Before I had children, I sometimes looked at other moms and thought, ‘I’ll never let my kids ______.’ Fill in the blank with things like: watch TV before they’re two… play games on my smart phone or iPad… be pacified by a portable DVD player… Now that I am a mom of littles, I laugh at those early declarations. My 1 year old sings the theme songs to countless cartoons, and my 3 year old loves the LeapPad she got for her birthday from Grandma. When I’m in a childcare bind and have to bring the kids to practice or chapel at Bethel, I definitely hand them my phone and let them play The Bible App for Kids to their hearts’ content. I’ll admit, my husband and I are sort of winging it for now when it comes to our kids and technology, but we know that we’ll need to buckle down with a better plan sooner or later. I caught up with a couple other Coach Moms this week to get their thoughts on this topic:
Technology is a blessing and a curse. My husband and I have very specific rules with regards to it. Neither of my kids are allowed to use technology Monday through Friday, because of the school week. We also don’t allow much television during the week if we can help it. Saturday mornings are a free for all while we catch up from the week doing laundry and errands, so we do allow cartoons. My daughter (Kylan) loves her Kindle Fire for games. She occasionally jumps onto my laptop…she is currently addicted to Minecraft. My son (Camden) loves his Tag reader.
We are lucky that both our kids love to read so that isn’t as big of a chore as in some households. My daughter typically reads at least an hour a day. We commit time to reading every single night with both children and have been lucky that they acquired a passion for it at a young age. But make no bones about it, there are some nights I simply want to put them to bed! My daughter who is 9, taught herself to read around age 4 and has been going strong ever since. We try to make reading fun for them by allowing them to pick the subject matter. Kylan is into fantasy so we just finished the entire Harry Potter series together in just over 9 months! Whew that was a commitment! We are now onto The Hobbit, a much tougher read- at least for Mom! I try not to care that she loves the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series- as long as she is reading. My son loves the Tag books that my daughter grew up on so he seems to be developing his own taste for reading.
Looking ahead and through my experiences with our team, my husband and I have already talked about what the future will look like technology-wise. In over a decade of coaching I have seen a lot of changes. The kids that we coach are essentially the same, but the environment around them has changed dramatically. Without question I feel like social media has and will continue to be one of the most toxic things in their young lives. It creates such a false sense of self and of the people around them. I often sit in the stands of high school games and overhear the conversation between both girls and boys about Twitter and Instagram and all the drama it creates. And our children are growing more narcissistic by the year. They may have 2,000 followers but very few real friends. It’s commonplace to post pictures of themselves daily. I am old school to some extent because I have told my children since a young age that the world does not revolve around them. I make them write old fashioned thank you notes to teach the value of a gift they may receive or simply to say, ‘thank you.’ My husband and I have already agreed that our children will never have a television or computer in their bedrooms overnight. We will have a common area or office where they will do homework, but laptops and cell phones will be turned in at their “curfew.” If their homework isn’t done at that time, they’ll either have to get up pretty early to resume their work or suffer the consequences for their procrastination. I think when your kids are growing up you have to teach them hard lessons and hope they stick and help them later in life. My daughter of course has already asked for a cell phone at age 9 and knows not to expect to receive one until at least age 14! But she keeps asking nevertheless!
So far there are no iPads in Kylan’s school but they have already started learning how to use Excel and Powerpoint. I love that they teach them these types of programs but I still think there is a great necessity for free play, especially at the elementary level. I cringe on rainy or snowy days because I know my daughter’s indoor recess consists of screen time in the school. Good ole fashioned playing is how leadership skills are developed and how kids learn to deal with conflict. We see less and less of that these days. Everything is planned and scheduled for them. Even playdates have planned activities for entertainment! It’s no wonder our kids struggle to be self-starters and entertain themselves.
At the end of the day my advice to moms when it comes to technology is to mirror the behavior you want to see repeated. Technology isn’t going away and it’s a vital part of their future, but so are their social skills. And that isn’t something kids can learn from behind a computer screen. Our children are more knowledgeable than any generation before them but there’s an artificial maturity that is being created. It is our job as parents to help guide them through this confusing world and into young adulthood. -Marsha Frese
When my kids were younger, all we had was the home computer. I never bought my older kids their own computer until they went to college. My younger girls [eventually] had laptops at home. But my kids were never the first to have cell phones, laptops, iPads and all that. Nowadays, they are on their phones a lot, mostly texting. I don’t really have restrictions on how often they use their phones. At their ages now, it’s the way teenagers communicate. I know that both because of my own kids and because of recruiting.
My daughter Madison was the youngest of my kids to get a phone. She got a hand-me-down phone from me when I was hired at Duquesne in 2007. So she would have been about 11 at that time. It was an old flip phone and she was constantly giving it to me because people would still call or message that number for me! When our kids started using cell phones, it was a helpful means of communication, especially when they started driving. If they want to go somewhere else after basketball practice or if their plans change, they can easily let us know. We can keep track of where they’ll be. If our kids are driving somewhere, we can ask them to text us when they get there.
When I first started coaching, I wasn’t into the social media world at all. I got Facebook first, then Twitter and recently Instagram. My kids weren’t very young when they first started using social media. But now they have Twitter, IG and Facebook. I follow all their accounts so I can see what they post. It’s not that I see it all the time, but I will look back through their threads occasionally, look at their pictures and everything. I have had to ask them to take things down–nothing major but just some things that could have been perceived the wrong way. It’s the same thing we talk about as coaches with our players. Once it’s out there on social media, you can’t take it back. Anyone can find it. One day when you’re trying to get a job, employers will be looking at your online accounts. That said, social media is a great way to keep in touch. I think it was good for my kids to stay connected with their friends through social media when we moved from away from Minnesota (Suzie made the transition from Minnesota Lynx head coach to the same position at Duquesne in 2007).
When my kids were younger, they had video games and things like that they wanted to play. But I grew up outside! And we liked for our kids to be outside as much as possible too… If things were the way they are now when my kids were younger, my husband and I would have had more standards, guidelines, and expectations for the technology stuff. I’m by no means the perfect mom and I wouldn’t judge other parents’ decisions… but the main thing is to be sure your kids are making good decisions. [With cell phones, social media, etc.] I think it depends on the child too, as far as their responsibility level. -Suzie McConnell-Serio