Technology and Family: Raising Kids in the Midst of it All

My husband has a skee ball app on his iPad that my three-and-a-half-year-old loves to play with. He's not very accurate, but he's fast. He just puts his little finger on the screen and pushes upward, in order to "roll" the ball up the ramp and into a hole. His fingers move quickly and surely over the screen, and he'll usually play until we stop him.

He was quite surprised the other week when my husband showed him a real skee ball game. "Wanna play?" my husband asked our son, who nodded vigorously. My husband put in his money and the balls came down, and he told my son to go ahead. And of course, what did my son do? He put his finger on the ramp and pushed upward, and looked up to see if the ball made it in the hole. As he stood there, wondering why my husband was laughing, I marveled at how he is truly an example of the iGeneration. And with all of the advances in technology, how his upbringing is going to be so very different from my own.

He's already embracing technology. The other day, he wanted to go somewhere, and I told him we couldn't because I didn't know where it was located. "But, Mommy," he said slowly, as if I were the child and he the adult, "just look it up on the Internet." He's super adept at using a mouse, thanks to the exposure that he gets to computers at his preschool. Even my toddler is embracing technology. He'll take my smartphone and "talk" on it incessantly, and he'll stop every once in a while to tap on the screen as if he's sending a text.

I'm sure that you have stories that you could tell about your kids and technology as well. For example, my friend told me that he had the opportunity to drive around in an older car with his 10-year-old daughter not long ago. She looked at the crank that was affixed to the inside of the car door, and asked, "What's that?" "That, honey," he answered, feeling old, " is what you used to use to roll down your car window." He demonstrated, and she was fascinated by the novelty of it, rolling the window up and down over and over.

Whenever I share pics of my kids on Facebook or do a Skype call with my parents or access my email on my smartphone, I'm reminded how great technology can be. In fact, for the most part, I really enjoy technology, and I’m happy to work for a technology company. But as parents, it can also be so scary. My friend says her son's spelling is awful because all he does is text. I hear horrible stories about cyperbullying that scare me to death. I'll do a search for something innocent on the Internet and I'll sometimes get back results that I can't help but be shocked by. How can we protect our kids in this brave, new world?

I know there's a lot of resources to help us help our kids when it comes to technology, but I admit that I didn't research them for this posting. Thankfully, I think I have a couple of years before I need to go there. But I do definitely plan to use those resources when the time comes. In the meantime, he's what I plan to do to prepare myself for the inevitable:

I'm not going to hide my head in the sand. There's no sense in denying it. The Internet, social media and smartphones are here, and they're here to stay (at least until the next latest, greatest thing comes along)

I'm not going to let fear consume me. Yes, in some ways, I'm scared. There's a dark side to technology when it's abused or used the wrong way, and I want to protect my children from that. But if I let fear control me, then I've found that I become overly paranoid and not much good to anyone. So I'm going to give technology a try whenever I can, and embrace it when it makes sense. Because when used the right way, technology can bring us closer to the ones we love, make our lives easier, and open doors to information and ideas more easily than ever before.

I'm going to be an eternal student and get involved. When I watch my kids, I'm continually amazed at how quickly they learn things. I may not learn as quickly as them, but my days of learning are from over. With a little time and a little effort, I believe that I can learn anything. It also helps to have a great teacher - my husband is our household IT guy, and a great resource for help and information.

I'm going to let it be part of my life, but not overtake my life. I think I fell in love with my husband a little bit more when he said one day while we were cleaning the kitchen, "I want to be sure and take the boys camping as much as we can. I want them to know that life isn't just about computers and technology." He's right. While technology has its place, we need to teach our kids to be well-rounded, and we need to be sure they get their outside time. That they turn off their gaming devices and unplug their iPods from time to time, no matter how painful it is. The world God made is too beautiful not to experience it first-hand.

Technology. It's exciting, yet scary. I don't have all the answers yet when it comes to kids and technology, and I doubt I ever will. But my husband and I will do the best we can to raise our kids in this new world. I'll make mistakes along the way, I'm sure, but in the end, I hope to raise kids who are smart about technology, who use it as a way to enhance their lives and not consume them.

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