March 14, 2015

Just in Time

I got my copy of Dr. Kathy Koch's new book, Screens and Teens, a couple weeks ago and started reading it a few days later. As I worked my way through the first chapter, two main thoughts stuck in my mind:
  1. I’m more thankful than ever that my husband and I made a conscious choice to limit our daughters’ use of technology when they were younger;
  2. I’m glad I’m reading the book now when the girls are on the edge of adolescence since their interaction with technology will necessarily be increasing over the next few years.
My daughters are nearly 13 and almost 14. When they were preschoolers, very few parents in our social circles were using smart phones, and tablets hadn’t yet entered the scene. However, many folks we knew had discovered online learning games and chose to allow their kids to spend multiple hours a day playing. I never felt that same draw, not because I was judging the other parents’ decisions, but simply because my husband and I were personally more interested in promoting “unplugged” play and learning.

The girls often watched one movie a day via DVD, but that was it. And it wasn’t until about a year ago that we decided to let them play some Kindle games. But even then we set a boundary: the games are generally only for weekends and then only for 30 minutes a day (on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday). And knowing what I now know from Kathy about how young people’s interaction with technology actually rewires their brains, I’m sure we made the right choices for our kids and our family.

However, I’m not a Luddite when it comes to technology. I’ve been blogging and reading others’ blogs for years and have been an active participant on several social media sites. I also currently have my own website and moderate a Facebook group with more than 5,000 members. So my goal in consciously shielding my kids from technology while they were young was not to hide them from it; rather, my idea was to set boundaries and open them up gradually in due time.

Thus, the timing of Kathy’s book couldn’t be better for me. I don’t foresee any of us getting a smart phone anytime soon – that just doesn’t happen to be a priority for our family, and I can honestly say we’re doing just fine with our “dumb phones.” But my older daughter is interested in joining Facebook, perhaps followed shortly thereafter by her younger sister. And I know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So I need to be aware of ways to make good use of the benefits of technology while helping my kids to guard against its pitfalls. And that’s what Kathy’s book is all about.

Whether your child has been downloading apps since he was two or is on the precipice of tech involvement like my kids, I encourage you to get your own copy of Screens and Teens. Begin reading through it as Kathy and I spend the next several weeks sharing our thoughts with you, chapter by chapter. You’ll be glad you did.


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