Is Tech Stripping Our Kids Of Life Skills?

As an eighties-baby, I started my childhood tech-free, ended elementary school in ‘95 addicted to Oregon Trail, and made it through freshman year of college with a landline! 😱 Being forced to call someone, make plans, show up, and cross your fingers they show up as well, builds character. (Today’s version, I make playdates for Hen via text.)

Growing up on the cusp of Luddite and tech-savvy, it’s not lost on me that my daughter may miss out on that character-building (and etiquette!) with the proliferation of technology in our world.

When nostalgia creeps in, I wonder if she’ll miss out on the imagination stretch of a refrigerator box or the freedom in roaming the neighborhood ‘til sunset. Gosh, not if I can help it!

I hope to strike a balance between using technology and living in the open-air. The dream is to read Bridge to Terabithia, watch the movie, and then send Henley out into the world to build her own fantasyland. I never want her imagination to be trapped by what’s already been created or for her brain to go on auto-pilot. With that said, tech gets a bad rap.

Thinking back to the mid-nineties, obviously, I had my hands full trying to survive the Oregon Trail, but I also designed my own fashion magazine and learned to use CADD (computer-aided design and drafting). Navigating choices and challenges to get something to look as I envisioned built skill, patience, creativity, and tenacity.

And we could use some tenacity ‘round here. My daughter’s only request for Christmas was skaters (translation: roller skates). Now, I’m not too shabby at rollerblading, but it’s been 25 years since I roller skated. So I decided to get skates as well to find a groove with her. She’s fallen exactly zero times, but she’s felt off-kilter several times. So she’s given up on skating. While I don’t want her to get hurt, I want her to fail. It’s part of the learning process.

So, we’re giving her a tiny break with the expectation she’ll try again (me too!), and we expect her to fall now and again. Scary as it may be, she’s going to get bumps and bruises. That’s why we bought all the safety equipment Amazon could spare. With all the techie ways to entertain her safely it’s tempting to stash her inside with the iPad, but I want to make sure she’s learning skill, patience, creativity, and tenacity.

So here’s how we’re balancing tech and play…

  • Setting time limits! Who isn’t guilty of binge-watching from time-to-time? Unless she’s sick or we’re at the movies, we limit her use of tech + TV to two hours a day.
  • Being mindful! As much as it pains me to watch Super Why! with her, it’s teaching her to spell. One of us will sit with her to call out letters and reinforce what’s she’s learning.
  • Bringing tech outdoors! My dad taught me to use a telescope to see the night sky, and he taught Henley to use stargazing apps  like Star Walk.  And the national parks and Texas State Parks have geocaching for discovering nature’s treasures.
  • Moving! When a jam comes on during a show, we get up and dance. Sometimes we even bust out the tambourines. Hen also follows along with my online yoga classes and rocks one-leg downward dog and tree pose.
  • And, kindness! I most fear her being a bully or troll. Words hurt and tech makes it easy to be cruel. We talk about being kind to others and acknowledge when a character isn’t kind. She recently called out that Daniel Tiger knows all his neighbors and we only know one (eek!). So we agreed to introduce ourselves to more neighbors. So neighbors, see y’all in 2019 and don’t worry my husband’s an awesome baker! 🍪

In between our time on the iPad or TV, we enjoy the world. We love arts and crafts, reading books at home or the library, the Austin Zoo, nearby parks, hiking at McKinney Falls State Park, and of course, learning to roller skate. Here’s to nurturing tenacity, imagination, and all the other good stuff.

How do you balance our techie world and keeping your little ones grounded?


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