Ground Rules

The kids were all screaming; I was in shock… three, brand new, iPod Shuffles had just emerged from behind wrapping paper and I was not quite sure what to do.

Ground RulesNormally, most parents would be extremely happy about their children receiving such gifts from other people. Hey, I didn’t have to pay for them, now did I? It’s not that I wasn’t extremely grateful; I was. No, it’s just that this was new territory for us. My husband not being present when the children received their gifts, I didn’t even know if he would let them keep these, let alone what rules would now need to be instituted.

I’m sure our girls all breathed a sigh of relief when their pop decided they would be able to keep their lovely present. We popped them open, set them up, organized their tunes, and then set some ground rules.

No Listening When We Have Company – I refuse to allow my children to become one of the masses of children who sit around with ear plugs in their head, while adults are sitting around trying to have a conversation with them. When guests are present or when visiting other people, no iPods should be seen.

No Listening During Family Time – It is one thing to take out a device to grab a quick photo of all the fun, but to sit around preoccupied with other things during our time together as a family, is not cool. Luckily, theirs does not have a camera, so this should not pose a problem.

Listening Time is Limited – We all like music in our house; we own tons of it. However, there is a time and place for everything. I don’t want our children to become dependent on outside entertainment to keep them occupied. They need to learn to monitor themselves and limit how much media they intake.

They are free to listen when they are not schooling, when they are reading, on the road, and during reading time at bedtime. There are plenty of opportunities for them to listen to their music and enjoy their new devices.

I really don’t want this to become an area of their lives governed by me. Their guidelines are loose on purpose, so they learn to make wise choices on their own. Considering the iPod Shuffles don’t come with anything but the ability to play music, this shouldn’t prove to be too hard.

Thus far, they are doing just fine. They are listening a lot less than one might expect and choosing to use their time doing other things; writing in the awesome journals their tía gave them, drawing on their new light board, reading, and simply being kids.

Perhaps this is good ground work for the future, when other devices come into play. By starting off small, the kids are learning to be faithful with the little things. When the big ones come along, a good foundation will have been laid and we’ll be ready for it.

Do you have ground rules for device use in your household?

An Apple a Day

Little Man PlayingAs I mentioned in a previous post, media is limited in our home. Our children are only allowed TV and “free play” on devices from Friday evening until Sunday evening. Even then, they are limited to how much time they get. At times, it can become a little hard to uphold these rules; especially when we develop mobile apps.

My husband is part of Ayars Animation, a small company based in California that develops apps for Apple mobile devices. To date, they have completed four apps and are working on a fifth. Their first app was the classic story, Jack and the Beanstalk.iPod

Working with Ayars Animation has been loads of fun for him. He was mainly hired to handle the illustrations for the apps, but it has become much more. Now, he has become instrumental in helping to develop future apps and the fine tuning of details.

The Tree I SeeOne side effect of developing these apps has been that we are constantly testing them out. Our children are often called upon to check for “bugs” and crashes. While the kids have a blast with helping out their pop, they are taking in a little more media than we often would allow.

It also means that they are being exposed to the world of Apple. Our children know their way around any Apple device that is placed in their hands and can sync any handheld with a desktop. They know iTunes like the back of their hands and, unfortunately, are up to date on the latest and greatest kid apps available. Pirate Puzzles

We now have a large assortment of learning apps, strategy apps, game apps, and book apps; our collection growing larger every day. The minute their friends get a new app, the kids are anxious to try it out.

Cozmo's Day OffAs it is the school year, I still refrain from allowing them to play with media during the week. However, testing does need to be done. We are trying to find a balance between the two; helping out Pop and yet not have media overkill. It isn’t always easy, but we are learning as we go.

However… It is Sunday and the house is filled with the sound of technology. Now, can someone tell me how I am supposed to get the Angry Birds theme song out of my head?

Alert: The Media!

Like most children, ours are fascinated with any form of media. They would sit for hours on end searching the wide web for all possible games, play on the iPad endlessly, and watch movie after movie; that is, if we let them.

Early on in our children’s lives, we made the conscious decision to limit how much media they were exposed to. We shocked the world (well, our little world) when we told people we didn’t have television. (We have a TV, it just doesn’t get reception; videos only!)

As our children grew older and we became self-employed, computers became a part of our lives. This soon became something for us to consider. Do we let them play on it? How much time should we allow them?

In the last few years, my husband has started developing iPad/iPod applications for kids. So, inevitably, these devices have become a portion of our lives. Our children are often called upon to test the latest app and to check for “bugs”.

With all of the media that surrounds our children, it is easy to become lax in what they are consuming. Sure, we have filters! Yes, we have blocks! That doesn’t mean that everything  coming through is fit for our kids. 

We found that we needed to set limits. Boundaries needed to be put in place to ensure that our children knew the rules and that as parents we were being accountable.

Time is limited. Our children know that, during the school year, they are not allowed to have TV or play games on devices during the week. Yup, that’s right! From Monday till Friday night, our kids have to find some other way to keep themselves occupied. Not only are they limited to weekends, but they also are limited to a certain amount of screen time. When it comes to devices, the kids get one hour a piece, per day; period. In terms of TV, they usually get one movie on Friday and perhaps a couple over the weekend. They have learned to use their time wisely.

Space is limited. The laptop is placed on an open table in our front room, where it can be seen by anyone walking by. Our kids know that anything they are doing can be seen and heard. There are no computers in their rooms and most definitely no televisions!

Site unseen. Our children have their own user on the laptop. With their user, certain blocks have been put in place that allow us to keep our kids safe. If my husband or I haven’t approved it, it doesn’t get added to the list of sites they can visit. The same goes with devices and movies. If we haven’t seen it,  they don’t get it. Most of the sites that are approved must have something to do with expanding their minds. I don’t want them taking in junk! If it doesn’t add wrinkles to the brain, it usually doesn’t get added to the list.

During the summer, rule number one is a little stretched; it is summer after all! However, once the school year starts, the rule becomes firm.

Over the years, these rules have continued to work beautifully. Our children have learned to develop wonderful imaginations, to be creative, and use ingenuity; the media they are allowed has only helped to enhance this.

Do have certain rules for your children, when it comes to media? Which rules have you found hardest to keep?