"Will you text my teacher about my homework?"
My first grader asked me that. I wasn't shocked that he used the word text. He asks me all the time to text certain friends, or asks who I am texting when I have my own face buried in my phone.
This is coming from a kid who is asking for either an Apple iPod or an iPad for Christmas. I didn't even know Santa had an electronics department. When I was six, I asked for a baby doll. What's with these tech-crazed kids who feel they should have their own iPads at age six?
Here's the truth: technology is now a way of life, and to be completely honest, I am a fan of it.
Technology just makes things easier. When walking my kids home from school last week, we noticed there were hundreds of bees by the school's back fence. All it took was speaking a command into a smartphone, and within seconds, the school secretary sent the janitor out to spray.
Even though I like technology, too much of it can be a bad thing. There needs to be boundaries. We need to teach our kids how to communicate face to face and not just through text messaging or posting on Facebook. It starts with us, as parents.
What are we teaching our kids about communication? Do we talk with them when they get home from school? Are actual conversations taking place during dinner or while driving in the car? If we can't put down our own phones, how can we expect our kids to do the same? Too often we feel that a certain text or email needs to be answered right away. But really, what would happen if we just ignored the buzzing notifications for a few hours and answered later?
If kids are expected to have certain boundaries when it comes to technology, then shouldn't the parents as well? Here are some simple suggestions for the entire family to try:
Suggest interactive activities
Instead of setting your toddler down in front of the television while you get things done, pull out the puzzles and coloring books.
Support other interests and hobbies
Support your children by buying them a new book by their favorite author, or encouraging them to learn a new song on the guitar. It's OK to tell them to put the video game controllers down and go outside.
This suggestion includes parents. Whether it is an hour during dinner, or the hour before bedtime, it is OK to put the phone down and walk away from it.
Have real conversations
Ask them what is going on and then listen. Look them in the eye, and demand the same respect back. Show them they are more important than anything else at that moment.
Teach them when it is appropriate to put the cell phone away, take the ear buds out and to be aware of their surroundings. Don't let them miss out on the here and now.
By following these suggestions, you can show your kids that technology has many great advantages, but you can't allow it to completely take over your lives. There is so much to experience that doesn't include any technology at all. Help them to enjoy life unplugged. As parents, it is your job to show your kids how to do that.