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Sunday, November 17th, 2013
I had a sitter the other night who the kids love. But this time they were antsy. Bored. They wouldn’t let me get ready. Emmett wailed when I tried to leave the room.
“Fine, you guys can watch a Super Why,” I said.
Yes, it was the path of least resistance. Yes, it was easier. But according to some new studies, there is a real danger in what I did.
Research is showing that kids who watch a lot of television and play on the iPad, iPhone, etc., are growing up to have “sustained attention” problems. Now before you stop reading and think, “Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this before,” hear me out. There’s some really new–and interesting– information surfacing. You have to remember that middle and high school kids who are growing up with this modern technology are giving us more and more insight into what it all means and the impact it is having. This is important stuff. Here’s the scoop:
When you walk in the door with your phone or text in front of your kid, you are sending a message to them that they aren’t as important (yes, we’ve heard that before). But you’re also sending a message that this device keeps your attention a lot of the time. When’s the last time you sat in the doctor’s office doing nothing while waiting for your name to be called? Or just sat quietly, not on your phone, waiting for your take-out meal to be ready? How many times have you given the phone to your kid at a restaurant because you want to enjoy your meal? I’m guilty on all counts.
All of the above is teaching them that technology soothes. What’s happening is kids are losing the ability to “self-soothe.” They aren’t just sitting still, using their imagination. Kids need to be bored in order to figure out how to become “un”-bored. They need to misbehave to learn how to behave. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that giving them your phone is the wrong thing to do. Have them color or play some sort of game. Or leave and give them a time-out. Yes, your meal gets cut short. It sucks. But giving them a phone when they whine is not in their best interest. Especially as they grow.
The brains of infants through preschoolers begin making deep connections that teach them to use their imaginations and creativity to “soothe” for lack of a better word, when they’re bored. Researchers are now finding that kids who grow up watching television when they’re bored and playing on the computer/iPad, are getting to middle and high school and not being able to complete “boring” assignments. For example, if you have to read a boring book and write a term paper about it, which when I was in school, was a reality, you had to just push on through. Nowadays they are finding kids don’t have that deep connection to even get through the work. So academically many kids are hitting a wall. It’s a wall that apparently could have been prevented if parents hadn’t been so quick to let them watch a lot of television or play on the computer.
It then trickles into the work world. They get a job. They are bored. They quit. The consequences are dire.
My pediatrician gave me some tips.
- Don’t even let your kids see the phone. Put it in your purse or your pocket when you walk in the door.
- If you have to go send some emails, leave the room to do it. Tell them you have some work to do for a few minutes and to entertain themselves.
- When you are with your kids, focus on them during the crucial times. She gave an example: 30 minutes of play, then dinner, bath, book, bed=NO PHONE.
- No more than an hour of television a day.
(I’d say we usually let them watch 1 1/2 hours a day. On weekends more. Yikes).
- No TV for kids under 2 (which I know we’ve heard and has been hotly debated by the American Academy of Pediatricians).
I’ve failed on that and now Em gets excited when Fia gets to watch a show, so I’m not backtracking. What I will do is cut down on the TV she is allowed to watch, so he naturally will, too. And honestly, he watches for about 10 minutes then leaves the room and plays with his cars or something.
The thought of my kids growing up not knowing how to use their imaginations to their full ability because their brains weren’t trained properly is really scary to me. I am not one to sit still and I’m not promising when I’m at the doctor by myself, that I won’t pull out my phone while waiting. But I don’t have to write term papers in 8th grade. My brain development is done. Actually I’d say it’s on the decline judging by my meat fiasco last week. So I take that back: Maybe I should work on sitting still and doing nothing. That’s what my meditation app is having me do. Okay, I’m going to make a commitment to do this.
My guest blogger Joe Deprospero decided to stop playing Words With Friends on this phone because he could feel the distraction it was causing at home. If we each decide to change one part of our technology lifestyle, think of the ripple effect that could have. Especially on our families. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Just tweak.
I did cut down a lot on technology after I wrote about it last year. But this is a good reminder. Anyone else want to join?
Controlling Your Child's Digital Interactions
What do your everyday decisions say about your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.
Pic of girl on iPad via Shutterstock
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ADD, ADHD, boredom, computer, imaginations, ipad, iphone, sustained attention, technology, technology addiction, video games | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He is the author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
There’s an app for that.
You’ve heard it time and time again, both as a serious suggestion and as a punch line. Want to track your daily caloric intake? There’s an app for that. Want to get locations and ratings on all Italian restaurants within a 20-mile radius? There’s an app for that. Want a constant distraction from your daily life that will serve as both a healthy mind-stimulator and immeasurable impedance on your parenthood and overall productivity? Unfortunately, there are several apps for that. Most are free, but can be quite costly in other ways.
For me, that app is ultra-popular, Scrabble-inspired Words with Friends. Now, before I go any further, I have to be clear that I’m not criticizing or trying to discourage use of this addictive app. I happen to love the game. In fact, I’m obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree. And that obsession got to be too much one particular day while reading a book to my son. Rather, trying to read a book to my son. At the time, I had 21 active games going, and frankly that number would’ve been higher had the app allowed it. And as it turned out, my kids’ bedtime always seemed to correspond with when my opponents were at their most prolific. Naturally. So, I was right in the middle of Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons book when I looked over at my iPhone to check if any plays had been made in the past 45 seconds. Antonio, my son, frustratingly asked, “Daddy, do you ever put your phone away?”
I did put my phone away. That very moment, in fact. I was completely surprised by the question. More importantly, though, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My son had playfully tried to grab my iPhone out of my hand in the past while I was playing my turn in WWF, but this was the first time he’d verbally expressed disappointment. And it was clear. He thought I cared more about playing some game on my phone than reading to him. That night, after the kids were asleep, I resigned from all my current games and deleted the Words with Friends app from my phone. Considering how addicted I was to it, I even surprised myself at how I was able to do it without the slightest bit of hesitation. But considering how it was starting to make my kid feel, the decision to eliminate it from my life wasn’t difficult in the least.
I won’t lie. I miss playing. Like any part of a daily routine, it had become ingrained in my psyche to the point where any idle moment (and sometimes, not-so-idle moment) was devoted to punishing my opponent with a Triple-Word score. I know there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of striking a healthy balance between their responsibilities and hobbies. But when a hobby becomes so consuming that it’s affecting how your boss, spouse, friends, or especially your children view you, it’s time to walk away. For me, the time had clearly come.
It would be foolish for me to believe that I’m completely in the clear when it comes to distractions. In this day and age, if it isn’t Facebook, it’s Twitter. And if it isn’t Twitter, it’s Instagram. And if it isn’t Instagram, it’s some other social app that’s as attractive to a wandering mind as a fire hydrant to a urinating dog. As parents, our minds need relief more than anybody. But I’ve learned that seeking such relief while your children are awake and in your care is as selfish as it is dangerous.
So, if you have a similar distraction that’s taking you away from something far more important, know that there’s somebody, maybe even one of your children, that have noticed it. And no matter how tempting a Triple-Word score is, no point total is worth ignoring, even for a moment, that very important somebody.
Do you have a habit you’re looking to break? Know someone who does? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below! Or tweet me with the hashtag #appaddict!
And if you are looking for fun activities to do with your kids, check out our free Activity Finder.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Monday, April 29th, 2013
We love taking pictures of our babies, right? I mean, who doesn’t. I can’t help myself…good god, as I’ve written before, I think Em is one of the most beautiful babies on the planet. And Fia is such a character with her ethereal beauty… Of course I’m biased like all moms and dads. My dilemma is what to do with them all?
I think back to when I was growing up. Film was expensive. Phones with cameras didn’t exist. I have a couple really sweet photo albums my mom put together over my growing up years. She also had an accordion file with each of our names on a folder. We could go in anytime and look at our pictures. There were probably about 10-15 photos for each of us.
I sit here in my office and look at 2 rows of photo books on a shelf. I never wanted to get too far behind the game in printing out photos of the kids. From when Fia was born, I would upload photos every few months to one of the sites where you can then order prints. I would guess 90% of the photos I take, I eventually upload. Which means I end up getting probably 900 prints over the course of a year to put in albums. Then, I have to sit down, put them all in order, put them in the albums, then write captions. It’s a fairly large undertaking.
At the rate I am going, I will need a house just to store all my photo books. But I like having hard copies. What is the point otherwise? Let them sit on a computer? And if that computer crashes without backup?
I try and be judicious when I’m picking out which photos to print. But I get so caught up in, “Well, this one is so sweet, I should print that one.” “It’s only 9-cents, may as well order it.”
What’s funny is my system seems far more “old school” than most of my friends. They don’t order prints. They just keep them all on their computer. Which means they probably don’t really have a “system.”
But I’m looking down the road. Your child will never have your computer. So someday are you going to export all the photos to them? Or will they just die with your computer (and with you) and never see the light of day?
I feel overwhelmed by the many photos and albums I have but I don’t only want my pictures to be on an electronic device. And the online photo books you can make and order would probably take just as much–if not more–time. And then you still have books and books of photos.
Is there something I’m missing here that would make my life easier in this regard? Any system you guys have that you care to share? Many thanks!
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Monday, July 16th, 2012
This is going to make me sound like an inept parent, but here goes: I haven’t “done” anything with Emmett yet. As in, any mommy-and-me classes, music, a stroll in the park — nothing. With Fia, it was the exact opposite extreme. We never stayed in, partially because it was a Brooklyn apartment and we always had neighbors and friends to hang with. Plus, you stroll everywhere there and isolation just isn’t an option.
With Em, we hang out around the house and on weekends when we go somewhere we (obviously) don’t leave him home. But if I’m doing playdates they are with Fia, and our nanny is out and about with Emmett or at home with him. In fact, she’s much better at figuring out fun parks to take him to. She puts down a blanket and they play. That’s another thing I don’t really know how to do. Play. I’m great at smothering him. Sucking his cheeks, smelling his hair… if I could eat him, I would. He’s that delicious. But playing? Not so much.
Anyway, this morning a crew was coming to work on our house. We had to leave. Cleo had arranged a playdate with Fia and I was taking Emmett. Because I’ve given myself an online blackout at nights, I didn’t Google anything to do. I panicked. I also felt like a major idiot. What mom doesn’t know what to “do” with her baby?
I drove to a nearby park, put his car seat in the stroller, and went to a patch of grass, only to realize the morning dew made the whole area wet. Back in the car feeling like a total failure, I drove to an indoor playground I’ve been to with Fia.
I walked in and began doing what I do when I feel insecure. Over-explaining.
“I know he’s only 4 ½ months, so we probably don’t belong here, but I wasn’t sure where to go with him and my daughter is on a playdate and there are people in our house, so I’m sorry, if you think we shouldn’t come in…”
She gently interrupted my diarrhea of the mouth.
“This is a great place for him. You can sit in the ball pit, he can look at all the colors, see other kids. And, because he’s so young, it’s free for you both.”
Huh? No way. With a small amount of confidence back, I walked in and started to “play.” With my new Blackberry blackout plan, I didn’t check my phone once. I even met a nice dad there with his son. I felt focused and in the moment. And I remembered that I do actually know how to play.
After an hour, we got back in the car, he zonked out, and I took him to lunch, where I’m writing this post. I’ve had a great date with my son and plan to do it every week. Momma’s got her groove back.
Small update: Just as I finished writing this, two large men came in and started bellowing a conversation back and forth. Literally talking as if there was a jackhammer behind them. The whole restaurant was empty, yet they choose to sit near me. Really? I did loud shhhhh-ing in Emmett’s ear to make the point. Hello! Infant sleeping! Not a clue. Within minutes Em was awake. I wanted to poison their food. Aaarrrggghhhh.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read