Making peace with technology for my kids

I had a good laugh reading Annys Shin’s article in the Post’s Capital Business section yesterday, “Building apps for children a profitable niche." The article is about a mom and dad who also struggled with the question of how much technology is too much for their kids, including the dilemma of how much television let them watch, only to wind up developing their own "apps" for young children.   

I have worked my entire professional career in early education – I have two children under 6, so now I can practice what I preach – and the American Academy of Pediatrics CLEARLY states that children under 2 shouldn’t be exposed to the screen.

Just like the parents in the article, I vowed that the kids wouldn’t watch TV! I vowed we wouldn’t watch TV while eating a meal! I vowed no video games! 

But then reality set in. How do you manage two under two without the occasional technological distraction? No matter how hard I tried to avert their eyes from the dazzling, digital screen, they were drawn to it like moths to a flame. Despite my objections, friends and family could not help but expose them to TV shows and videos. 

Interestingly, I also recently discovered the kids knew about McDonalds, despite my efforts to shield them from the magnetic force that is the Golden Arches.  So when my 6-year old recently shared that she wanted a Wii for Christmas, I was again mortified. I had no idea she knew what it was. Apparently at a friend’s house (a 7-year old), they played video games in which they were “killing” people. Again, mortified. 

The lesson: I couldn’t just ignore the media soaked world in which my children live and learn. I needed to be more involved and deliberate about their exposure to media (in moderation) and to appropriate games and shows. 

Our house is wired with four computers. Both kids have iPods and playlists created for their specific music interest:  rock, hip hop and disco. They actually teach my husband how to use his iPod. He’s a devoted PC user. We are slowly converting him to Apple. They have an aunt who has designed animation for video games. What's wrong with this picture? On one hand, I am modeling my own love of technology and gushing obsessively over my Mac Book and iPhone while at the same time going to great lengths to keep my children away from technology?

Slowly but surely, I'm giving in. Children today are exposed to technology everywhere they go. It’s all around them–even in their classrooms. I allowed myself to be proud that each classroom at their Montessori preschool had computers.  

I have made peace with technology–not for me, but for my kids. I want them to love it, not fear it. I want them to be excited about the ways in which the media and technology, in small doses, can be a vehicle for learning.

But in our move to a new house, we recently decided to cut the cable. Now challenge for our family begins–-let’s see how long it takes for us to cave to commercialism now that the kids have been exposed to the Disney Network and Nick Jr. I swear, it wasn’t me! But it's one slippery slope. 

 

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