Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

by Samantha on May 10, 2014

kid playing on tablet

How do you entertain the kid who has seen and done everything?

It’s a tough question but a real concern for parents these days.

The idea of “kids’ entertainment” takes on a whole new perspective in the digital age. For those who have grown up in an age of video games, iPads and Google, the idea of being entertained is much different from that of their parents.

Part of the problem is the fact that what’s considered “entertainment” has changed considerably over the years. Gone are the days where the choices were few and far between: a movie on a Saturday afternoon, a local fair, a playdate. Nowadays, the entertainment choices that kids have are mind-boggling, all due to progress and technology. The digital age has indeed changed the playing field – literally – as kids are choosing video games over volleyball (or other outdoor sports, for that matter) and real-life.

What’s a parent to do?

Because of the prevalence of options out there, kids almost have too much choice. It’s a big old digital world out there and the possibilities are endless. Why go outside and play when one can create their own playground - and friends  - digitally?

The bar has been set fairly high in the last 10 years or so, and the old standby options for kids’ play are up against digital contenders that make an afternoon at the park seem pedestrian at best. Whether it’s choosing a movie from an extensive digital collection to watch on our large-screen TVs, or simulating downhill skiing in the Alps, a child’s expectations are much more sophisticated and extensive than ever before.

Part of the problem is that we as parents have benefited from they myriad of digital entertainment choices that are available to our kids. We have given them the tools to play, grateful that the latest technological gadgets have provided us with a few moments of peace. Why throw the baseball with your child when they can play baseball with a whole team - digitally, of course? Why build a fort in the backyard when you can build a kingdom over the ether?

We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re stressed out and frazzled. And in our haste to find a few moments of peace in our own frenetic worlds, we have passed on to our children the idea that activities that require any semblance of energy are optional. The alternative? A digital one. One that keeps them quiet and out of our hair.

If we convey to our children that something as simple as kicking around a soccer ball is not only “low-tech” but more effort than it’s worth, they’ll follow our lead and download yet another video game.

Recent calls to return to our parental roots and engage in old-fashioned play seem to echo a growing concern about this reality. I spoke about it this very topic here, with other equally concerned parents. Increasing outdoor and conventional play time in the digital age may also warrant more extreme measures for our addicted kids, including limiting screen time and in some cases getting rid of the tech tools altogether. A scary proposition which may require some of us to actually take the time ourselves to turn off our smartphones and put down our tablets.

As much as we enjoy the fact that technology has given us choices in how we entertain our children, perhaps we need to step back and reassess how much we’ve allowed this same technology to take the place of more simple pursuits - ones that allow us to bond with our kids the way no video game or app can. At the end of the day, a pixel can’t and shouldn’t replace a playdate, even in the most modern of times.

Can kids still be entertained without the use of technology? What do you think? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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If You Could Turn Back Time…Would You?

by Samantha on April 12, 2014

How connected are you to your tools and toys?

I’m not talking about the items that you may actually find in your toolbox or in your children’s toybox. I’m talking about the things that you’ve come to see as necessary parts of your everyday life - those things that you couldn’t live without.

In many cases, sadly, these items are largely technologically-based. Think about it - how did you feel the last time you left your smartphone at home or forgot it in your other bag? Ever try to take a technological holiday, even for a weekend? Difficult, isn’t it? And your kids? If they’re like mine, they’re already connected - literally - to the tech toys. Tablets, video games and online videos have become standard fare for even the youngest of children. It’s a new world order and families work, play and learn via digital and technological means.

So how could a family possibly exist without the items that have come to be seen as standard and trusted tools in their everyday lives? One family did it - for a year. To be exact, they chose a year that they liked, one that was many years in the past: 1986. This family in particular chose the year of the parents’ births as they benchmark time frame that they would use as a basis for how they were going to live for 365 days. Forsaking all technologies and conveniences that mark the lifestyles of today’s day and age, they pulled out the VCR, videotapes and Super Mario brothers and got busy. Oh - they also got mullets, kids included.

go back in time
This foray into the past is an interesting and fascinating experiment, particularly in this day and age where many of us are connected - literally and figuratively - to our tech devices. The thought of going through our lives without the conveniences that we have come to expect and rely upon seems almost unimaginable. And kids? That’s a whole other story. Entertaining them circa 1986 style means forgoing the modern conveniences like iPads, Netflix, video games and a range of distractions that we use in trying to keep our little ones quiet.

Perhaps this point is where the sheer horror of this family’s story begins. That’s right - I said “horror.” Because we all know that most of us could not give up our current lifestyles and modern conveniences to go back in time and live like they did over 25 years ago. If we did, we’d have to drastically change the way we do things, in more ways than one. No more reliance on technology to provide us with those much-needed “quick fixes” when our kids started to meltdown in the grocery store or doctor’s office. There would be no more text messages as methods of communications for our Tweens and Teens when they were outside of our home or view. And think about this for a moment: we’d actually have to talk to our children from a landline or pay telephone when they went to a friend’s home or to the mall. Hard to imagine, isn’t it?

Perhaps the real story about this family’s journey back to the ’80’s is not about their experiences living a more simple life, but our collective fear of what their experiment says about the way we are living our lives now. The idea of losing our technological crutches that we’ve come to depend on is a frightening one for those of us who can admit to our reliance (and often addiction) on technology. The thought of no longer having our trusted distractions to keep a certain distance between ourselves and our loved ones is enough to send a shiver down our collective spines. Hard to admit, I know, but true nonetheless. Sometimes it seems so much easier to bury our heads in a movie on the iPad or to pop in our headphones and listen to music than to actually connect - really connect - with our kids. Conversely, our kids are similarly distracted, more often than not, texting their friends or turning to an online community for support. It takes a strong man or woman who can turn on, tune in and drop out of the digital age in favour of a lifestyle that does not include the distractions of daily life.

Kudos to this family who had the courage to ditch the modern conveniences that they’d come to love in order to get back into the lives of their children. I couldn’t do it. Could you?

If you had to live your life with your kids the way it was 25 years ago, do you think you could do it? Why or why not? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

VIDEO: Watch a family live life like it’s 1986

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VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - Top Tips For Parents

by Samantha on January 19, 2014

How to Keep Your Child Safe Online


Social Media and Kids - Tips For Parents

I recently wrote about the growing trend surrounding kids using social media. In Social Media and Kids - The Top 5 Things That Parents Need to Know, I provided some simple advice for parents who are looking for practical tips regarding their children’s engagement on social media channels. With the growing popularity of teens and tweens using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s impossible for parents not to have concerns about how their children are spending their time online. Instances of cyberbullying with serious and sometimes tragic effects make all of us parents realize that we must be more diligent in knowing what our children are doing online, and managing their behaviour.

Following the original post, I did a radio interview on the topic and a segment on Rogers Daytime Toronto to discuss social media and kids in more detail as well. See below for the full interview.

VIDEO: Social Media and Kids - What Parents Need To Know

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Meltdown in Aisle 5: Top Parenting Tips From Multiple Mayhem Mamma

baby with computer

My favourite topic was the subject of discussion recently.

Parenting in the Digital Age, an ongoing topic on this blog was the basis of discussion for my opinion on CBC Radio’s Fresh Air program.

Some of areas that were covered included the pervasiveness of social media and our kids, the future of technology as it affects our children and, of course, technology in the classroom.

To listen to the full interview, click here:

CBC Radio’s Fresh Air Radio Interview: Parenting in the Digital Age

Some of the questions asked are noted below, with my thoughts.

1. Technology is all around us and most people would say that’s a good thing. How much potential for harm IS there when you combine kids with technology?
Just type any simple term into google and you’re in for a big surprise. Without sounding alarmist, the worldwide web IS a potential web of scary and undesirable information…if we don’t monitor and protect our kids from what’s out there.

2.  What do you feel are the biggest technological threats to our kids?
The the speed and reach at which information can be shared is troubling, not to mention the ability to potentially smear someone’s character, name and potential job opportunities through the ease of online sharing. The ability for kids to remain anonymous while doing this just adds to the issue.

3. How can parents find common ground with their kids in this digital age…especially if the parents aren’t tech-savvy?
Know what your kids are doing. Sit down with them and find out what they’re interested in when it comes to tech. If your kids show a propensity for technology, it’s our responsibility as parents to meet them on at least the same level and know what they’re doing. At the end of the day, we’re the parents and in terms of tech use, we can and should limit it if we feel that our kids are using it excessively.

4. What allowing digital devices such as smartphones and ipads to be used by students in classrooms? Where do we draw the line?
There’s a new normal out there. Kids expect to have access to information. That’s not the problem. The problem is equality of opportunity as well as the propensity for unfair advantages for some kids who have the better tech toys. Yes, allow it in the classroom but only if all kids have the same opportunity.

5. What about the growing trend of cyber-bullying? How can parents put a stop to this type of behaviour?
Again, it comes back to both values and knowing what your kids are doing. The crux of the issue is kids feeling that it’s okay to make someone else feel bad, to tease or torment them, regardless of the medium. Cyberbullying is a natural extension of what kids have been doing all along, unfortunately. Of course, instilling the right values in your children that will make them realize that such behaviour is never right; as well being on top of the latest technology and knowing what your kids are doing online. Are they using social media? Do they have a Facebook or Twitter account? What are they sharing on YouTube? These are all questions that parents should ask and know the answers. When parents are tuned in to what their children are doing online, it’s a lot more difficult for the kids to venture into cyberbullying territory.

6. Do you think that this trend towards everything digital will reach a critical point where it might reverse itself and we’ll be back to the days of pen and paper?
No. Digital technology is here to stay. We’ve all been spoiled by it - adults and kids alike - so we best just accept this reality and learn how to navigate within this new world order.

7. What do you see as the next wave or trend when it comes to technology and kids? What should parents prepare themselves for?
I think it will be in the area of education. The way that our children learn, the traditional school model that we follow is evolving as we speak. The growing popularity of sites such as The Kahn Academy and other online learning portals are forcing educators to look at how they are going to get the required information to our kids. Children expect to receive information digitally, and school is no different. I believe we’re going to see a radical shift in how we offer lessons and learning to our kids. It’s just a matter of time.

What are your thoughts about parenting in the digital age? What do you think will be the key trends and issues in this area that parents will have to deal with, when raising their kids?

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We can’t live without it.

Technology is here to stay.

We love our iPads, iPhones, Android and other tablet devices. Texting is part of our everyday lives. We crave the Internet and feel disconnected whenever we’re away from the comfort of our virtual world. It’s clear that technology is here to stay and digital technology specifically is part and parcel of most of our lives, in one way or another.

This is particularly the case in the lives of our children. Kids today are so comfortable and so entrenched in the digital world that it’s hard for them to imagine a life without the technology that they’ve come to know and love. Between video and online games for younger kids to texting, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for older kids (often to the chagrin of their parents), there’s no way around it.

Tech is where it’s at. Imagine a world without Google. Mention this concept to a tween or teen and watch their eyes bug out in horror. Try telling your six-year-old that they’re cut off from using your iPad and you may experience a meltdown of monumental proportions.

The fact is that technology has permeated our kids lives in such a way that the thought of living without it is almost impossible to fathom.

But to what end?

As much as we love our gadgets and the Internet, one has to question the effect that both have had on our kids. While there’s no disputing the fact that digital technology has advanced our culture in so many ways, one has to wonder about its negative effects as well. Our kids accept technology as part of life, but as with everything, there are good and bad aspects to be considered.

For the many positive stories that exist about how technology has affected the lives of our kids, there are, unfortunately, an equal amount of stories about the dark side of the technological age. Our kids are being affected; it’s how they’re being affected that we need to consider.

So my question today is this: Has technology affected our kids for better or for worse? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below!

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CBC RADIO INTERVIEW: Getting the Kids Active Over the March Break

March 10, 2013

  During the March Break, it’s really difficult to tear the kids away from the screen. As we continue to try to navigate the topic of Parenting in the Digital Age, we wonder how we can balance screen time and time spent outside, being physically active. Many studies have emphasized the problem of childhood obesity […]

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“Is Your Refrigerator Running?” The Lost Art of the Prank Phonecall

August 9, 2012

Technology has signaled the end of simple childhood pranks of yesteryear “Is your refrigerator running?” “Yes.” “Well, you’d better go catch it!” Click. Sound familiar? If you , like I, grew up in a time that predated call display and other buzz kills, you know this conversation intimately well. One of the staples of middle […]

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Parenting in the Digital Age - Gaming and Kids

June 30, 2012

How do your kids spend their spare time? If you’re like many of us, the answer will include some form of video gaming. According to a 2011 survey by market research company NPD Group, 91% of American children aged 2-17 play video games (both console and portable), amounting to a group of 64 million kids […]

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The Top 7 Ways That Digital Technology Has Affected Our Kids – The Good and the Bad

January 26, 2012

There’s no doubt that the digital age is here to stay. Not only are we enamored with the ability to send and receive information in a digital format, but our children are equally smitten. Sometimes, too much so, as I hear more and more parents bemoaning the fact that they’re not able to retrieve their […]

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Those Were The Days, My Friends…

June 15, 2011

I’ve written about this topic to some degree before, but somehow it just keeps coming back.  Kids have no idea… The changes that have occurred in my lifetime are pretty amazing and yet my kids take all of the advances that have occurred for granted. No, I didn’t walk 20 miles/kilometres through a snowstorm to […]

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