As a teacher, I’m often so exhausted having dealt with other people’s kids all day that I sometimes forget to practice what I preach at home! I’ll admit it, my husband and I have made mistakes in the rearing of our two lovelies. One of the Langlands’ classics was beautifully blogged about by my husband Rob. If you don’t have time to read the blog, here’s the long and short of it:
Apparently my 6th grade son stumbled across some inappropriate material online, copied the link and sent it to some of his friends, daring them to click the link. Oh the irony!!! If there is some kind of higher power out there, you have to applaud his or her comedic timing. In my son’s defense the link he sent really wasn’t that bad, there was no nudity or violence or anything too offensive but apparently he wants to date Russian women. Angela and I dealt with the situation, apologies were made, consequences were given, and lessons were learned.
We’ve come a long way since the date-a-Russian fiasco of 2015. But as our kids have gotten older (son is now 15, daughter is now 13), their passions have changed and their skillsets have improved. As you might expect, our once tight tech leash has loosened a lot! So now what’s the problem?
A Trip Down Memory Lane
When I was 15, I’d come home from school, plop my bag at the dining room table, make myself a snack, and tuck in to homework. After that, I’d lay on the couch and call friends to chat about the school day. Our kids do the same thing in 2019 terms. Long gone are the “study dates” of yesteryear where my crew and I would work in the garage to create an epic science fair poster or flashy skit. Instead, my lovelies spend most of their after-school time on a device: team drives, texting, YouTube, Instagram, games, group chatting, Skyping, and the list goes on.
But after the homework has done and it’s time to take a brain break my kids often go back to those stupid screens. What the heck are they doing on their device ALL DAY LONG?!?! And why is it annoying me so much?
After watching a Google Hangout discussion with my COETAIL 2 mentors: Kim Cofino, Chrissy Hellyer, and Clint Hamada, I realized that the problem was probably less my kids issues and more my issues and assumptions! It was time to up my parenting game.
What I Saw
Awww, how sweet! My teen son is washing the dinner dishes. But, if you look really close, you can see his cell phone perched precariously on a towel just near the sink. Yes, my son was watching YouTube while doing the dishes. What the heck is he doing? And will the dishes be clean at all? After I lost my cool a bit, I walked in to the living room and saw my daughter sitting on the couch staring at her computer and giggling erratically at some video she was watching on YouTube. What is she up to? And why is YouTube getting more attention than the other human beings in this household?
What I Wondered
Are my kids just screwing around? Are they doing something good? Or are they up something shady? Are they creating or just consuming? Are they being responsible or are we traveling down the date-a-Russian rabbit hole? So many questions and only one way to find out… ask them!
What I Learned
They’re both mucking about… a bit! But just like me playing Candy Crush (and yes, I sometimes turn to a Candy Crush blog for help) or my husband looking at Watches.com, our kids need a bit of downtime. Who am I to criticize them?
During the other part of their device time, they’re consuming different kinds of information. My son is searching new cards to use when playing Magic the Gathering with his peers. When he gets stuck programming, my son turns to YouTubers or Twitter to get advice. As he grows more confident, he writes scripts for the videos he wants to add to his YouTube channel. For my daughter, things are different. Rather than enroll in another music lesson, my daughter is teaching herself how to play the piano and ukulele by watching others. Instead of painting another canvas, she is using Adobe Draw on the iPad and began uploading her art Instagram. [Side note: she’s so excited that her art now has likes and followers after our mini-tutorial about hashtags. I guess her old fart parents still have a thing or two to teach her.) Her most recent post asked for feedback on how to draw tears.
My kids are pretty awesome. I know I have high expectations of them, but they are doing pretty well! Rob and I encourage them to be creators of tech rather than consumers of tech and by digging deeper and asking them better questions, my kids proved that they can be trusted to do a bit of both. When I plopped down next to them to investigate, they didn’t think I was being intrusive. They were actually excited to share what they were doing because, “I’m doing cool stuff” and “Isn’t this the kind of stuff you want me to do on the computer?!?!”
Yes! They are doing the things I want them to be doing on the computer. They are following their passions, learning, having fun, and being responsible…So I guess we haven’t screwed them up too bad!
After all of this, there are three simple rules I am embedding forever:
- Keep the lines of communication open. As long as we keep talking about our family’s technology use then we’re on the right track.
- I need to assume best intent. They might be screwing around on the internet, but I do too when I get in to my Pinterest vortex. It’s OK to screw around a bit. As long as we’re following rule #1, everything we’re putting out there to the world should be worthy of our family name.
- Stick to the Langlands family tech ethos–create more, consume less! (And look at mama modeling by writing another blog post!)
Now, here’s the new million dollar question: How do I teach this lesson to my classroom parents?