T is for Technology #AtoZChallenge

For the A to Z Challenge, I have chosen the theme of antagonists.

On my normal blogging days, Monday – parenting and Thursday – writing/publishing, I will tie that day’s topic to antagonists but on the other days (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), I will write about antagonists from movies, TVs or books. On Wednesdays, my Quote of the Week will be from an antagonist that matches the letter of the day. Enjoy.

We live in a high-tech world. Yes, today is the letter T, and I am talking about technology. Now there are many wonderful things about technology – all the data available at our fingertips, it can be time saving and allows us to see and learn easily about far-off places. However, in the spirit of keeping with the antagonist theme, technology also can be a bad thing.

Studies have shown that using technology changes how a child’s developing brain works. While there are good things (learning and multi-tasking), there are just as many bad things about technology. Kids spend up to seven hours a day using cell phones, video games, MP3 players and computers. They do this instead of interacting with others (learning social skills or gaining empathy) or doing physical activity (which can lead to obesity).

Technology can shorten attention spans and affect children’s ability to fall asleep leading to tired children.

Studies have also shown that it decreases children’s ability to remember facts. They may know how to look it up online, but they don’t retain what they researched (probably because they know they can look it up again when they need to.)

And this doesn’t even get into the cyber-bullying or the fear that kids will share too much personal information online.

Yes, technology certainly comes with a cost. But if we understand that cost, we can do things to minimize it by monitoring our children’s use of technology and establishing guidelines for its use. There can be a happy balance between playing video games and watching YouTube videos and just allowing children to play and use their imagination.

And in case you want to check out my other antagonists from the challenge…

A is for Apocalypse

B is for Bad Boys (parenting)

C is for Cruella de Vil

D is for Darth Vader (Quote)

D is for To Die for Cake (Recipe)

E is for Evil (Writing)

F is for Freddy Kruger

G is for Gollum

H is for High School (parenting)

I is for Iron Monger

J is for Jafar (Quote)

K is for Killers (Writing)

L is for Loki

M is for Maleficent

N is for No (parenting)

O is for Oggie Boogie

P is for Professor Moriarty (Quote)

Q is for Questions (Writing)

R is for the Riddler

S is for Sauron 

My kids don’t get enough exercise

You hear so much about the rising obesity levels in kids and adults in the United States that I thought I would look and see if my kids are getting enough exercise. Who am I kidding? I already knew they probably aren’t as active as they should be.

exerciseThe American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorously intense aerobic activity EVERY day. Most other websites only said an hour of physical activity but recommended it be aerobic. They also suggested children participate in muscle-strengthening activities three times a week.

Great, I don’t even get that. I admit it – my family leads pretty sedentary lives. I know we all spend too much time in front of the computer, TV or tablet.

But even before kids or heck, even when I was a kid, I don’t recall being very active. My husband said it all depended on what year of his childhood we are asking about. But his father was a high school basketball coach, so I suspect he was more athletic than I was.

As for my own kids, we do go to the park and sometimes ride bikes, but outside play is usually quite limited. Some of this is due to Lexie’s allergies. They were quite bad when she was a toddler, and we have never really gotten use to her spending a lot of time outside. When she does, you know she will be itching later no matter how much antihistamine we give her.

We are in Texas, so in the summer it is HOT – as in high 90s and low 100s. The only time worth going outside is before 9 (maybe 10 am) or in the evening. This makes outdoor activities more of a challenge.

Both kids do participate in indoor sports. Lexie does gymnastics, and Jase has karate. But these activities are only once a week. Neither of those is exactly vigorous exercise. When they took soccer, it still wasn’t daily practice. They had one practice and a game each week.

During school time, both kids have physical education classes. Jase had them three times a week while Lexie went daily. We also walk to and from school daily (barring really bad weather). But other than that, the rest of our time was sitting down doing homework or relaxing, which probably included an electronic device. (At least it sometimes includes dancing around to a Wii game.)

Even if their downtime isn’t focused on electronics, they are playing in their rooms. While that is great for the imagination, it does little for getting them exercise. (I say this as Lexie is tumbling and jumping in the other room. So much for quiet – but hey, at least she is moving around.)

DSCN0350

Lexie playing in the wave pool at Six Flags.

In the summer, I take them to the pool but this isn’t for serious competition-type swimming. It is for playing around. We do go places such as the zoo, the park or to a museum but really nothing strenuous in the way of exercising.

I guess I can blame most of this on my husband and me. As role models, we are falling down on our responsibility. Neither of us is very athletic and we too lead pretty sedentary lives.

I know we should restrict screen time and encourage more activity, but we don’t. The only good thing is that neither child is overweight. According to their doctors, their weight and BMIs are in the healthy range for their ages.

But I know they need more exercise so for the rest of the summer I think I will make sure they get out and do at least a little something every day. That is at least a start in the right direction.

 

Regulating the kids’ use of their iPad minis

My kids often borrowed my husband’s iPad to play games – even sometimes arguing over who got to use it. Their love for playing on the iPad is why I have very few games on my iPad. I don’t want them to borrow it.

IMG_2831So for Christmas we decide to get both kids iPad minis. Both kids were thrilled. (And didn’t even comment that they got minis instead of full-size iPads.)

Now I know a Kindle fire or some other tablet may have been cheaper than the Apple iPad minis, but we are really an “Apple” family. The kids have iPod touches (hand-me downs from my husband and myself) and both my husband and I both have iPads and iPhones. It is much easier to not have to repurchase apps by sticking with tablets that use Apple’s iTunes.

It wasn’t just their use of my husband’s iPad that made us decide they could use their own. Schools are requiring more use of technology. Every week Jase has homework with a QR code on it. They may not be taking their own devices to school yet, but it won’t be long before they are.

With the future in mind, we made sure to buy them iPad minis with a decent processor. The first mini was out at Christmas time for an incredibly cheap price – probably because in October 2014, Apple released the iPad mini 3. But the processor is several generations older, and we worried it wouldn’t be able to keep up with the newer apps. We ended up going with the iPad mini 2.

The first thing we did was buy covers for them. There is no use investing all this money and not keeping it safe. These covers were only $20 on Amazon and had excellent ratings. We liked that the cover also becomes a stand.

IMG_2830And as anyone with a six-year-old knows, you have to make sure they don’t lose them. We set up rules such as when not in use the iPads need to be in their room charging on their nightstands. But just in case they do get misplaced, we put a tracking device on each of them. Glued to each cover is a Tile that can be tracked by an app on my husband’s iPhone. (We also have one on the bedroom TV remote as it often goes missing.)

So now that they have their own iPad minis, we have the fun of regulating their use. We don’t’ want them to become so absorbed with playing on them that they do nothing else. Now we have never had a strict screen-time rule. Heck, who am I kidding? We don’t have any TV/Computer/Electronic device rules.

There have been a few days where I have had to tell the kids to put down their iPads and go do something else. They did insist on taking them to my parents’ house. After about 30 minutes, I made them put them away – with very little grumbling. There is no use visiting people and never looking up at them.

Overall, the kids are pretty good at balancing physical activities with “screen” time. When it isn’t too cold, they are often out back playing. When it is cold, they have board games and Lego bricks to keep them busy. And if necessary, I can always bring out the fake snowballs or let them make their own snow – those two activities are guaranteed to keep them busy for hours.