02 May 2013

Back to the Future

Last night, the wife and I activated our very first iPhones. Yes, yes, we’re very, very late to this party. We’ve wanted to do it for a long time and it’s hard to say what exactly—if there was even just one thing—that finally tipped the scales. But I do think a big part of it is our children. Their technological savviness is so far beyond ours that it was time for us to start catching up.

I’m not kidding. They are so far ahead of us. They live in this completely wired world where visiting the Lego website is an actual activity that the Doozer regularly requests, having even standing with books and toys and the outdoors. He has learned to navigate and operate tablets, smartphones, and laptops. He knows all about the iPod and the Internet. And Facebook.com.

And the younger one is right on his heels. Perhaps one of the most surreal moments in all of parenting occurred recently, when the Doozer opened up iTunes on our laptop as it sat on the coffee table, and seeing all the little album covers onscreen—no music yet, just the very small images of album covers—Little Brother began to dance. The sight of iTunes on a computer screen and the promise of sound it portended set him to grooving. No, seriously.

I own records. Actual LPs. What will they make of them when I finally pull them out of storage?

Now, along with all the wonder and excitement our new devices offer, we are also faced with something of a moral quandary. Do we allow our children to use the iPhones? It’s not like we can hide them forever or even pull the old Jedi mind trick of “Hey, look over there at that brightly colored object—what? I’m not holding anything” anymore. They’re going to notice the phones. They’re going to want to use said phones. It’s inevitable.

But what do we do about it?

There’s this term we’ve heard a lot lately: screen time. It’s one of those recent developments in parenting (maybe not terribly recent), that was unheard of when we were children. When I was a kid, there was one screen in the house. If you wanted to see any others, you pretty much had to leave the house to do so. Now, we need to monitor the multitude of screens our kids can be viewing and how much time they spend on that viewing.

And it’s kind of hard to be the screen police, when you’re kind of addicted to it yourself. With a DVR queue a mile long, a tendency to surf the Internet and watch TV simultaneously, plus an obsession with movies and a growing addiction to Facebook Scrabble, how do I disconnect in order to set a better example for my kids? I would much rather be plugged in and online than outside doing, well, pretty much anything one could be doing outside.

Do we include them? Or not? Do we have a choice?

For now, I’m just going to ignore their tiny pleas while I play Angry Birds and listen to the latest WTF and make a grocery list and check the weather and take a picture of me doing all that (seriously, this thing is amazing) until this phone is out of juice.

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