Opinion Saturday: what about electronics?

Last Saturday’s request for recipes produced several yummy-sounding ones. I’m giving the Golden Keyboard this week to Beth for her recipe for Crockpot Chicken Tacos. Thanks, Beth!

This week I’d love to hear about portable electronic devices in your family. Do your kids have Gameboys or other hand-held games? Why or why not? If yes, do you limit the time spent on them? What about CD players/ personal mp3 players with headphones? How old do kids have to be before they have their own tunes? Do you let kids use them whenever they want, or do you limit them to certain times of day? DO you monitor what they listen to?

You have all week to share your family philosophy on personal electronic equipment. Explain your rules and why they work for your family. The person with the most well-expressed opinion wins the Golden Keyboard next Saturday! So come on, hit me with your best thought.

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  1. Not many electronics here in Fitzville. As far as gameboys go, I have always felt they lead to kids being unsociable. I am always amazed when I have kds who come over here to play and bring a gameboy, and sit on the couch playing it. Our kids have asked occasionally why they can’t have them, and I always point out those moments when a friend is sitting alone with one, and the rest of the kids are playing a big fun game together outside.

    Our two oldest have ipod shuffles, which they purchased themselves. They are mostly used during “alone time”, which is pretty rare here. I have noticed that when they are used in the car, the kids usually end up yelling “listen to this!” and taking the headphones out so others can hear.

    So I guess our main guideline with any electronic device is ‘does it promote isolation, or being anti-social?’ All in all, my kids like doing things together, and they like being active and outdoors, so there isn’t much need for single-person elctronic devices here.

  2. I’ve only got one, and he’s little, but my guiding philosophy is that the world needs more time off from personal electronics. This means neither my husband nor I have our cell phones on when we’re at home. I have an ipod, but only use it for running. And once in a while for dishes if it will keep the TV off.

    I think our children need to be able to appreciate silence. Too many people have lost the ability to sit quietly and think. Instead, they are constantly pumping sound and images into their brain to occupy the empty space.

  3. My older kids have iPod’s and Game Boy DS’s. My younger ones have the hand me down older style Game Boy’s. My husband and myself also have iPods that are available to the younger kids if they want to use them. I am very picky about what music they are allowed to listen and what games are bought and played.

    We also have computer games, Playstation, X Box and a Wii. Again, I am very picky about what games are bought and played. My oldest wants Halo 3 but it isn’t going to happen.

    As far as limit’s go, they are only allowed to pull all that stuff out on Friday afternoon after school and that is only if my homeschooled kids are done with all thier work, including music practice, and had a good attitude and work ethic all week. The school kids must have good reports from school.

    I usually don’t limit a lot on Friday afternoon, I just let them play and decompress from the week. Everything is turned off at dinner time for family time and hardly ever turned back on.

    By the time Saturday rolls around they are usually busy doing other things and forget about the video games, except for the hand held ones for car rides. Sunday’s are usually busy too so I really don’t really have to limit the time they spend at home playing video games. All of my kids, except for my middle son, would much rather be outside playing with friends.
    I do have to watch the clock with my middle son.

    We also have a DVD player/TV in the car. My rule about that is that they only watch that if we are going far enough for a movie to actually play out.

    Some people think I am pretty strict about these things, but I get better work and effort out of the kids with these rules in place. And honestly, they hardly complain about it.

    In the summer I am much more easy going about that stuff. I do require reading, math practice and music practice in the summer but after that I let them play whatever they want but I do watch the clock. Still they would rather be outside with thier freinds.

  4. First of all, unfortunately, we don’t have iPods yet. We’re a little behind the times. The only portable devices we have are Gameboys, Pixter and Leap Pads. The kids can bring them in the truck with us if we are going to be driving for hours, mainly to keep them from fighting with each other. At home they are limited to weekends while school is in session and during the summer they can play them every day if they want; although, when the weather is good they would rather be outside. On days they are allowed to play them they are usually limited to an hour per day. Every once in a while, especially when the weather is bad, we will have a weekend where they can play them all day long if they choose. I think it’s important sometimes for them to have longer times to play because some games can’t be saved and can’t be finished in an hour, so I want them to be able to finish the games and feel proud of themselves for accomplishing somethat that was difficult. If we are going to a party or family function where other kids are going to be, we don’t let them bring them because we don’t want them to be sitting alone while all the other kids are doing something else. I do have to say, though, that there have been a few times when, for some reason, my kids or someone else’s have brought Gameboys or other electronic toys and the kids usually end up all sitting together and watching each other or giving each other tips, so in our family these things really aren’t isolating. There are also cables available so if two kids have the same game they can link to each other and play at the same time. I think these games give them great hand-eye coordination and puzzle-solving skills. I have no problem at all with portable electronic devices, as long as there are some limits in place.

  5. I’d be pretty hypocritical if I didn’t let my kids play video games or hang out on the computer…because I like them too. But all of us need to be aware that it can completely isolate us – so we’ve put a few things in place.

    1. Computers are not for bedrooms. Though my son does technically have one in his room, it doesn’t work and is only there for him to tinker on. Computer will always remain in open areas where everyone gathers.

    2. Gameboys and Ipods are not allowed when we are all together. Before supper, after supper, out together. In the vehicle is different because we have a bit of a drive into town from our home.

    3. Wii and Nintendos are for everyone’s use so if everyone can’t play the game, we can’t have the game.

    4. All electronics and computer use is offlimits from Sunday evening at 4pm to Friday evening at 4pm. That has been the smartest decision so far.

    I think electronics and computers are part of today’s world and I want to show them how to incorporate them into their lives without making them their lives.

  6. I really liked Nik’s response. We have similar rules. Game Boys and other video games only on weekends. The older kids have ipods they bought with birthday or chirstmas money. They don’t use them that often so it hasn’t really been an issue.

    The only other rule is we do not allow any video games in our house that have a mature rating. I don’t care how cool they are and that “everyone else has them”. No, no way, aint goin to happen.

    Other than that, we haven’t really had a lot of issues in this area.

  7. I have seen way too many grown adult men with wives and families who are addicted to video/computer games to allow them into my home. They ruin families. Period. We will never ever own a game console of any sort. It is also very unlikely that we will purchase any kind of game software.

    My six year old does enjoy very limited computer time. He probably only asks to play once a week and then it’s only for about a half hour. My husband and I use Firefox as a web browser, so what we’ve done is set up Explorer for my son. His home page is currently HisKids.net and I keep his favorites folder stocked with good stuff, PBS Kids, Whit’s End, Veggie Tales, etc. He knows that he can’t go anywhere except what I’ve put in his folder. As he gets older we will probably need to make more rigid rules and guidelines, but for now this is working wonderfully. He has asked for a computer in his room. That will never happen. Ever.

    We have fostered a love of play and being outdoors, so the kids would much rather be being active than wasting the day away with a video game.

    As for music, we LOVE music. We also love good teaching, so we do have an iPod and use it to take full advantage of the enormous treasure trove of teaching that is found on podcasts. The only time it is ever used with the ear buds is by my husband in the tractor. Otherwise, we essentially use it like we would cds or a radio. In the car we hook it to the stereo so that everyone is listening to the same podcast/artist.

  8. I think many of the others made reasonable and important suggestions. My only comment about all of the electronic stuff is to ask all parents to monitor closely the level of noise that the earbuds emit. It is easy to damage young ears and teenage ears. Loss of hearing is one side effect but another and actually more serious one is tintinitis. This is a serious problem and it has no cure. It also is extremely hard to treat. It causes ringing in the ears and can truly make people crazy. So if the kids have ipods, please monitor the sound levels.

  9. We have DS’s and a few ancient game systems that are so old that visiting kids like playing them because it’s retro. In our house “screen time” is allowed on weekends only. This is because I got tired of being the game cop when we had time limit for each day. Sometimes I make exceptions for vacations, sickness, and schoolwork. But otherwise the TV, gameboys, and computer are off. As far as ipods the older kids have them and I will comment if I see something on it I don’t like and discuss what message the particular song sends. With the young teen I’m more restrictive and the youngest ones don’t have them. One aspect of the DS that I like is its linking capability. The kids can all play the same game together with linking; however I don’t think I’d let a younger kid activate the Wifi to play with strangers.

  10. My two children each have a Nintendo DS which were birthday gifts from their grandmother. They were received this past summer, and I allowed pretty liberal play when we had down time. I must say that at this point my children rarely play them unless: a) we are travelling, b) I know they will have to be sitting at lenth (like at the Dr’s or with me at work) and then I recommend that they bring them along. Their games are fairly innocuous, my daughter trains dogs (it’s curious to me that this is more interesting than tending to our own pets) and perfects cooking recipes and my son is into the retro games like Mario and Sonic. We rarely struggle with play time, and they are so busy, that on the rare occasion when they do pull out the DS, I don’t usually object. We tend to have more trouble with the television. My sister, whose child also has a DS has always limited play time and she is still battling her son daily about putting the DS away.

  11. Hi, mary — Just found your blog site…….. have enjoyed reading about the life of “another mom of 10” ( I am an adoptive mommy too of 10 beautiful children )

    As for the electronics…… my opinion is certainly not one that is popular in today’s high tech – society and culture. I am sure many may think my out of date or “old fashioned” ……… I find our family takes “the road less traveled” in regards to media exposure and electronic devises for our children……….

    The only media we have is a DVD player ( No regular TV channels but a TV for videos, etc ) , a CD player for music, and the computer…….. that’s it……..never had gameboys, or any kind of computer games, etc.

    Why? Various reasons…… I feel that media is “dumbing our kids down” ……… years back I read a fabulous book by Michael & Diane Medvit about losing our children’s innocence and how we can as parents “reclaim” it…… studies show that computer games, etc burn brain cells…….. simply put it’s “brain junk food”……. I guess a little bit won’t harm a child from time to time…… just like chips and pop and a burger won’t kill us from time to time………
    but just as a steady diet of “junk food” would seriously wreck havoc on us physically, I truly believe that “brain junk food” can really damage the mind & spirit of a child…………..

    Life is short……… it is precious….. I want my children to engage as much as they can in the “real world” and not the fantasy world that media such as gameboys, xboxes ( sp?), and computers present us…… there is so much more to life than these things…. I want my children to engage with others in the real world…….. and make a difference…………

    Plus, we live on a small farm and enjoy the beauties and pleasures of outdoor living…….. my kids spend their free time climbing trees, playing with their beloved pets, riding bikes, and playing…. like kids did once a long time ago……..my 14 yr old son is helping his dad right now build a home for some friends ( husband is a carpenter). He doesn’t have time for electronics – he’s learning some pretty valuable skills right now.

    Bottom line, we did not grow up in our generation with all these gadgets, nor did our parent, or grandparents…… they are not necessary for our children’s happiness…….. and our kids need to learn to be happy without having to be entertained by “something” all the time…..

    Sadly I have met too many children & youth addicted to the media…….. gone is the days of imaginative play, outdoor recreation and wholesome activities……. America’s kids now sit and sit and sit, out of shape with numbed brains…………

    I don’t know about you ~ but junk food is only good for ya’ in limited quantities……..I much rather prefer a healthy diet both food wise and “brain wise” for our family. 🙂

    Just my ramblings,

    mom to 10 , ages 14 , 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 7, 5,4, & 3