Wednesday, October 22, 2008

To Unplug, Or Not To Unplug

Through my recent blog travels I haven noticed a huge amount of posts with regards to "unplugging" our kids. This, of course, has led me to contemplate my decision to "plug" my kids back in after a few years of being "unplugged".

"Unplugging" is when you remove all electronic stimulation from your child's environment. There are, of course, varying extremes of this phenomenon and every family is different.
TV's, Video Games, Computers or Computer Games, Internet, Loud (I must admit obnoxious) electronic toys are some of the things one might limit to get unplugged.

Growing up I was an only child. I swear I tried to play board games, honestly I did..... mom and dad were always too busy and when they weren't, I was. I even tried playing Monopoly once with my dog...she ate the money. I'm weak, I gave up trying.

I loved (and still do) to read... I read anything I could get my hands on. I loved (not so much anymore) to draw (maybe I should start again.....hmm.....) and I loved my alone time.
I also loved and I mean really loved my Coleco Vision (before Nintendo made Nintendo.. the original Wii for me)...I played Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. oh and Bump N' Jump til' the wee hours of the morning on a regular basis (I told you my parents were busy)... when it came out I got a NES, and then a Super NES (you have to upgrade right?) I never got into the Nintendo 64... not sure why....

Imagine my delight when I met hubby.... he's a "gamer" too. So together we played video games until the wee hours of the morning.... only now it was on the Playstation.

Ok, flash forward...... we had our first little guy (Daxter) and I have pictures of him playing Playstation at 18 months. I even have pictures of Ratchet (10 months or so) playing Soul Caliber with him....
It was always a treat, a family event. Actually, it was hilarious to watch too.

We also watched TV..... Daxter LOVED Blues Clues.. he learned sooooooo much from Steve it's not funny. Yes, I did use the TV as a babysitter at times..... I know, no mother of the year award here.
Daxter was reading at 4 years old, doing math at a grade 1 level name it, he knew it..... all thanks to Steve and Blue. I admit it. He's still a brilliant young fellow ...but of course, I am biased.
Ratchet did not love Blue as much as Daxter...he just kind of hung off his coat tails for a year or so.

Then we moved to a new house......

Not sure why, but we just never hooked up the TV. We stayed that way for 3 years. No withdrawals or breakdowns.... we played a few video games here and there and obviously we watched DVD's as a treat.

We were never big on loud toys.... my boys are loud enough, they don't need toys to compete with.

Halo was born in a TV free house...... it stayed that way until he was around 2.5 years old. Around that time, the local Satellite Company was going door to door offering a "too good to pass up" deal on Satellite TV. We obviously couldn't pass it up right? Gotta love marketing.

Ok, I'll stop for a minute to say that we were never truly an "unplugged" family. I guess you could say we tried the Turn off the TV week and just never turned it back on. We did however have (and still do) severe limitations on when, where, what and how long they can watch/play.

That being said... and back to my original thought....that started waaaaay up above...... I have now been reading all the talk about unplugging our kids and well, I have decided that I like my kids plugged in just fine. Going back to the thought of limiting when, where, what and how long the electronic stimulation takes place.... we are pretty strict, but not completely horrible.

Here's why I have decided that electronics are ok for our kids.

Technology is an amazing thing.

The things my kids can experience, create and learn using the internet, watching a cool DVD or watching the Discovery Channel are truly amazing. They can travel anywhere in the world online. I cannot afford a plane ticket if Daxter wants to visit India, but I pay my high speed internet bill so that he can do the next best thing. India Tourism , Welcome to India and Incredible India should get him started.
The new video game systems promote physical activity (the Wii ) and fine motor skills and hand eye co-ordination (The Nintendo DS).
Our family plays Rock Band together and we have a BLAST! Just good ol' fashioned fun :) Don't tell my kids that they are learning about rhythm and how to keep a beat or improving their dexterity with fine motor skill practice and when I applaud my 6 year for singing his heart out, please don't tell him I have a tear in my eye because at 6 years old he did not miss one word of the lyrics that he had to read off the screen.

My kids are very creative and energetic (I wish I had some of their energy!) kids. They love lego, soccer, drawing and reading (boy do they love reading.... did you know that a good book, or set of books can cost almost as much as a video game?

My kids take music lessons (piano and guitar) and play soccer in the summer and futsal in the winter. They play outside all the time, and man, can they produce some grass stained laundry, so they are either being very active or, very creative..... either with me.

My kids have chores and gripe and groan every minute that they are doing said chores...but the chores get done before they get plugged in.

I use some computer games (Rosetta Stone... I can't speak Italian, but Daxter is learning to) and some DVD"s (Magic School Bus) to supplement our learning time.

My kids do so many crafts that I had to stop saving all of them and resort to digital picture taking to cherish the memories, save some space, and my sanity.

Speaking of sanity... let's talk about my dependence on my computer and the internet. Come on... I wake up in the morning and the second thing I do is check email and my blog (the first thing I do is kiss my kids and hubby). I use the internet to research learning material for the boys and play a few online games too.... did you know that you can improve your vocabulary, foreign language and multiplication skills here ?
I talk with friends online and through email. I am a chatter box...get me on the phone and you are stuck for over an hour, I swear, it's that bad...really. Using email saves me (and my loved ones and friends) sooooo much time it isn't even funny. In that instance, I am using technology as a courtesy...honestly.

As useful as I find the internet, how can I not teach my kids to use it safely, responsibly and in moderation? It is a very useful tool.

I'm not looking for validation, or looking to tick anyone off (please don't send hate comments..... there's a delete feature and I know how to use it) , or insult anyone or tell anyone what they are doing is wrong. I am just laying my thoughts out on the screen... more or less to let myself know that what we are doing is ok for our family .... it works for our family. It may not be perfect, but really what is?


Summer Fae said...

Our TV and vcr broke when we first moved into our house(5yrs ago). We didn't have the money to replace them so we never did. We were given a tv last year at Halloween. We have now had tv for a year. I can tell the difference with my family. We have fallen back into watching tv every night.

My hubby and I were just talking about putting more restrictions on the electronics.

Great post!

April said...

Well said!!!
I completely agree with you.
We have days were we will actually go DAYS without turning on the TV because we are just too busy. But then we have a rainy day were it's so nice to just kick back and watch some movies together.
And I can not tell you the hours I have spend playing the Lego games of the 360. the kids do there school work for me and I play there games with them.

I learned to finally not listen to the people out there that think they know best. I used to worry about it and how my kids were turn out. But actually I am so much happier not listening and just enjoying the short time we get with our kids.
SO good for you too:)
I may have to blog some about this also......

Gerky said...

You and I grew up alot alike. Only child, parents worked full time jobs that resulted in LOTS of overtime. I too tried to play games by myself, didn't work with me either. I never got a game system (my parents did believe in buying things like that) but I swear I became addicted when I "grew up" Cool and I spent many, many hours playing Nintendo. Zelda brought us closer

I think there are different levels of "unplugged". I consider ourselves unplugged 75% of the time but there are some things we, as homescholers, just can't unplug from.

I have limitations our tv and electronic time and I think it is a nice mix. The kids are involved in outside activities and the electronics gives them some downtime at the end of a long day.

You have a thought provoking post...good job!

The Giggles Family said...

We love Zelda! We ended up getting a N64 second hand... well actually hubby and I owned a video game store here in town for a couple of years (yes, no TV but we owned a Video Game Store LOL...but that is another post entirely!) and it came in used. Last I checked I had around 14 heart containers... it's a real "go back to" game. Woohoo! We have the new ones for the DS and Wii but I still love retro gaming too!

Betty said...

Well said! Whatever works for your family. Great post!

Thanks for making my BATW day so great!

EmmaP said...

technology is amazing isn't it? And I am with you - wondering how much is too much sometimes, etc. Anyway - I think like you said, it's finding what works for you! We could all use a little balance! Thanks for stopping by from BATW!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Someone else who is there and "knows" kids too watch a good chunk of tv...but both girls also learned to read at 3 and are both science and math lovers! Thanks sooo much to tv for that, cause i have no love for math and science! and my hubby is a history it HAD to have come from tv! lol.
I think that this is just a new generation and things are bound to be different! TV is WAY different now then it was back then, there are awesome educational shows out there that are actually considered "cool" now! and i'm not afraid to let my kids veg out on the couch and absorb! :D

Mamasphere said...

This was fascinating to read, since most of the stuff I come across is from the other side. I would love to get rid of our cable (out of sight, out of mind) but we love the DVR function too much. You helped me realize that what we do is working for our family, so it's okay to keep it as is.

Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

The Mom said...

We've always had tv. Kiddo watches it when he wants but our lives don't revolve around it. When he does sit down to watch television, he watches the discovery channels or the nature channel. He's never really gotten into watching the same shows as other kids - even when other kids are here and I let them watch tv, kiddo will switch it off if he doesn't like the latest cartoon, much to the dismay of the other kiddos.

Now...can we talk Atari? Yeah, guess I'm just a bit older than you. Growing up on the farm with "poverty vision" (way before satellites other than those 10 foot monsters that cost upwards of $8 or 9 thou) we got CBC and snowy CTV...and played Atari. Our big game was "Pong". Actually, I think that was our only game...

But then, Mom would drive us once a week to the library and we'd read and read and read...when we were milking cows or feeding chickens or slopping pigs or the three of us kiddos were sitting around playing "Payday" or "Monopoly". There was little time for television but we sure got to hear about what we missed the next day from all the "town kids". And of course, the tv always worked as clear as a bell on Saturday for Hockey Night in Canada!!!

But even now, we spend many evenings playing games with Kiddo. We all love it - from Uno to Monoply...and honestly, we never miss an episode of the Simpsons is our guilty pleasure...

We said...

Mamasphere (isn't that changing soon???) - do what works to keep your family happy and healthy...... too much some days, none at all other days.... it all works itself out :) I am glad my post helped you out :)

The Mom - We love family games here.... guess what kind of UNO we have???? Go on, guess..... give up? The Simpson's UNO LOL... our guilty pleasure too :)

Tracy P. said...

Ever heard of PONG? Yeah. Ancient. Anyway, this is a great post. It's important to know you can make it without, so I applaud you for doing it. Now you know. Embrace the best that technology has to offer, and balance it. Bravo!

Thanks so much for stopping by with BATW today!