Teaching Children How to Balance Time with Technology

August 30, 2013

Teaching Children how to balance Time with Technology from waddleeahchaa.com

I would not describe our family as an unplugged family. However, by today’s standards we are certainly not totally plugged-in. We tend to use technology more for work and less for play. By choice, we are behind when it comes to the latest and greatest technology gadgets. Our children do watch television but in limited amounts. We have one family television which we all share.

Children and Technology

MacGyver has a Wii that he actually won in a raffle at church. But again, he only plays it on occasion. MacGyver saved-up for his own laptop and he uses this mostly for homeschool (and yes some Minecraft.) As parents, we have totally resisted buying our children hand held gaming devices. We’ve made these unplugged decisions for several reasons:

  1. We want our children to engage in active physical exercise.
  2. We want our children to be engaged with nature.
  3. We want our children to play, imagine, think, create, invent, problem solve and build.
  4. We want our children to communicate and build relationships with other children and adults.
  5. We want our children to negotiate life with other human beings rather than a thing.

Children and Technology

But all good things must come to an end. Or do they? MacGyver began talking about the gaming devices other children play. We see them EVERYWHERE . . . at the store, dinning out, at family gatherings, at church . . . . We’ve discussed why our family chooses not to spend our money on such toys. He agreed with our reasoning and didn’t pursue it. But I was a kid once and I know what it is like to be the kid without. (Not that, that is always a bad thing!)

Here is our dilemma as parents . . . we don’t want to raise brain-dead robots but we also don’t want to raise our children in the Stone Age. After some research, I thought a Kindel might be our answer. MacGyver likes to read and is constantly researching facts about science, robots, animals, insects and reptiles.

Children and Technology

I invited MacGyver to research the Kindel a bit with me. After his research, he decided he would save for his own Kindel. (Typically, we do not buy our children stuff. They save birthday money and chore money and make their own purchases.)

DIY Backyard Science Center for Kids

During the school year our days are quite full and technology time isn’t much of an issue. When the kiddos finish their homeschool day, they head out the back door to play and explore in our big back yard. They play outside EVERY day and can spend hours occupying themselves. MacGyver has a little DIY pond and a Backyard Science Center where they catch and observe creepy critters. In other words, they have very little need for the computer, Wii or the Kindel.

Children and Technology

This summer was a different story. The sweltering 103 degree weather made it hard for the kiddos to spend their days playing outside. Suddenly, I was hearing, “Can I play on my Kindel? Can I play the Wii? Can I play Minecraft?”   I felt like the Kindel games were becoming an obsession. And I was randomly giving my permission, “Yes, NO, maybe so.” I wasn’t tracking the tech time, I was simply granting my permission based on a gut feeling. NOT a good plan for a Mother!

Children and Technology

Trading Reading Time for Technology Time

Then I had a brainstorm . . . MacGyver likes to play, create, invent, build and read; however, he was not choosing these activities because he was becoming addicted to technology. We sat down and had a little discussion about why his brain and body needed to be engaged in a variety of activities. (Activities he likes!) He agreed to a trading system: For every minute he read he earned one minute of technology time.

Children and Technology

Trading Reading Time for Technology Time has been a HUGE Success!

Upon our discussion, MacGyver began reading. He read and read and read and read!

  • He usually sets the timer for 20 – 30 minutes and reads.
  • Most often he continues reading after the timer goes off. After all, he needs to read to the end of the chapter to find out what happens!
  • Later in the day he lets me know he has 30 minutes of technology time and ask permission to use his Kindel or play Minecraft, etc.
  • In the summer when it is VERY hot he reads several times a day.

The Read Aloud Handbook

But My Child Doesn’t Like to Read!

First, I would like to suggest The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I am paraphrasing here  . . . As parents we make children do all kinds of things they don’t like. We make them eat their veggies, brush their teeth and clean their rooms. We make them do things that we know are good for them whether they like it or not.

But if I MAKE my child read, he won’t like reading!

Here is an ah-ha moment . . . Children who don’t read, don’t get better at reading. If they don’t get better at reading they will never like reading. Children who don’t like reading, are already NOT reading and I’m sure they won’t ever begin reading. So what is it hurting to make them read?

How to Turn a Struggling Reader into an Avid Reader

  • Once upon a time, MacGyver struggled with learning to read!
  • I suggest beginning by reading aloud to your child. (Yes, count this as reading time for technology time!)
  • Move to partner reading. You read a page and then he reads a page.
  • Slowly transition into independent reading time.

Children and Technology

More Organization Details

How do you select what he reads?

  • MacGyver makes all of his own reading selections.
  • He reads chapter books and loads of nonfiction.

But my child will pick books that are too easy!

How do you track his reading time?

  • Straight up, MacGyver is a very honest kid! He CANNOT tell a lie.
  • He sets the timer and tracks his own time.
  • He also sets the timer when using technology and stops when the timer goes off.
  • Mommy and Daddy reading aloud to him does not count.

My child cannot track his own time!

  • In this case, I would set the timer and I would right down the time earned.
  • When the screen time is used, I would set the timer and simply cross the time off the list.
  • I like to keep things simple!

Children and Technology

Life with Jeannine

Does your family limit screen time?

What strategies or systems to you use?

The Read Aloud Handbook

This week we are highlighting The Read-Aloud Handbook and a Book of the Week GIVEAWAY

Sharing this week at:

Hip Homeschool Moms

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna@The Measured Mom August 31, 2013 at 5:32 am

What a through post! Our family is similar to yours – one family TV in the basement. The kids get a “show” (30-60 minute DVD) a few times a week. They have iPad time with Daddy a few times a week. Our oldest is only 6, so we will have some decisions to make in the future. I appreciate how much thought you’ve put into this!

Natalie August 31, 2013 at 9:39 am

This is a great post, and I will come back to share my own upcoming post about technology. Yes, we limit screen time. Daughter is allowed 30 minutes a day. She can do it after her chores are done (desk and room are clean, etc.) If time allows, she can earn up to additional 30 minutes by choosing writing – her list favorite academic activity, and writing at least one page. Her Kindle time doesn’t count towards her screen time, because we don’t have Kindle Fire, we have a classic Kindle with books only, and she spends a lot of time every day reading.

Jeannine September 2, 2013 at 7:52 am

Good to hear from you Anna and Natalie. I can see that you’ve also thought about how to integrate technology time into your family life rather than letting it take over your family. I think technology time will look different in every family. (Just like life in general looks different in every family.) I always try to remind myself to keep things in balance. Sometimes easier said than done. But I try.

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