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Monday, March 31, 2014

Hey Parents Wake Up!

I'm not typically a "vent" type of writer, but I've noticed something lately that needs to be in the spotlight.  Parents are failing where technology and children are concerned.  The addictive behavior is taking over and the nuance of manners seems to be outdated and even ignored.  Why?

It started on a plane ride a few months ago.  I was alone!  This never happens as I am the main caregiver for my two munchkins.  I was very much looking forward to relaxing on the flight, reading and listening to some new music I'd downloaded.  Unfortunately, the kid in the seat a row over had other plans.  This little bugger played some "plinky", "plunky" change game that had me feeling like I'd just left the casino floor at the Luxor.  The volume on this device was so loud that there was an elderly lady obviously irritated a few rows back.  Mom did nothing to fix it!  Hello?!  This behavior is rude!  When your child is clearly disturbing other people, it is your job to fix the behavior.  Manners matter and if parents don't make them a priority, how will kids ever learn?

I saw it again a few days ago in the waiting area of the gym where my daughter practices gymnastics.  There were 5 separate devices making so much noise that a pregnant lady had to remove herself from the area due to "over-stimulation".  If you want technology to babysit your children let it do so with the old adage of children being seen and not heard.  Invest in some headphones people.  Again no Mom did anything to fix this!

There are teenagers who are plugged in everywhere!  How can you possibly communicate with these kids?  I'm not talking about when you're on the train or walking down the street and in your own world.  I am talking about when your kids are sitting at the table at a restaurant! Having your headphones on is rude!

In these instances, the mothers were too interested in chatting and participating in the clucking of the hen house than they were with their children.  Wake up people!  Your main job as a parent is teaching your children how to be good citizens.  Please don't fail them because you will regret it later.

My kids and I all love our devices.  My family is aware that they are to be used on a limited basis and that these devices should never be used in a rude fashion.  I am in no way saying that I am perfect at this, but I am paying strict attention to how these devices are used in my home and in other settings.

Here are the rules we use at my house with regard to technology.

1.  Before we get to play, we have to work.  All chores, all homework, and some physical activity must take place before technology is even allowed, unless of course it is being used for academic purposes.  My kids have to earn their screen time.  It is a privilege that is immediately revoked should any behavior be out of line.

2.  After the work boxes are checked, they are allowed one hour of screen time.  This does not mean 1 hour of Xbox followed by 1 hour of IPod or Surface.  This means 1 hour and it goes off.  They are allowed to use e-readers at anytime as long as there isn't something else that needs to be done.

3.  We have one day each week that is electronics free.  We call it no tech Tuesday.  Nobody, including parents, is allowed to play with their devices.  This allows us to detox from the addiction each week.  If the behavior is ignored it gets progressively worse.  We use the time to reconnect and play board games and do other activities instead.

4.  When we go out to dinner, we find it rude to pull out our devices at the table.  We are there to spend time with each other after all.  Yes we'll take pictures, but they are to be posted after the meal is over.

5.  If we are using a device in public, it is silent!  I actually get embarrassed to talk on my cell phone when other people are around.  Typically I'll stand up and remove myself from the place where others might be disturbed by my private conversation.  My kids automatically turn the volume down on their device when they're in public.

They are only 5, little rules, yet they are hugely effective.  My request to other parents out there is to start paying attention to what your kids are doing with technology.  Being aware gives you the opportunity to change a behavior if it is out of line.  There is no playbook for being a parent, boy I wish that there was.  If more parents don't start paying more attention, we will end up with a generation of children who barely know what the word rude means.

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