My Facebook feed is filled with messages and links, mostly from fellow Moms, about the evils of screen time. For a long time, I hit like and share, because I supported a low or no tech household in theory. I mean, it’s a sound message: keep kids outside staring at the sky instead of inside staring at a screen. But the truth was I just couldn’t cut tech out of our lives. It didn’t feel like a cancer. It felt like a limb.
Balance on the issues makes a lot more sense. Afterall, media usage limits for kids should be about not missing out on better things. As in, Minecraft time shouldn’t erode reading time. And Tobuscus shouldn’t replace time shooting hoops with friends. But that doesn’t mean Minecraft doesn’t have value, as many argue that it does. And it doesn’t mean screen time is responsible for all childhood maladies.
Scientists have found games can improve family relationships, especially between girls and fathers, and I’ve seen technology bring my son and husband together in a way nothing else could. Gaming has also been shown to boost math skills, help dyslexia, promote cooperation and enhance creativity.
My son is 11 1/2 and he and my husband livestream video game play together every night from 7:00 – 8:30. It is their THING. And I’m not just tolerating it as a mother. I’m supporting it and here’s why:
- It builds my son’s confidence. My son is better than his father at video games. This teaches my son to teach as he shows his dad how-tos, tips and tricks in the games. It teaches my son that he can be better than his father at things and still relate.
- It helps my son learn skills. My husband isn’t the better gamer, but he knows more about the internet, networking, streaming, shooting and editing video, so my son is learning great things through this experience. And not just techy thing either. Dad is teaching our son how to interact with other people online. They talk about important topics like internet safety, cyberbullying, and good sportsmanship.
- They’re doing good in the online world. Kids ranging from age 9-15 from Latvia, Guatemala, England and places all over the U.S. come and talk to my husband and son, whom they call, “Trash Panda Boy and Dad.” Many even refer to them as their “Trash Panda Family,” and they come to talk about topics like God’s existence, mean people at school and coming out to their parents. One child recently lamented, “I wish my parents were cool. My Mom swears and yells all the time and my Dad throws stuff at us.” To which my even keel husband replied, “Try and forgive them KidScreenName422. We’re all just trying to do the best we can. But stay safe.”
These kids are out seeking connection. Which brings me back to being Pro Tech. If you have kids online, don’t just tolerate it reluctantly. Media is an opportunity to connect, especially, with your tweens and teens. Ask your kids what they like to watch on YouTube. Ask if you can learn to play one of their games with them. And do it before they get too old and start rolling their eyes at you.
Because if you tune out from their online world and just assume they’re going through a teen phase by hanging out online all evening, then you’re missing out on answering their questions. While my husband is happy to tell these kids: “Remember never give your full name or contact information out online. Don’t meet strangers from online without telling your parents. Don’t let the haters get you down.” The fact is, these kids would rather hear these things from their parents.
That’s why I decided to sideline the Facebook fear mongering and go firmly Pro Tech.