I'm kind of a jerk when it comes to electronics and my children.
Not a gigantic jerk, but a jerk none the less (just ask my young ones).
I think electronics are great and they definitely have a place in our household, but we do like to keep them tucked in a fair amount of the time around here. I think it is important for children to be outside and to explore and to use their imaginations. I think it is important that they talk to people and interact with other human beings one on one. I love it when they are bored because then I know something good is coming next.
So, forever and ever we have restricted TV time at our house (4:30 - 6pm each day...although we do make some occasional exceptions for holidays or when we have visitors and need the kids engaged elsewhere or when I'm too sick to care that day or something -- after all, we're normal...ish).
We also have video game restrictions. Originally there were no video games allowed on school days but we have adjusted to a 5 minute turn on an educational game per day because some of the kids teachers required Spelling City or Hooda Math (or Hooda.net) time each week. We also allow some extra video game turns when we have friends over.
On weekends (Fridays and Saturdays because no video games allowed on Sundays) the kids each get a 30 minute turn (which doesn't sound like much, but there are six of them so the amount of time spent gaming adds up fast). We have dollar store timers stationed at the computer and Wii (and, of course, timer apps on our tablet) so that kids can keep track of their time.
Well, a couple of weeks ago we started a new chapter in this electronics adventure.
Bryce had been saving his money and we gave him permission to purchase an Ipod from my brother. I know branching out into personal electronic devices has been on the cusp of our family's happy little valley for a while, but we finally decided to let Bryce bring it in. It was a tough decision for me. I kind of been anti personal electronics for my kids. I don't feel obligated to provide my kids with phones or tablets or the like(let me insert here that I'm not trying to call out parents who have a different view on this than I do, I seriously mean no judgement on anyone else -- families can be different and still both be right for their members -- I am not worried about what everyone else does, I am only concerned with what I feel is best for my little brood which will likely be different from what someone else finds is right for their family). I would rather my kidlets are not tied too tightly to these devices.
However, Josh and I decided it is probably good that we allow Bryce the chance to learn to responsibly manage something like this while we are still strong forces in his life instead of letting him fall in and drown in electronic freedom when he is more on his own (I'm not saying this is the right answer for everyone, but it is what we feel right about for our family right now).
Anyway, so Bryce has had his Ipod for a couple weeks and (no surprise) has looked for every opportunity to use it for everything. He uses the calculator for homework, reads scriptures from the LDS app each night at family scripture reading, takes notes on the memo board, updates his calendar, sets reminder alarms...and plays video games.
That's where the trouble came in. He started thinking that any time he wasn't anxiously engaged in something else, that was a great excuse to pull out his Ipod and play games. We found him fastened to the tiny screen time and time again.
And time and time again we warned him that he needed to set some limits or else we were going to have to help him do that and he probably wouldn't like our way.
There was always this, "Yeah, you're right, I'll do that, Mom," response, but nothing seemed to be changing
So, the other day when we hadn't seen the boy in a while and then discovered him neck deep in a two and a half hour jaunt to the land of gaming we decided that was it. I took his Ipod and said "enough" with the understanding that he would not get it back until we had some written limits in play. He was assigned to list some appropriate restrictions and consequences for wandering out of their boundaries and his dad and I would do the same and then together we would work out a contract which we would all sign and be bound to.
It took him a while, but he did. And we did (it didn't take us very long). Then we hashed it out and came to our contract (I'll be honest, we are more happy about the outcome than he is, but that's ok). We have some time and place limits (no Ipod at school, for example) and decided to cut his link to the home wifi (although we will reconnect occasionally for updates and to add new apps, but pocket internet connections seemed like a bad plan for a 13 year old). We did concede to a longer daily game turn than Josh and I originally wanted, but we traded TV time for games for him so I guess it is ok. We all agreed to enforce a 9:00 check in time. The Ipod charger stays in our room and the device must sit with Josh and I all night so no late night escapades are going on. Also, he must let us know the password and login or else he loses it altogether (not that we plan to be on it all the time, but so we could get on if we were concerned for some reason -- this is not a new idea to him, we do the same thing with our kids' email accounts -- no deep expectation of secrecy when living in your parents' home). That's the gist of it, you get the idea. (I'd love to hear any other rules that work well for your family, we are new to this and are still working to figure it all out.)
And now the standard it set because the other kids all know what is going on and know that they can expect something similar in their lives in due time.
I don't know how it will work out. I doubt this will be the last conflict we will have in this arena. I imagine this is a battle we will fight again and again and again. But I'm willing to fight because it is important to me. I am also willing to compromise because I want my children to learn and grow and part of being able to do that means letting them make choices that aren't always my favorite.
Someday (maybe) we will venture into the land of cell phones, but not today.
For now, the battle of the Ipod is epic enough.