Dear Apple, I am trying to find the right balance. Is there an "app" for that?

 

I was reading a question the other day that someone had posted on a blog group. The topic was "Do you find it hard to be present for your kids when you have your laptop or Blackberry with you"?

This struck a cord with me. I was just struggling with this thought process the other day when I glanced up from my laptop only to see my son with my Blackberry up to his ear chattering away to himself in what can only be described as Kane-speak. I knew that I was obviously spending too much time with that addictive device reading email, blogs, tweets and countless other distractions that keep me feeling connected with the outside world.

Being a recently inducted stay-at-home mom, I'm finding it difficult adjusting to not having a deadline or project to work on. There is only so much Baby Einstein, Mega Blocks and one-way conversations with a one-year-old that you can take before you need other "grown-up" stimulation. Hence, this blog.

But what really struck me when I looked up from my digital distraction is the overwhelming feeling of guilt. That I am trying so hard to stay connected with the outside world at the expense of staying connected with my son. The whole reason I took on this new role as a stay-at-home mom in the first place.

Raising kids in a world where technology is king and almost everyone is "plugged in". How do you make sure you strike a balance and model the proper behavior with all this technology everywhere they turn? That seems like the overwhelming theme to almost everything.

Balance.

Everything in moderation right?

It's true, kids are being exposed to technology and gadgets earlier and earlier. Take my son for example. One of his favorite things to do is sit on dad's lap and play word games on the iPhone. He already knows how to use the slide functionality on the screen to move the letters.

He points and babbles insistently for my Blackberry. He holds it perfectly in his little hands and presses the buttons with his thumbs like any world-class texter would do.

He takes the TV remotes and knows that if he pushes the buttons and points to the TV that something will happen.

He is only ONE.

There are tons of research papers and information out there on how much technology is too much. I have read a ton of them with results from one side of the spectrum to the other. Stating things like promoting addictive personalities and the inability to cope without video stimulation. One article I read stated: "Their brains get used to too much auditory and visual stimulation and in the absence of these stimulations, they do not know what to do with themselves. They get anxious, restless, bored and aggressive".
That's a scary thought.
As I think back to a couple I had watched sitting across a restaurant I was in. They had a small child with them. Maybe 3. Sitting at the table in front of him was a portable video player to which the kid was glued. The couple went on with chatting to each other while the child remained perfectly contented with the video in front of him. But when the food came, this kid would not give up watching the video and threw a fit. What did the couple do? They gave in and let the kid continue to watch the video while he shoveled mac-n-cheese in his mouth. While I appreciated the fact that this couple silenced the screams of their child, it did make a permanent imprint in my mind of something I would never do with my children. 

But here I am on the verge of that same situation. With Yo Gaba Gaba! blaring in the background providing a much needed distraction in order to gain enough time to put my clothes on, check my email or write a few blog notes.

But then that brings me back to the question of "Balance" and being "Present". Am I truly present when I'm reading my email or Facebook while my son sits across from me eating his breakfast? Probably not as much as I should be. But I am always talking to him while I am reading my emails and Facebook posts. And I do make sure that we have quality time together playing and running around outside.

I think as long as you are interacting with your child when you use technology and don't use videos or TV as a "baby-sitter" or only means of entertainment, it's okay to watch a learning video.

It's okay for a one-year old to play a video game on the iPhone to learn a few words here and there. As long as you are doing it with them.

It's hard to know if you are doing the right thing all the time, but I think the more time you spend with your kids interacting with the technology or gadgets, its got to make it easier to interact with them when its not around. The last thing I want to create is that kid that sits in the corner glued to their laptop or DS instead of enjoying the party they are attending.

 

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