Disclaimer: I know I have a 13 year old. I live with him, and I remember being a parent back when movies were still black and white. Still, because of his “wonky brain” (medical diagnosis) (not really) I only give myself parenting credits for about the last 6 years, which is how long I have parented a
normal typical child with a non-injured brain.
So I often look down loftily from my perch of 6 years and think, “I got this” about one aspect of parenting or another. In what I am starting to suspect is a recurring cycle, I am learning that I don’t know much. But that’s parenting, that’s so much of it, just winging it and using your parental instinct, and safety laws and advice from your mother-in-law. “We don’t eat oatmeal with our fingers,” you say. “We don’t drink the bathwater, we don’t call grownups by their first name unless they’re in our house 6 days a week. We don’t take toys in the restaurant.” Stuff like that, or, as a young parent, you decide or are convinced that your sleeping strategy is the only one that will keep your precious child out of a cold penitentiary some day. A guy goes nuts and drives his car into the Dairy Queen, and you take a small measure of comfort reading in the paper that he was not breastfed.
All this to say, I did something wrong and I need to try to fix it. I have invented techno geeks and now I have to try to un-geek them somehow. I introduced
Toby to computer games, back when he was just a 2 or 3 year old genius, because I wanted him to have something to do besides asking me impossible questions or attempting science experiments in his room. And it was great for a while. He taught himself to read, Brynn taught herself to read, largely thanks to starfall.com
, and they got super environmentally conscious, and to this day will cast a scornful eye on me for discarding a plastic container instead of recycling it or running the water whilst brushing my teeth.
But somewhere along the way, I started leaning too heavily on my electronic babysitter, and that, combined with the slightly addictive personalities of my little people, has started giving us boring bored children, who have a difficult time breaking out of video-game world to be present, much less creative. I put time limits, but still, too much time, too much focus. And my little geniuses have just been drying up a little. I love computers, we use them for our living, for family connection, for education, so many valuable resources. But somehow we need to get back to using them as a limited tool and not as a cure-all.
So, I’m making a change. My plan right now is to shut their computer access down during the week, except for the couple of educational apps I use for supplementing their school day, and then having a few hours available on the weekend. It’s not going to be easy. Yesterday, as the MOG and I were just discussing some minor cutbacks, Toby started panicking and trying to throw out some serious negotiations. And it won’t be easy for me, at first, because they don’t know what to do without screens, so they just climb on me and fight each other when we unplug them. But these kids are little, and they’re bright, so it will work. I know that.
If I could go back and do something differently, I think I would wait to introduce screens in general, and I would severely limit their use and importance once introduced. That’s assuming that TimeTravel Me is smarter than Past or Present Me.
Also I want to start some kind of incentive program, where they can “earn” small blocks of computer time for chores or excellent behavior, something like that.
Do your kids do screen time? How much and how do you limit it? Any success with incentive/point reward systems? Help a sister out.