When children want to consume media

We are about to embark on the computer technology road with the kids.

Did I word this right? I don’t know exactly how to explain this…especially because there is all kinds of computer technology in the house already. Here’s what we adults have (and let the kids use):

  • laptops
  • desktop computer (which is half out-the-door due to renovations anyway)
  • printer/scanner that copies (which the 7yo had figured out how to do)
  • fancy camera, video recording device
  • blackberry phones
  • blackberry tablet (mine)
  • iPad (his)
  • Sony E-Readers (one for each adult)

The kids use the laptop and tablets mostly for games on TVO kids, or Treehouse, or PBS (and some apps). They watch little movies on the same channels, or on YouTube. They are supervised, and they even learned how to type with all their fingers on one of the laptops (well, he’s halfway there). Ben downloads hockey rosters or other hockey-related stuff, and watches hockey games. Sonja likes some of the apps I downloaded for her, including a drawing one. Her reading has really taken off with the word games she plays on the library link the school provided.

So far it’s all been good. Mostly.

But Benjamin is turning 8 next week, and he’s been asking for video games. His friends have video games, XBox and Wii and all kinds of other stuff, and he wants the same so he can invite his friends over to play.

Suggestions to play board games, or lego, have been handled well to this point, but I think we’re at crossroads here…they’re not as interested anymore in old fashioned toys. The fact that the play area in the basement has been unusable for the past three months hasn’t helped, either. And frankly, the coming mud-weather isn’t going to be too inspiring either for outdoor play. We spend enough time at in the school yard after school to scratch that itch, so to speak, but I can see how electronic games will enter this household eventually. Like, soon. Or now.

So DH did some research. He found something that he thought may be a good way to introduce electronic items to a child. He found this tablet:

http://www.nabitablet.com/

Apparently this thing has games he can play (though not so much with others), but it also has a parental-controlled browser.  It functions as an e-reader too. The reality is, we’re all connected to the technology; it’s only natural the kids want to do the same, too.

The extended family is contributing to get him this tablet for his birthday, which has me thinking about introducing some rules. Last thing I need is for him to forgo all his chores and responsibilities, especially as long as hockey is still on (and less time is available for just hanging around). Things that will get enforced are probably pretty standard, like:

  • homework and chores first, then consuming of media (this includes TV watching) (and no complaining about it)
  • before hockey, pack bag; after hockey, hang up wet equipment, shower if necessary (and no whining about it)
  • quiet time can be with e-reader but not game playing (not sure if that’s realistic)
  • bed time enforced (so, introduce a time when electronics are turned off? I don’t know yet)

I don’t anticipate too many problems, except this: Benjamin will want to own his tablet outright, and I know he will assume that he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with this tablet. When he unpacks it, we’ll have to be clear up front that ownership of this tablet in actual fact means co-ownership, and that we, the parents, reserve the right to remove the tablet should things fall down with his responsibilities.

Setting a good example is tough because I’m personally connected to my blackberry phone all the time. But I don’t think the kids realize that most of what I type in there is actually related to my to-do list. I keep my grocery list in there, I keep my very busy activity calendar updated in there, I follow up on email appointments in there for the whole family. They may not see it as ‘mommy working’ but rather ‘mommy’s texting to friends’ (and I do do that, too). But I don’t use the phone. I text or email my life away….and frankly, I don’t have to explain THAT to a child.

How did electronics get introduced to your house? Do the children obey the rules, if any, and what happens when they lose the privilege?

One thing is certain. That boy will be so happy to unpack his very first electronic present.

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