and lastly…going into a car with a girl and the car would then be bouncing up and down to show that the people in the car were doing more than just talking.  Why are we letting anyone, not just kids, have access to something that depicts behavior that is criminal?  No one has to buy this stuff.  No one has to play it.  If you’d like to learn more about the positives and negatives of video gaming…learn more about those at this fact sheet:  Effects of Video Game Playing on Children

The Babysitter Factor – my mom is a Kindergarten teacher at a small school.  This past year she had 7 kids and she was a bit shocked to learn that 5 of the 7 five year olds in her class had a tv in their bedroom.  A 5 year old with a remote…their own personal remote.  Let’s just shove a bag of potato chips in their hand, a pop and call the obesity train, shall we?  Goodness gracious!!!  The stats are out there that the more a child sits in front of a tv the higher chances that they will become obese.  (Fact sheet:  Media Use and Obesity Among Children)  Throughout my moms teaching career of 30 some years, she has seen how kids have changed.  Today, kids need instant recognition, gratification and attention…and this is constant throughout the entire day.  CONSTANT!  What used to be a great day full of learning through free play, songs, games and structured learning has turned into more kids needing one-on-one help, behavioral issues that are extreme and kids who are not prepared to enter Kindergarten.  This past year was probably the worst year that she has ever had as a teacher…kids were spitting at her, some had no idea of how to sit and listen, several didn’t know how to interact with other kids and she even had kids swearing at her…like using words like the ones coming out of their mouths wasn’t a problem.  In fact, one child even had called their pet a swear word when they would share about pets with the class.  That was their pets name.  This is a Christian school and these are 5 year old children.  Regardless of where my mom teaches…a 5 year old swearing at a teacher and with a class of other 5 year olds IS a problem.

I know that it is very easy to just turn on a cartoon or a video for kids and let them “learn” or “watch”.  I have run a day care for over 6 years, I have three kids of my own..I totally understand that concept.  The only way I can make lunch each day is by turning on a show for the kids to watch.  It is physically impossible for me to be able to make lunch for 8 to 10 kids unless the kids are busy in some way that doesn’t require me to answer a zillion questions.  That is just me.  I am not superwoman.  The same goes with my own kids though in those moments where I am tired and I just need a break.  Having them watch tv or play on their DS is so much easier than being a parent.  It is like an instant babysitter that I don’t have to pick up and take home…it will entertain the kids FOR me and is so convenient.

A few weeks ago one of my sons when on a playdate and he was super excited.  He has plans with his friends to trade Pokemon cards, watch a movie and play games.  By “games” I knew it meant video games.  It was a gorgeous weekend and I reminded him to play outside since it was so nice out.  There was an awesome swingset there that they could use and I just wanted him to actually play on his playdate.  He came back later and I asked him how it went and if he played outside.  Here is his words he shared with me…

  • Son  “we played outside.”  images (43)
  • Me “on the swingset?”
  • Son “No”
  • Me “Then what did you do that was playing while you were outside?”
  • Son “We played on an iPad”

So, my son sat outside, on a gorgeous day, with his friend…and played on a iPad.  Their little faces were glued to a tablet that produced sounds and that is what they listened to.  They didn’t notice the nature and the toys around them.  They didn’t move once probably in an hour or more other than to move their fingers around on the screen.  PA.THE.TIC.

This is the world we are living in.  We are sitting and the only things moving are our fingers as we are typing on screens.  Our kids are right there in the mix of us…and they are sputtering out comments like, “I don’t want to walk all the way upstairs because it is hard”, “I don’t have anything to do.” and “I’m just trying to beat this level.”

I am declaring this to be NON ELECTRONIC WEEK!

…and my kids won’t like it or luv it…and that is ok.  Kids need parents, teachers and guidance through this life and I don’t want an electronic device to be what they turn to each day.  I want to take back that role of parent and have them put the babysitter down.  I want the bickering and arguing to stop and I want the learning to happen again through books, talking and exploring the world around us…not through venturing a world that is made by a computer program.

I’ll be capturing some moments of our family going through this challenge and will post an update next week in pt. 2.  There are already some pretty cool things going on with their imaginations…and some cute quotes that they have shared with me the last few days while we have been gadget free.

The challenge is out there parents…feel free to join us on this adventure!

Need more info on what is going on with the media and our kids?  Here are a few links of research that is out there and some professional opinions on how the media is effecting kids today:

Headband from Simple-Trends

– Jessica

Jessica is a mom to three, wife to 1 and is on a journey of health and fitness.  You can read more about her story here.

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One thought on “Non Electronic Week – a challenge to unplug our kids

  1. Pingback: Non-Electronic Week…a challenge to unplug our kids – Pt. 2 | The Journey

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