Balancing Our Kids Use of Technology

You’ve heard the voices that are getting ever louder in the mommy blogging community that technology is bad for your kids. I know. I’ve heard it, too. For me though it’s a little personal.  Gaming and technology are a part of my identity. It’s been hard not to feel as though those comments are a direct attack on who I am and what I do. Which is why I’ve been a little quiet. You see, I’m not going to write AT you guys, admonishing you about technology or games or how it is or isn’t ruining your kids or how you’re depriving your kids of future work endeavors or learning experiences. I don’t want to write from a place of anger or defensiveness. So I won’t. If you guys see me go quiet it’s because there’s a storm in my head and I won’t share it until I see what is left after the storm passes. And then I will show you not what destruction the storm has brought, but how clean the air smells, how fresh the sky looks, the little drops of rain left on leaves. So yeah, here we are. The storm has passed. Let me share what I’ve learned. 

Maybe we need to start again. Hi. I’m a gamer. And a mom. I care about my kids a lot. But you get that because you’re a mom, too. And we do worry about how to raise our kids because that is our job and our heart. You probably have a gaming system at home, or a tablet, or maybe you lend your kid your phone sometimes, or let them use the computer at the library. And maybe you find your kid plays games and you don’t really get the appeal, but whatever. You figure they’ll grow out of it like all kids grow out of playing with toys…. Wait! They might not “grow out” of their love of technology and gaming. It might become a career for them, or it might be one of their favorite hobbies as an adult. The percentage of people and adults who play video games has only grown over time. Denying that or degrading games and technology to childishness is the same as saying people should grow out of fantasy based books. C.S.Lewis himself said that as he grew older he realized that the desire to hide or push away “childish things” was the actual childishness and that as a fifty year old he had finally reached the point where he could read fairy tales openly. So let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that we can avoid all gaming, or perhaps let’s embrace what video games and technology have to offer us without guilt. 

No one will deny that what a child needs most is interaction with their parents. But this mom doesn’t expect you to light yourself on fire to keep your kids warm. Mom’s, don’t do that! Don’t lose yourself while raising your kids. It’s not healthy for you..or for them. Maybe you need a shower desperately so you plunk the kid in front of the TV to let them watch a carefully vetted show that teaches them different music styles. Or maybe you give them a puzzle game to play in the car on that road trip to your parent’s house. And then maybe you kick the kids out of the house to go sword fight with sticks in the backyard. It’s all about balance. What I want, moms and dads, is to be able to help you with that balance. 

Here’s where me being a gamer comes into play. I have loads of knowledge and history and experience with video games. I play new games all the time, I read about them, I watch the kids play, I play with the kids. I’m pretty discerning with what I let my kids play, how long, how often, what they play at their friend’s houses, what their friends play at mine. So I’m here to be what I’ve been for moms randomly in stores. I’m a guide. When you are in Target or GameStop and you’ve got that crazy mom who’s suddenly full of all kinds of words and enthusiasm about the game your wondering if you should get for your kid? That’s me. You are always going to know your own kids best, and make the best decisions for them, but I can give you information to help you make your decisions. 

You can go ahead and keep reading the mommy blogs who tell you things like, “I’m so glad I had a childhood before technology took over.” I read them, too. After all, I am a mom and care about my kids development. Being a gamer, I know I will be exposing my kids to technology on a regular basis, which makes me even more concerned that I achieve the right tech/non-tech balance for my kids, and that I give them worthwhile games to play. My hope is that when you get to the point where you realize that you and your kids need a balance that includes technology in moderation, or when you are looking for a video game that will be just as beneficial for your child as a good book, you will come here. I can help you out. This mom plays video games. Watch how I play, how we play, and take from our experiences what you think would be a good fit for your family.  

I’m a gamer and a mom, and I play video games with my kids. I’m teaching them how to balance their use of technology and gaming in their lives because I believe that technology is not going anywhere and I want them to know how to make it a tool before they’re out on their own. 

Series of Quotes #2

A reminder to not make technology out to be the bad guy. As parents, we can guide our kids through social media and technology. We must give them the knowledge to make smart decisions, not withhold tech from them in an effort to stem the inevitable issues that come up with social media. I don’t let my kids have access to Facebook at their age, but I certainly tell them about how people abuse social media to hurt others and how it can be addicting. I will always arm my kids with knowledge, logic, and kindness. You’re raising good kids, people. Don’t neglect or shy away from this part of their education, too.

Fixing My WiiU Pad

So I finally got around to pulling apart my WiiU controller to fix the left joystick issue. We were all tired of getting stuck walking up left in video games. This is the second time I’ve pulled this thing apart. The first time was for a cracked screen, a complete accident. One of the kids lost his grip on something and it landed right on the screen. Nice spiderweb from that. I was honestly nervous about whether or not I could fix the screen, but I had to try. My pad is a special edition controller I got when I bought the Wind Waker version of the WiiU and I wanted to keep it. Aside from that excellent reason to attempt fixing my pad, a new one would cost me over $100, while simply replacing the screen cost me $25. This time I got a pair of joysticks for $12.

Photo by Amy W. Lewis

Ok I will admit part of my reason to try is that I get to pull apart my WiiU controller and mess with the insides. The pad isn’t too hard to pull apart and fix, but I recommend watching a tutorial on how to do it first. Here’s the tear down tutorial by JerryRigEverything that I watched when I fixed that cracked screen. Taking apart the WiiU pad does require some delicacy, but if you or your kid is mechanically inclined, you definitely should try your hand at it. Also you get to add a special Y shaped screwdriver, called a Tri-wing, to your collection of tools.  

Photo by Amy W. Lewis

So there you have it. Not only an inexpensive way to keep your toys working, but also a lesson in electronics for the kids. What’s not to love? 

Combining the Old with the New

I often bring my cross stitch projects with me to work on while at my kids’ events. Usually people will stop and talk to me about it, whether it’s their own experience with the medium, or just to ask what I’m making. This time the comment was from one of the dads at my kid’s Pinewood Derby who said, “That’s an interesting combination.” This was right after he said that cross stitch was a dying practice and whistfully mentioned that his grandmother used to stitch. But he wasn’t talking about me doing a gaming pattern. Which I was. He was referring to me combining an old art, with new technology. I had my iPad in my lap, and was working off the pattern stored on it.

GameofThread’s beautiful pattern from Etsy

When I say I want my kids to learn to use technology as a tool, this is the kind of thing I’m referring to. I want them to be able to incorporate technology into their lives to make make it easier, without letting tech run roughshod over the real world. If I didn’t have the cross stitch pattern I was using in digital form, I would have to carry sheets of pattern with me when I wanted to stitch outside of my house. Usually the patterns will fold out into large dimensions, like a road map, and are black and white.  They are very cumbersome and hard to read. Technology allows me to have a digital pattern that is in color, that I can enlarge to make sure I’m getting my stitches right, and that I can take with me where ever I go. 

When the guy at the Derby pointed out the combination I was using, I paused. I hadn’t seen the juxtaposition of new and old that working on my project created. I had just seamlessly taken the new form of patterns and gratefully run with it. I embraced the freedom digital patterns contained without noticing how striking it was sitting next to an ancient art. I’m glad he said it. I was then able to take the time to show the kids what he was talking about, and hopefully give them a better perspective on how technology can make crafting and art more accessible and easier to manage while preserving the nature of the medium. I hope that as more people become familiar with digital patterns and see how useful and easy they are, cross stitch will no longer be referred to as a dying art.