Tag Archives: technology

Taking a Tech Break

For days, the Taz had locked himself up in his bedroom, staring aimlessly at his computer screen. If it weren’t for the blue glow underneath his door, I wouldn’t even know he was home. And me? I was stuck on the living room floor with my phone in my hands, doing nothing productive in favor of playing mindless word games or checking my Facebook newsfeed for the umpteenth time.

Both of us were escaping. He was leaving the real world in favor of a virtual place where no one told him he smelled and needed a shower, that his room needed to be cleaned, and that his homework wasn’t going to check itself. I was escaping from the news of our company drastically changing, wrapping the last of the presents in my room, and the pile of clothes that weren’t going to fold themselves.

Eventually I did tear myself away from my distractions and saw the Taz’s after-dinner chores that still needed to be done. I knocked on his door and opened it, finding him mesmerized by whatever he was building onscreen.

“I need you to go back downstairs and take the recycling out and put a bag in the trash can. Also, these clothes need to go in the laundry room so I can wash them,” I told him. He sighed loudly, reluctantly leaving the desk and grabbing the clothes off his floor. I went back in the living room to rifle through the already wrinkly clothes.

Ten minutes passed when I walked in the kitchen. The recycling was still overflowing, and the garbage can still held no bag.

“Taz!” I called up to him. No answer. I went back upstairs and found him at his computer. “Taz, I really need you to finish what I asked you to do,” I told him.

“But I did!” he insisted.

“You didn’t. Remember the garbage and recycling?” And his mouth dropped.

“Oh yeah!” he said, jumping up. He raced back down the stairs and grabbed the box of recycling to take outside. When he was done, he went back upstairs. And of course, the garbage can still held no bag. One more reminder had him stomping downstairs, ripping a bag from under the sink, and angrily stuffing it in the empty trash can. But before he could race back upstairs, I stopped him.

“You’ve been on that computer an awful lot,” I pointed out to him. “I think it’s time for a break.”

“No mom! Please!” he cried, his face screwing up as he tried to convince me otherwise.

“Taz, you know how you’re having a hard time remembering all the things I’m telling you? I think being on that computer is making you forgetful.”

I was speaking from experience. My own head seemed to hold a huge block inside it, keeping me from being able to think clearly. I didn’t feel as connected to Mr. W or the kids. I was having a hard time concentrating. I wasn’t getting anything done. I knew it was the escape into virtual reality that was the culprit. Spending the whole day being on my A game at work and then coming home only to be back on the computer or my iPhone was prohibiting me from actually relaxing or being productive.

“I declare tomorrow a technology-free day,” I told him. And just as he was about to complain some more, I told him, “Myself included.”

“But how will you do your job?” he asked me.

“Not at work. I have to use the computer. But at home. I am not allowed to check Facebook or play games on my phone at all tomorrow,” I promised him. He lightened up a little. But then it fell again.

“But what will I do?” he asked me. I encouraged him to bring his book he was reading home so he could finish it. And I reminded him about the holidays coming up and he still needed to make something for his father.

And me? I’m thinking about the wrapping I’m going to get done, the annual Christmas story I need to plan out, and most of all, a fiancé and several kids who might like a little bit of my company.

Do any of you ever detox from technology? What do you do instead of plugging in?

Taming toddlers through TV

There is a shocking commercial that is making its rounds on TV right now. It shows a little girl going bananas over her annoying toy doll that is making absurd noises while walking around. Suddenly, the mom has “an xfinity moment”. She takes away the doll and replaces it with a computer that is showing the latest episode of Dora. There is no more doll noise. The child is suddenly sucked into watching the screen. And the mom is able to continue reading her newspaper in peace and quiet with her husband.

What’s shocking is that this has become our society. The perfect family bonding time is captured in the commercial as a mom and dad enjoying some peace and quiet while their child is occupied by TV. Taken away is the chance for their child to have some imagination time with her toy (admittedly annoying), and it is replaced by the imagination unfolding in front of her in the form of a TV show. All she has to do is watch. And she turns from a loud obnoxious child to a perfect angel of a toddler.

As wrong as it is, the honest truth is that I get it. Having raised toddlers, I remember the agony of wanting just 30 minutes a morning to read my newspaper cover to cover without interruptions. I would attempt to make this happen by feeding the munchkin some self-serve food like cheerios or eggs, and then quickly grab the paper and read as much as I could before they decided that cheerios and eggs looked better halfway across the house than on their tray or in their stomach. Then I would gather up some wooden beads, show them how to string them together on a piece of rope, and then read another few pages while the kid grew perplexed at this new task, instinctively ducking as soon as they chose to hurl them at my head. Then I would offer them some non-toxic fingerpaint, letting them create a swirly mess on their highchair tray. This happily lasted 5 minutes as they cooed over the fantastic brilliance of colors all over their tray, then screamed as I fought them from stuffing their multiple colored fingers into their mouth. Then it was into the bath where they splashed and played, me getting a word or two in before giving up because of the raindrops soaking the whole bathroom – including the newspaper. Finally, when they were all snug in their PJs and sedated from the warmth of the bathwater, we would snuggle up on the couch in front of the TV – them blissfully captivated by the Teletubbies, me blissfully captivated by finishing multiple sections of the newspaper in one sitting.

And wondering why I hadn’t thought of it in the first place.

Of course, as parents of young ones, we all know it’s a sin to rely on TV as our babysitter. Even the experts have something to say about toddlers watching TV. A study by Montreal and Michigan universities that included 1,300 children found that “the more TV a toddler watches, the more likely they are to do badly at school and have poor health by age 10,” reported earlier this year by the BBC. With every hour a toddler watched daily, their performance at school as adolescents was adversely affected. Also affected was the amount of junk food consumed. “Higher level of TV viewing at age two was linked to lower level of engagement in the classroom and poor performance in math, as well as a decrease in physical activity and increase in the consumption of soft drinks and body mass index.”

But sometimes, just to get a bit of peace and quiet, we tend to rely on the TV or some other means of technology-based babysitting just to occupy our children and have a few moments to ourselves. I remember this one time I was enjoying lunch out in a restaurant and witnessed a couple with their young son at the table. While they enjoyed a leisurely lunch together, sharing an uninterrupted conversation with each other, their son was mesmerized by a SpongeBob video on a small DVD player. At the time, I was shocked. Seriously? You cannot teach your child to behave properly in a restaurant without a movie player sitting in front of him? I ate my words when my own son grew up to be the technology slave that he is. Even just to hear a sermon at church, I save myself the embarrassing argument over how bored he is by shoving my iPhone into his hands. Sure, I welcome times when he has to learn to wait his turn to do something that interests him, or learn to keep quiet until it is his turn to speak, or when I entertain him rather than involving myself in my own personal interests. Yes, using the TV or the like in overabundance is definitely unhealthy, and wastes an opportunity to teach them patience and how to entertain themselves. But honestly, when you are a parent of a young child, who isn’t guilty of nixing teachable moments every now and then just for a bit of a break?

The right age for cell phones

After much thought and deliberation, and even more pleading on my daughter’s part, this last year I caved and bought my (then) nearly 12 year old daughter a cell phone. It came down to this: as her independence grew, I needed a way to contact her at all times, and a way for her to contact me should she need anything. And while I now grumble over my nearly doubled phone bill, and the fact that she is more than likely to be hunched over it texting (thank goodness for unlimited texting plans) rather than making emergency phone calls, I am still of the opinion that I made the right decision. It has been a lifesaver when I’ve had to pick her up from school. I can simply text her and let her know where I am parked. And when she is at her dad’s house, we are still able to communicate through a quick text or phone call. And since she is now able to stay home on her own when I need her to, it’s comforting to know that she is only a phone call away.

Apparently I’m not alone in this decision about whether the age of 12 is old enough for a cell phone. In a study done just last year, 58% of 12 year olds now own a cell phone, a sharp rise from only 18% in 2004. Referred to as the iGen (or whatever they are planning on calling this group of technologically advanced youngsters), kids 12 and younger seem to have an advanced understanding of the internet and all things electronic. With the starting age of cell phone users getting younger and younger, it makes sense. After all, they were born into an era when everything seems to be centered on technology. And with the influx of smart phones, this truth has only been magnified. I read recently that teens spend about 7 hours a day on the internet. School takes up a good majority of their day, so it’s safe to say that the rest of their time is spent on the net. Knowing how my iPhone has been both a blessing and a curse for being able to peruse the web any time I want, I’m certain that this is the also the reason for the rise in internet usage among the younger generation. Note: While my daughter owns a simple smart phone to make texting easier, I have headed off the internet usage (and thereby, the internet charges) by simply rerouting her network on her phone so that it dials up an imaginary network – bringing her to an error page rather than anything on the net. Another option with many companies is to set limits on your child’s phone if you don’t wish them to connect to the internet, or to rack up hundreds of dollars in 10 cent texts that mostly consist of “lol”.  kk?

But, as many parents still wonder, is 12 still too young to be connected at the hip 24/7? And being that I’ve even seen kids as young as 5 with their own cell phones, as well as parents of 14 year olds who believe their child is still too young for that kind of responsibility, it makes me wonder – when is the right age to carry a cell phone? And besides making phone calls, should a kid’s cell phone also be able to connect to the internet?