Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Q&A – a technology contract

What kind of rules and guidelines do you have for technology around your house. (cell phones, i-pads, computers, tv, the whole she-bang)  I am trying to figure out how to balance this with my own family. Part of me wants to just shun it all because I am so worried about my kids turning into huge couch potatoes or those types of teenagers that ignore everyone around them because they are texting or surfing all day. (i really hate that) Do your older kids have cell phones? Do you have rigid time limits? Do you ever have to take technology away?

Short answers:

Yes, Max and Elle have cell phones.  And Grace has a iPod she can text from.  We don’t allow any television on school nights except for special occasions.  We haven’t had to take technology away from the kids (yet:). 

Longer answer:

Lately I keep having this sneaking, gnawing worry about technology.

I mean, it’s great and all, but I have been feeling so much responsibility as a mother for teaching my children how to control it rather than letting it control them.

And quite honestly, I think that as a parent I may not be modeling a purely responsible example myself (hence my resolutions back here, which really have helped).

I find that darn phone of mine cradled in my hand at all the wrong times: during homework help, at the park, during the girls’ bath time.

Sure, it’s “important” things I’m working on.  Most of it really is.  But more “important” than making my eyes shine with my children and husband and keeping my spirit growing??  Nothing is more important than that. 

Nothing.

Technology is sneaky enough to seep into places I don’t want it, and has the audacity to act like it totally belongs there.

A waiting list of emails wallow impatiently on my computer screen.  All.  Day.  Long.  And they never, ever end.  Messages from my voicemail blink at me unwaveringly.  Texts ding in my ear and entice me away from things I want to be focused on. 

So if I, the mother, am letting technology encroach the important parts of my life, how am I supposed to train my children to not let it rule their lives? 

Instagram lures them into being mesmerized by a screen and all the things other people are doing that they are not.  Group texts vibrate in honestly all night long (I know because I have looked at the times when they come in…how in the world can kids concentrate in school when they are up texting at 2a.m.?).  Twitter feeds spill out all kinds of details that no one really needs to know. 

Sure, it’s all fine and dandy to a certain extent.  It is wondrous and amazing to me that I can text Elle at school and remind her about a change in her tennis lesson right after school, Grace can text me on her iPod about being a little late home for dinner. Max can know that his friend is coming to pick him up with a glance at his phone.

But where do you draw the line? 

How are they supposed to grow up to be focused, deliberate, personable and passionate adults when their eyes are locked into screens all the time?

I have such a hard time with kids siting in the back seat of a car, or at lunch at school, or hanging out on the weekend, each in their own private “cyber world” on their phones or iPods when they could be having actual human conversations with the people sitting right next to them.  Call me old fashioned, but I don’t like it one bit.  What happened to going in and talking to the parents when you pick up a girl for a date?  Or asking a girl on a date in person for that matter.  Elle had a friend who was sad the other day and shared the whole texting conversation about it with me.  It warmed my heart that Elle reached out to her and tried to make her feel better, but what happened to picking up a phone and saying, “Hello, Mrs. ______, this is Elle.  May I talk to ______?”  and then letting a human conversation of concern and love ensue? 

Just as I was wading in my worry and trying to figure out how to positively entice my children to stay in the human world rather than letting technology wrap it’s greedy little fingers around their brains I was reminded of something I had read outlining a “phone contract” a mother had made for her 13-year-old when she gave him a new phone for Christmas.  And it hit me:

We needed our own family technology contract. 

And we needed it speedy-quick.    

I studied that phone contract (it is here), and decided to tweak it for our family. 

(By the way, I am as sad about the comments on that post as I was about the ones on this post back here.  Aren’t parents supposed to train and teach their children?  Having a contract doesn’t mean she doesn’t trust him, it just means she wants to open the avenue for healthy conversations with him.  And I am 100% in favor of that great idea.)

Dave and I went over my tweaked version of the contract together and then we introduced it to our kids in a special family council Family Home Evening.  Lucy didn’t pay the least amount of attention and colored to her heart’s content, but the older four and Dave and I had the best conversation about all this technology hoopla.  I’m so grateful for Janell Hoffman and her great idea because I tell you, we sat there and talked and talked about all the ins and outs of texting and tweeting and Instagramming…you name it.  They told us things we didn’t know.  We told them things they couldn’t know.

Below is the contract we re-worked from that original one.  We talked about each point even though it’s long. 

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The love and communication in that room where we had the discussion that night was tangible.  We took some input from the kids to further make the contract unique for our family needs from there and the goal is for us all to sign it to make it official.

How I hope that that discussion will be one of many to come as we all try to maneuver our way through a world with increasingly more and more technology at our fingertips.  We are the first generation of parents to deal with the influence of technology on our kids.  I just hope we can use it for good and keep up our human-ness on the side :)

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