For the past few years, I have debated the benefits of letting my kids use technology during summer vacation. Most of the time, we are an unabashedly tech-friendly house. My kids have e-readers and laptops and our house probably has a few too many portable Mac items. By training, I am a technology early-adopter. My masters degree in education is in curriculum and technology integration, so I would be doing my colleagues and students a major disservice if I wasn’t letting my own guinea pigs—I mean, children—experiment with reading and learning and communicating using computers and other portable devices.
That being said, as parents and educators, I think we all should look at technology and kids as one big experiment. Sometimes it’s going to work really well and sometimes we need to dial it back, reassess, maybe realize we made a big mistake. For me, the reassessment came shortly before summer vacation began. Personally, I was feeling way too tied to my phone and overly distracted when my kids were around. It can be hard to set appropriate boundaries working from home and I clearly was letting my work interfere with my family time.
While thinking about how I needed to reconfigure my relationship with technology, I began to notice that my older son was blatantly breaking all sorts of technology rules we had set in the house: not asking permission, sneaking his Kindle up to his room after bedtime. The worst part about it was that I wasn’t really cracking down on enforcing those rules. The come-to-Jesus moment was when my husband texted me at 9pm while I was having wine with some friends and said that I needed to come home immediately.
Having never received a distressed parenting call for help from him before, I apologized and hopped in the car. When I got home, my husband said that he took away our son’s Kindle and found that instead of just playing Minecraft and reading his fantasy adventure novels, our son had a list of YouTube music videos in his viewing history that were clearly inappropriate and bordered on soft-porn. Oh, yes. What parental failures!
Do as I say, not as I do. I can tell parents to make their kids use technology in the same room as an adult with the screen visible all the time. I can suggest parents use parental controls where available. I can remind parents to regularly check their child’s website history, but at the end of the day, I got lax and didn’t follow my own advice.
I sat my son down the next day and we talked about the severity of the situation and my disappointment in his behavior. I didn’t dwell on that; he seemed pretty crushed and disappointed in himself. We talked about next steps and what he felt he needed to do now. I asked if maybe he needed a break from technology and he quickly answered, “Yes. Maybe for the whole summer. I think I need to clear my head.”
Out of the mouths of babes. And so the decision on technology was made for me. No Kindles, no laptops, no iPad’s. The twins are working on a computer science class, but we are doing it together. No e-readers, no online math drills, no checking email. That can all wait until school resumes in September.
I can say with certainty that our low-tech June was an unequivocal success—for my kids and me. And I can promise that technology use won’t look the same when our 75 days of summer vacation and our technology respite are over. In spite of my geeky love for all things new and shiny in the tech world and my desire to test out everything new on my children, I will be more than hands-on when we all head back to school in the fall. No one is infallible, not even the former technology facilitator. Best of luck to all of you parents navigating technology boundaries this summer. When in doubt, cut it out.
Cooking up technology-free local, delicious and gluten-free food with her four kids at... www.erinbrighton.com
More from parenting