Saturday, February 8, 2014

Children and their devices

I know that I have written about this in a previous post, but I feel it's important to write about it again.  I am referring to children and their electronic devices. Last night we went out to dinner with another couple and their child.  From the minute this child walked into the restaurant, and I suspect from the minute he left the house, he played on his electronic device.  He didn't even put it down to walk to the table, rather he just kept playing while walking.  At one point, his mother told him to put it down to eat.  That lasted for about 3 minutes before he was, again, on his device.  One of my children moved to the adult end of the table because "he's not talking down there and I'm bored".  For the brief moments that he was told to put the device down, this child got up from the table and started punching his father's back (playfully, but hard).  It was painfully clear that he was incapable of sitting at the table without some sort of electronic entertainment.  When his mother asked that he put away his device, his father stated, " let him go, he's being good".
Now, I want to tell you, this child is in first grade.  One of my children is in 4th and I have a teenager.  These children should be capable of going out to a casual dinner and sitting at the table and behaving.  But, when I looked around the restaurant, most of the other children in the restaurant were, also, on devices the entire meal.  One table had three children, and all three were on separate devices.  What is it that has made this the accepted norm?
I want to clarify that my children do have electronic devices; more than one each.  They enjoy playing on them every day, but we put limits on the time allowed on these devices.  Do we sometimes bend the rules to give us some quiet time?  Sure, every parent does.  But, we don't allow them to take them to restaurants, and they know this and do not fight us about it.  I will say it is difficult to enforce this rule when we are out with other children who are allowed to play on their devices throughout the meal.  Meal time should be about talking and enjoying each other's company.  Going out to dinner allows parents and children time to get away from the stresses at home and relax for a few minutes.  Being with other kids and adults should be about socializing, not sitting near each other but not speaking.  Children need to learn how to behave appropriately in a public restaurant, and they can not do that while playing on devices throughout meals.  They are not being "good" because they sit quietly playing a game.  Teach children how to be "good" appropriately for the situation.  We are raising a society of children with few social skills because they don't need to verbally communicate with others anymore. They simply text, instagram, and snap chat.  Therefore, we as parents, need to limit this and teach our children acceptable social skills.  Please, take the devices away, at least for the short while at a restaurant.  If your child needs something to keep him/her sitting and quiet at the table, give him/her crayons, or a book. And, talk to them!

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