I wrestle with this all the time. My kids are 4, 10, and almost 12, and they all love gadgets. (So do I.) They don’t have any other than MP3 players, but they love playing with my smart phone, reading with my Kindle (just the boring kind, not the Fire), and playing other people’s tablets. We don’t own a video game system and their screen time (for non educational things) is limited to an hour a day.
One reason we’ve been kind of struct on this is because we want them to be creative and play outside and build models and things. I still think that’s a good move. And they are creative and they do play outside and build models.
Trying to homeschool the older two and keep my 4 year old productively and safely busy has been a HUGE challenge. He doesn’t play on his own well at all. So I took the plunge and signed him up for a trial of ABC Mouse. He likes it and can do it independently. It’s better than him watching TV. And it helps me stay sane. So I try not to feel guilty about it.
I also think we’re going to be getting all 3 kids Kindle Fires for Christmas. (Yes, I’m jealous – I want one too.) Even the 4 year old. Because he will make my life miserable if I don’t get one for him too. And he’ll love it and benefit from it.
We’ll still have strict limits on non educational material and will make sure they still play outside and build models. I see them as largely beneficial when I need them to just be quietly occupied – in the doctor’s office, on a car trip, at a model contest awards ceremony, etc.
I’ve struggled a lot with this, feeling like I’m copping out, or giving in, or that I’m going to produce zombie children who don’t know how to interact with other humans.
But the more I think and pray about it, the more I realize that technology itself doesn’t have moral value. It’s a tool to be used carefully and prayerfully. It’s not something to run from, but something to use to our advantage. It’s incredibly handy to have my Spanish/English translator on my phone available while I’m going through the kids’ Spanish lesson.
There are some awesome educational apps out there that make learning fun. I wish ABC Mouse was around when my daughter was younger. She’s a very visual, interactive learner, and I think would have benefited from something like that. What’s there to feel guilty about?
Too much being glued to a screen and interacting with people only through social isn’t good for anyone. I have to limit myself on that as well. (Can we say Candy Crush addict?) But I think with some strict guidelines, we’ll do OK.