We’re a plugged-in family. Before kids we were gamers. MMORPG gamers. Friday night raids, the whole deal. We breath internet as easily as we eat. When a kid falls off the couch I don’t call the pediatrician: I check the internet.
So it makes sense that our kids love technology. It’s a magical world full of amazing toys. Who wouldn’t love that?
In today’s parenting norms screen time is verboten. Our pediatrician routinely asks “and they’re not getting more than 2 hours of screen time, right?” in that breezy assured tone that assumes that you couldn’t possibly plunk your kid down in front of the tv. The staff at the office sometimes give me the raised eyebrow when they walk in and the older two are on their tablets. I shrug: you do what you have to with a special needs kid or simple doctors visits become a meltdown.
The Engineer got his tablet at age 3. The Princess got hers at age 2. It was the best “toy” we ever gave them. Why? Because they’ve learned so much with them.
Tablets are a blank slate. You can load it with mind-numbing kids stuff or you can thoughtfully chose things that will help them think and learn. But not “educational.” I hate “educational” apps. Bleh.
At first we bought into the “limit limit limit!” mindset and they only got their tablets at prescribed times of the day. That’s changed: our new rules divide screen time into types: video and everything else. Tablets are free use all day, but videos are only available during quiet time (the Destroyer needs a nap.)
So far they’re self-regulating. When they’re tired, they sit down and do some ABC Mouse. The Engineer has several STEM apps that he loves along with puzzles and logic apps. They turn on their music and dance. They share with the Destroyer, who so desperately wants his own. They still love riding scooters and doing pretend play or playing with Legos and Playdough. Tablets haven’t replaced that.
I want to say we figured this out all on our own, but really, we didn’t.
The biggest influence was probably Lori Pickert at Project Based Homeschooling. She wrote a post here about giving kids freedom (no, not free range, that’s similar but different.) She pointed out that if we had Minecraft all those years ago when we were growing up, our generations would have been glued to a screen too.
A lot of parents and grandparents I meet see tablets as a soul-sucking time sink that uses time better spent in “creative” play. We actually hear a lot of judgemental comments about it. Well, as a gamer myself, let me say this: it’s not a waste of time.
It’s complex creation versus simple wooden blocks. It’s social interactions on a server that includes people from next door and the next country over. Online creations are every bit as “real” as a Lego creation: they take time and effort and study.
It’s all about practice. If you want your kids to grow up coding, building computers, and effortlessly navigating the complex social morass of the Internet, they need time and a safe space to practice. Our kids’ tablets give them that.
I will never tell my kids their tech interests are a waste of time. I might have to boot them off the server so that we can have dinner together, but that’s classic parenting. Medium doesn’t matter, parenting stays the same.
(Note: I do call the pediatrician if needed, but WebMD has saved us a LOT of doctor’s visits.)