I think there is a parenting trend afoot: competing to prove how little technology our children are exposed to.
In the last few months, I’ve taken the link bait when various bloggers have claimed their kids are tech-free. Usually they begin by pointing out how other people’s children seem to always have the latest gadget or be online too much, too early. They go on to say it’s not like that at their home. Their preteens don’t have a personal smartphone or even an iTouch, their teenagers aren’t on Facebook. Some claim they are worried their children will fall behind, technology-wise, but they are willing to take that risk. For the good of the kids.
But this is where I start to think these bloggers protest too much: when they round out the article by admitting there are several computers in the house that the children have access to (supervised). Or when they mention that their kids have personal email addresses (to communicate with family only), or are on Twitter (locked tweets, and they only follow people involved in their current favourite video game), or make stop-motion movies for YouTube (private channel). Or when they admit they have a tablet or two (but neither is an iPad), though the youngest is content with his LeapPad (for use in the car only).
Tech-free? Not so much.
I’ll be honest: my kids aren’t tech-free. Their screen time is limited and supervised. Kind of like in the “tech-free” homes I’ve been reading about.
I could sit here justifying why we allow it, what our rules and limits are, how many devices we have, how old my kids were when we plugged them in, how old they will be when they can take part in certain social media platforms, what they aren’t allowed to do yet. I could compare what happens in our home to what is going on in these supposedly unplugged households, or the homes of their friends. I could list all their other interests and activities in an attempt to prove it’s not all screen time all the time around here.
But I won’t. Because I don’t really feel the need to prove we’re doing things the right way. Heck, I don’t even know what that is. I know what works for us, for the most part—it’s a work in progress and our approach continually evolves. I think technology is a part of our culture, a part I’m clearly involved in, and my children are too, in their way. And I’m okay with that. If I wasn’t, I’d do things differently.
I’m not at all worried my children will fall behind in the aspects they aren’t currently involved in—I didn’t have a tablet as a preschooler or social media access as a teen, and still managed to pick these things up as an adult. Whatever comes down the pipe as they grow up, the boys will be able to figure it out, as will their tech-free (and “tech-free”) peers.
Like so many things in parenting, to each their own. But please, own what really goes on in your home. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
Oh, and your teen who is not on Facebook? Is probably on some other cooler platform you aren’t even aware of yet.