Over the past two years since our boys have discovered games consoles we’ve had a love/hate relationship with them as a family. From a parent’s perspective, first it was interesting to see their curiosity develop around these games and we would observe them finding their way around the games and move up levels, all the while developing new skills and the enjoyment they got from this was immense. They’d shriek and carry out celebratory dances when they scored goals that they didn’t even think was possible and then they’d jump out of bed wanting to play with their favourite new toy. We even added to the games collection at Christmas and birthdays so that they could enhance their skills further and the look on their faces when they opened their newest FIFA games was lovely to see. If I’m being completely honest, as a parent these games come in handy and help to give me some time back when I needed to carry out household chores and do all daily task that need doing like making tea and it was a perfect way of keeping the boys entertained and engaged in something that they both loved. It was our saving grace at times and as we don’t have much support to help out with the children we would take every bit of time we could.
But, over the months and the years these handy game consoles became the bane of my life because what was healthy competition soon turned into arguments and at times even fisty cuffs between the two boys (a little push or shove now and again when one scored or cheated). I understand that healthy competition is good and sibling rivalry can be natural but, technology was causing us more problems instead of less. We would start by having a discussion about who’s turn it was to choose the football team and then we’d agree after one game we’d swop but, it never went to plan and there was always arguments along the way, we caused it’s own fair share of stress. We always tried to deal with it diplomatically but, the boys were too fixated on winning, these games are all about league tables and winning.
We used to allow the boys to play on technology daily but, that soon stopped too as when they’d wake up, they run straight into our bedroom and ask immediately to go on the ipad, we noticed their social skills slipping and there was no ‘Good Morning’ or crawling in for cuddles it was ‘I’m awake, i need technology,’ and I hated it. It was then we agreed to limit the screen time to weekend mornings only and that worked for a while too and I have to be honest and say it came in handy too.
For the last 2 years (yes, 2 years I’m embarrassed to say) I’ve used Saturday and Sunday mornings as a way of answering emails, completing work and/or study so 3 hours of technology came in handy, 7am – 10am and it meant I got a lot done enabling them to play on their games console or ipad and they loved it and the rest of the day was ours. That’s how I justified it in our minds and we never had to dash out to clubs or hobbies so it was ideal. However, that never went to plan and there was always arguments and I’d be up and down like a yo-yo trying to resolve it. .
Recently we visited my parents in France and during our week we played dominoes, cards, I created treasure hunts for them, I even pretended one day that it was sports day in France one just to keep them entertained and that day they were so excited. We engaged in sports all afternoon and kept a tally chart of the scores but, it was healthy competition, I ensured that, they loved it. We spent our days wandering around, swimming and just playing together, it was brilliant to see an even more loving and sociable side to the boys – I loved every minute of it! That was until we landed back home and they asked if they could go on technology, and as we’d been away for 2 weeks I thought why not, one game can’t hurt, can it?!
How wrong I was! Within minutes they were back to their usual robot states, staring at the screen, all tensed up and overly competitive. It was then I said to Richard that I think we need to limit their time even more on technology.
We agreed to allow them to stay up later as they’d been asking for a while but, they need their sleep so we’d hesitated until now but the deal was, they had to be indoors by 7pm and then we’d have supper (together) and all sit, chat and play a game. If I’m honest we don’t always sit together and all 4 of us don’t always play, sometimes one parent is doing chores but, one of us is always present with them and if possible both of us.
It’s early days and I’m by no means the perfect parent (I’m pretty sure that doesn’t exist) but, we’re trying new things with the boys after all, parenting is a learning journey. We’re loving the change so far and I’ve seen a change in them already, I’d go as far to say the love/hate relationship I once had with technology has turned into a ‘hate’ relationship but, it’s all in moderation, I won’t ban them from it, it seems too extreme and they do love it so we’re figuring out what’s a happy medium.
We’ve extended this too to TV time but, that’s work in progress, I’m so sick of watching Horrid Henry and seeing them (again) staring at the screen and not engaging in chat or answering questions about school or what they’d like to go with their tea. They’re like zombies when they watch the TV but, all kids need some down time I know that. So we’re just figuring out what that will look like for us as a family. I’d gladly take out the TV, we only have one in the house and it’s too many for me, but everything in moderation. Richard and I barely watch it, if at all.
So the challenge we’ve set ourselves is to put more effort into our children, I know now that technology helped me at times but, created little monsters at times too. We want to play more and exchange screen time for play time – go outdoors, play in the garden, involve them in making tea and make up games that engage them.
Time, connection and love is all a child ever needs anyway!