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MOPS is Going to the Dogs


Brad Washburn, Do the Dad Thing bloggerI got fired by MOPS.

The local Mothers OPreschoolers group that meets at our church asked me to speak this week about technology regarding kids.  Then, I was told that a local female psychologist asked to speak on the topic this week . . . so I got bumped.

I was replaced by a female.  Gender discrimination is REAL people.

This is just online kidding.  They were really nice about it and I understand that I am, in fact, a dude.  I have a great respect for the MOPS organization. After our first son was born, we moved to a new area.  My wife was in a new community with no real family connection. She was depressed. The local MOPS group gave her hope.  They gave her connection. They gave her a reason to take a shower and put on pants each week.

Anyway, I had prepared a whole talk on technology for kids, so I really don’t want it to go to waste; so you guys get to be the MOPS group today — and the information is definitely good for Dads too (technology doesn’t just apply to Moms).

I was going to start out the talk highlighting the overall negative reputation of kids having technology — but my goal isn’t to land there.  We can gripe and complain, and lock our kids away in Amish communes, but technology is a reality that we have to face. But here are some of the negative statistics related to kids and ‘screen time.’

·         Tweens spend less time outside than prisoners

–Kids spend twice as long playing on screens as they do playing outside.

–3-in-4 kids spend less than 60 minutes playing outside each day.

–1-in-5 kids don’t play outside at all on a typical day.

–3-in-4 parents said their kids often refuse to play games without some form of technology.

  • Teens are expressing higher rates of depression and loneliness the more time they spend on their phones, despite claims by 81 percent of teens that phones make them “feel” more connected.
  • There is mounting evidence linking screen time to with obesity.

So . . .  Technology = Bad. –But I’m not going to beat that drum.   Instead I’m going to prompt you to ask yourselves, ‘Have you ever met at kid that didn’t interact with technology?’  That’s right; think about it for a moment. A kid that didn’t know about technology would be a social outcast and pariah among their peers.

Social interaction and peer pressure aren’t a great reason to embrace technology.  However, I could give statistics on how there is a benefit to different forms of tech and educational value on a worldwide scale is available to all genders and socioeconomic groups . . . but my main argument is that technology is a reality that is not going away.

I think the way you treat technology related to your kids is important.  This might call for an analogy . . .

Let’s imagine that your family adopted a wild timber wolf from the forests of Yellowstone.  Food has been scarce in the area, so the wolf comes to you already malnourished and hungry. It needs to be kept in your house until the environment improves.

Yikes! What would you do?  Well, you’d need a plan.

And that’s pretty much the summary of all my technology advice for your family; make a plan and make a goal.

Just like having a wolf in your home, safety would be the number one priority.  For media and technology use, this is no different. Internet safety is a popular topic and there are lots of good ideas to google.

Instead of safety, I’m going to focus on training your wolf (i.e. technology) so that it’s well-behaved and works for you.

First off, you’d have to show your adopted ‘wolf’ who is boss.  That’s you. I’ve read Call of the Wild, and it starts out with an undisciplined canine getting a literal beat down to get it under control.  You might have to do this at your house — people unplug, ‘go dark,’ or go away for several days and think through their involvement with technology — a metaphorical ‘beat down’ to show technology who is boss.

Next comes the training:

Make a goal:  I want my wolf to pull a sled or guard the perimeter, or jump through a hoop  — metaphoric translation — I want the internet to help my kids learn. I want social media to help my kids be more aware of the world.  I want their phones to be a tool we use to stay connected as a family.

Setting a goal helps your technology use work for you.

Set an example:  Many times kids, especially when they are younger, model their parents’ use of technology.  One time I saw a 2 year old hold up his hand to an adult talking, pick up a block, and pretend to take a cell-phone call and walk away from the interaction — that kid saw an adult do that.

Model any behavior yourself that you want your kids to follow.  Do you want your kids to mindlessly surf the web or incessantly look at memes on Facebook?  If you don’t, then model setting goals for your own technology use.

Have conversations about what they watch:  If your kids are gravitating toward a particular program or game, watch it with them.  Technology is horrible with how it portrays:

  • Money
  • How to treat women
  • Diversity

So definitely broach those topics.

Parent:  Wow that internet star just poured a whole bowl of cereal and milk on his head.  That was funny. I wonder what would happen if you did that?

Kid:  I’d be grounded for life and would clean the kitchen floor with a toothbrush.

Limit their screen time:  Truth be told, it is soooo much easier to NOT limit their screen time.  When my boys watched TV or surfed the net or played online games, they were so quiet and didn’t fight or bother us.  But, that’s obviously not good parenting.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a maximum of one hour of “high-quality programming” for your kids.  Honestly, I find that a little unrealistic for most kids. From my experience, limiting to 2 hours will be a good goal to achieve.

Give your kids rules for electronics:

  • Don’t break up over electronics
  • Don’t emote over electronics
  • Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do from the stage at church over electronics

Join the conversation to be a tech master:  One of the great things about MOPS or with the community at CWAHMs, is that we can work together and share information.  You have great ideas, other parents have great ideas.

I’m interested in your ideas to help tame the beast of technology for our kids.  Here are a few techniques and rules I’ve discovered or tried

Find phone apps — Apple products come with Find Friends pre-installed.  It just needs to be activated. Family Locator is also good. Each program allows you to track the other phones (so you can keep tabs and locate your kids)

Turn off thier phone and wi-fi: There are several apps available that enable you to remotely turn off wi-fi at your house or to turn off a kid’s cell phone. Some cost money, but I’ve heard testimonials from parents that the money was well spent.

Separate ring tones help you know when you need to answer an important call.  I frequently advise people not to answer their phone all the time or check text messages incessantly.  People usually object, “But I might miss an important call/text.” Set a specific ringtone or text sound for the 3 most important people in your life.  If it’s not them, don’t answer it.

No phone dinners:  Make the rule that phones are not out at dinner (unless they ask).  Dinnertime is for conversations, not for technology.

Have a weekly no-tech night:  I’ve heard of several parents declaring Thursday evening to be no-tech night for 2 – 3 hours.  Everyone reads or plays a board game. Kids will complain, but they look at this time fondly (in the long run).

Add yours!  Contact me, make a comment below, or visit your local MOPS group to share some other great techniques.  Together, we parents can train technology to work for us!

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