Like many parents today, I used to think that depriving my kids of all the gadgets and electronics would mean I was a bad mom for not preparing them for the e-world that awaits them. It took one Sunday morning, a batch of blueberry pancakes made from scratch, and my amazed son who thought that pancakes could only be obtained from restaurants to change my mind. While I enjoyed that I was like a superhero in his eyes for knowing how to make his “favoritest ever, ever, ever!” pancakes, I also felt like I failed him for training him to think that food only comes from takeout boxes and microwaveable containers. So I sat down, listed all the advantages and disadvantages of letting our kids be raised by technological gadgets and advances, and based on this I made the decision to unplug my kids. Here are some of the things I found:
- The good: Fast, efficient, convenient. These are usually the three things we look for in life today. Email is no different. Kids can easily get in touch with anyone from any part of the world in seconds with just a click of a button. Email bridges the ocean-wide gaps between towns, states, and countries.
- The bad: With the inception of email came the quick demise of the art of letter-writing. From the cultivation of writing and the expression of emotions and feelings through writing, to the patience that comes with waiting for the ever unhurried snail mail, I feel that kids today are missing out on key life skills. Added to that, the joy that comes with receiving something in the mail is unparalleled!
- The good: For the most part, safety is the primary reason for allowing our kids to have phones. We can get a hold of them in almost an instant and vice versa. With the GPS function in some of these phones, we can also home in on their location. Most importantly, cell phones have been instrumental in getting kids to call for help in emergency situations.
- The bad: Ironically, when they get to a certain age and attachment to their cell phones, we’re never able to communicate with them face to face. While I have yet to experience this with my kids, many of my friends bemoan the fact that their kids are glued to their phones, texting and talking endlessly to friends that they just saw hours ago. And by endlessly, I mean it’s the first thing they do in the morning, last thing they do at night, and are even woken up by message alerts or calls in the middle of the night. It’s not only distracting; it’s not good for their sleep patterns either.
- The good: Because of Wii Sports, my kids know so much about sports! They know the rules, they know the mechanics of the games, their hand-eye coordination is improved, and they’ve even acquired a genuine interest in following sports events on TV.
- The bad: Their new enthusiasm for sports stops at Wii Sports and the television. These video games and the sports shows keep them inside instead of motivating them to go outside and actually play the games. Because of this, our kids often suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by co-chair of the National Forum on Children and Nature, Richard Louv, that refers to the inclination of kids to stay indoors that leads to them suffering from depression and anxiety due to lack of exposure to sunlight, plants, dirt, and the open sky.
- The good: Because of the many tutorials on YouTube, kids are exposed to so much new knowledge! There’s everything from learning how to fold an origami crane to installing recessed lighting right at the click of a button.
- The bad: YouTube videos, while teaching our kids so many things, have shortened their attention spans. Because they’re not accustomed to finding out how to do these things themselves (i.e. they’re being spoon-fed), they often want the answers, the punch-line, and the climax pronto! This then leads to a wavering attention and the onset of boredom when they don’t get what they want in the first few seconds.
- The good: Having kids use a GPS not only keeps them from getting lost, it also helps them to learn how to navigate when given directions (e.g. turn left at the next corner, etc).
- The bad: When the GPS is not available and all they have is a map (or the analog GPS), our kids are lost, lost, lost. Following the GPS doesn’t teach them how to read a map, navigate, use a compass, or even know where north, west, east, or south is.
Self-reliance and preparedness come naturally to Renee Bedford, a mom who knows these skills will keep her children not only smarter but safer. Renee sells artificial Christmas trees for Christmas Tree Market. Being prepared for some assembly might be required, because many of her products are artificial Christmas trees.