Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Do kids even know what to do when the screens are off?

Read more from Deb Clem-Buckert
at www.debcb.com.

We were on our way to one of the busiest joints in Johnson County to watch some basketball and celebrate the birthday of one of Rosie’s friends. The kids had been talking about it all week. Big discussions surrounded the ribs vs. steak for dinner dilemma and the excitement of having root beer bubbles tickle their noses. It was a much anticipated event.

I looked forward to a little adult interaction that didn’t involve my computer screen. (Because I work for an internet marketing company and blog on the side, I spend a great deal of time communication via keyboard with five windows open. Interaction? Yes? Human? Not so much). A fun night out with friends and a little conversation were on my agenda.

The restaurant was packed and loud and I looked forward to listening to the kids shout at each other and tell jokes. But, it was clear when we got to the table that all the Tweens had different plans. As Rosie squeezed into her spot on the backside of the table, she reached in her purse and pulled out her Nintendo DS.

“Hey,” I yelled. “What are you doing?”

She looked at me like I was the dumbest person on the earth and motioned to her friends. I took a good look. Both of them had their faces buried in their DS’s. I sat for a moment and waited for the two of them to interact, thinking maybe they were playing the same game. No such luck.

“Absolutely NOT!” I said to my child. “We’re out with friends. Put your DS away.” This quickly gained support from the other parents. All the electronics disappeared.

“But what are we supposed to do?” my child asked a little frustrated.

This struck me as an odd question. What should they do? Well, talk of course. Have a conversation. Share a little about their day with each other. Talk about their week.

And then it hit me. They don’t know how to do it. They’ve never had the chance.

When I was a kid, the dinner table was sacred as it was the only time that we as a family could spend quality time with each other. With the television off, we’d share a little about our day, talk about upcoming events and our dog would eat a quality meal of all my meat and my sister’s veggies. Brings back great memories.

Flash forward thirty years and we’re lucky to get all of us at the table once a week. With Kelly and I working different schedules and Rosie’s dance, meals for us have become out of necessity, not an occasion to enjoy. I know we’re like most families out there and, it’s a shame.

It’s also a shame that our kids have been bombarded with so much technology. Multiple television channels geared just towards them. When they can’t find what they want to watch, Netflix and Hulu can help. And, now you can rent DVD’s for just over a buck from a big red box.

When not indulging in TV, there’s the computer, DS and I Pod to fill the gap. And, we can’t forget our friend the Wii, where kids can play games for hours. There’s so much out there for kids that they no longer have to find what I consider to be normal ways to entertain themselves.

 We plan to go screen free next week as I think it’s important for Rosie to know that there are other things out there for her to do (yes, I am prepared for multiple eye-rolls). The good news is that she dances so much, that she’s only used to an hour of screen time during the week. But, the weekend may be a killer.

Parents, I urge all of you to follow suit. Take the time this week to sit at the dinner table and share your day with your children as you listen to the magic that makes up this short time we call childhood. Could make a difference in all of our lives.

Deb Clem-Buckert chases great offers that make Mom's day, and lots of tennis balls when she has time. She is the area Regional Manager for www.PlumDistrict.com, and mom to daughter Rosie. Read about her adventures as a mom at www.debcb.com.

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