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Give me your electronics

Editorial by Chris Kovatch

 

What is the one phrase that stops my children dead in their tracks? What are the fours words that cause a look of horror to take up residence on their face? Give me your electronics.

You see, whether it be their iPad, 3DS, Wii, or whatever is the current must-have gaming system, the effect its removal has on them is undisputable. It’s the end of the world or at least it is according to them.

I have struggled with the whole concept of electronic devices and the role they play in a child’s life. Habits can form even with the most innocent of actions and so I constantly go back and forth with what is best for my kids.

I think back to when I was a kid. There weren’t many options in handheld devices. I remember how excited I would get when we could play Oregon Trail at school. The Christmas that we got our first Nintendo was memorable as well. In fact, I recall having to compete with my Dad to play Duck Hunt. Those were pretty much the options we had available to us. The rest of our time was spent outside on our bikes or playing in the yard. Taking this into account, I think I turned out halfway decent.

When I step back and look at my kids today and compare their childhood to mine, the differences are quite stark. Every time I turn around, I see them glued to some sort of screen. I am concerned if they are getting enough time outdoors away from things with circuit boards. During our most recent lunar eclipse, I asked Thayer if he would like to step outside with me and see if we could see the eclipse and maybe the comet that was supposed to make an appearance as well. His response?

“You know what I want to see Dad? The Lego Batman Movie. That’s what I want to see.”

I did laugh. I can’t lie.

Electronics aren’t all bad though. I must say I was impressed that Stryker could operate my IPhone before he could talk. I truly believe that allowing my kids to be exposed to and learn how to operate a variety of devices will only help prepare them for a future that is destined to become more technological. Just think how far cell phones have come in such a short time. I received my first cell phone as a senior in high school in 1999. What was its purpose then? To make calls. That’s it. You’d also better make sure that call was an emergency because those minutes were not cheap. Fast-forward just 18 years later and my IPhone is pretty much utilized, as I would use a computer. I am thankful that I still have the ability to adapt to advances, but I know the day is coming where I will utter the “in my day” phrase and become ‘that guy’. I want my kids to be ahead of the curve. I want to give them every advantage that they can have to be successful.

I will allow them to spend time on these devices acquiring skills they will use later in life. I will also use the technology they crave against them. My Disney Circle is my best friend. Time limits per day, bed times, access to only certain types of content, and easily paused Wi-Fi by child is a parent’s dream. When my kids get their cell phones, they sign a contract with me. They know the phone is mine. They know their chores must be done. They know what grades are expected of them. They know an attitude equals their phone in my hand.

I will also be that parent that “forces” them outside. We will go camping, hiking, walking, and bike riding. We will play in the water hose and maybe even drink from it. (I think that’s still safe). I will stop the car on the side of the road to chase fireflies with them as the motorists that pass us by look at us like we are crazy. The balance between these two forces is a fine line and one that we work to maintain, as the kids get older. But in the end, they are kids. They need to be that way for as long as they can. It seems like we expect kids to grow up even faster these days and I don’t believe that’s a good thing. They will have to deal with the harsh realities of this world soon enough. I consider it my duty and my honor to ensure they have a childhood they will remember.

I’ll let the Apple products prep them for college.