I am not a very black and white person, and my parenting style reflects this. Sometimes I think it would be easier to guide with a bit more discipline and less flexibility, but I tend to parent with much more fluidity then rules and regulations. One area where this has been a challenge is in monitoring the use of technology for my children and learning what is appropriate and what is not.
At times I have created boundaries and rules about the use of tablets, phones and the television, however, this screen time allotment is made even more challenging when I realize that the kids are required and encouraged to use tablets and computers in the classroom at school. A blanket notion that technology is bad is short-sighted. Many kids have learned to read because of apps, advanced math skills with TV, and learned inflections while listening to audiobooks.
I adore all things tech, but encouraging kids to appreciate nature and get outside has put this nature/technology conundrum in the crosshairs. It wasn’t until my family embarked on a week-long sailing vacation that I discovered a solution that works for my family.
The boys (now ages nine and 11) have become fascinated with YouTube vlogging videos, unboxings, and photo journalism. While spending a full seven days on a sailboat and appreciating nature it seemed like the perfect time to create a balance between technology and the outside world.
I never liked the thought of a complete tech time-out, particularly given that I have a difficult time staying away from technology in my career of choice. It also, however, seems impractical. Kids should be allowed to document their stories in the way that has become customary for their generation in academic institutions and workplaces.
So we set sail. And I am thrilled with the result.
The boys used their phones and tablets as well as a video camera to record a daily vlog. They were not only out in nature while they recorded, but their presentation skills were honed as well as their sense of discovery. With eyes open wide they noticed bits of nature that they otherwise may have taken for granted.
Throughout our journey they also took photographs and I taught them about framing and general photographic principles that will carry them through their life. When one takes a proper photograph and analyzes depth of field, proportion and perspective the process also attunes you to the beauty of the geography around you.
Of course we put phones and video cameras away as we swam, read books and explored historic sites in Greece. But just as I used to journal in a little book when I was a small girl, I believe the process of documenting their experiences in whichever form is most comfortable to them has etched the experience of our sailing trip in their minds so it will not be quickly forgotten. In addition, this tangible documentation in the form of images and video will exist for a lot longer than many memories that are prone to fading.
Though I wouldn’t recommend parking your kids in front of the television for the rest of eternity, I don’t think that goals need to be black and white. Moderation gives life much of its joy, and finding a smart balance that works for your particular family and parenting style can enhance experiences.
As I look out at the mountains, pebble beaches and the Ionian Sea, it occurs to me that Poseidon would applaud my decision to help the kids appreciate his world by using technological advances. Grey is my new favourite colour.