iParenting: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iPARENTING: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iSCARED

Note:  I would like to apologize upfront for any possible offences I may incur at what follows in my article—I only hope to help continue the necessary discussion on what is best for the future generation.  Also, I fully admit that I too am struggling on a daily basis to find what the right balanced approach is to using my mobile device and raising our children.  R.V.S.B.

I continue to write about the rising usage of iPhones or similar mobile devices by parents in front of their babies and young children because I am in the season of life where my children are under the age of 5 years.  It wouldn’t surprise me if as my children grow into teenagers and young adults that I may feel the same way I do now about parents heavily using their incredible gadgets in their offspring’s presence: confused and anxious!

My default emotional reaction to the general mob obsession with iPhones and the like devices is to boycott them and rule that they are completely negative and poisonous around our children.  However, I’m not ignorant to how these gadgets are becoming a mainstay in our society on a global scale.  As with most things in our human history, though, I do feel it is critical that we begin to focus our energies on how to balance the effect of these multi-use gadgets into our social lives—especially in terms of our family relationships, e.g. our children.

iNEED HOW MANY PHOTOS?

I am in full disclosure that I’m guilty many times of being without my perfectly good digital camera when I go somewhere special with my kids.  Aha! I have a Blackberry smart phone that allows me to whip it out and use the camera setting to capture that moment(s) as needed.  As it is so easy to just thumb-click to snap the photo (still cracks me up that we have a camera shutter-like sound to accompany the photo-taking), I end up getting a bit trigger-happy resulting in many more photo than I know what to do with later.  It turns out I’m a good 5-6 years behind on album/scrapbooking my family life and that’s counting the photos I’ve actually developed. Scary how many photos/video are still sitting on my memory chip in my phone and not in actual photo paper form or saved DVD format!

One day I was at a children’s museum and I made myself take just about 10 photos before I put the Blackberry away in my pocket to focus on spending time with my boys in the various interactive exhibits.  What amazed me more than the real time fun I was having playing with my sons was how I suddenly noticed all the parents around me in relations with their children or lack thereof.  It was a horrific site: I would have rather witnessed their children running around amok and unsupervised than what most parents looked like standing right beside their little ones.  There was a mom with her son who was continuously trying to get her attention and she showed little regard for him and no explanation as to why her iPhone was more important. There was the dad who was sitting opposite of his daughter fully engrossed in his respective mobile device and also unresponsive to his daughter who kept beckoning him to check out her construction. But I digress, what I especially noticed was how many other parents I looked like when they’re trying to frantically take as many photos as their thumbs/fingers can click off. Do we really need so many photos? Isn’t it more important to create memories with our children that they’ll remember carving through their early development with their parents right there interacting with them and not just making them pose or paparazzing them with our relentless photo clicks?

iPLAY WHILE YOU PLAY

I will continue to beat this drum until I see a change in the outside and indoor playground scene:  It really is a shame that many parents take the opportunity (except for odd situations like traveling and needing directions, urgent phone calls, etc) of being at a playground with their children as the green light to unabashedly indulge in their fix with their iPhone or like device.  In that case, if I am using parallel logic, I should feel free to pour myself an adult liquid concoction, play loud bootie music and get down and dirty with my dancing by the swings like I’m faux pole-dancing at the local Dr. Feel Good’s club.  See one of my prior blog shorts on a possible child reaction: https://ceoofthehome.net/2012/05/31/ipicture-this-what-does-your-child-see/

Where places like the museums, zoo and other educational outings are opportunities to engage and guide our children in intellectual pursuits and personal knowledge growth, playgrounds serve as the training grounds for our children’s social and physical development.  Why are we missing this obvious reality that by going into our own little worlds on a consistent basis we are losing the opportunity to be etched into the memory card of our children’s hearts?  When these years pass they are irrevocably written and what do you want your kid(s) to consistently remember about you when they were in your presence?  Again, this is NOT easy.   I have had to repeatedly discipline myself by putting my Blackberry away tightly in its case or even just leaving it a few steps away locked in the car.

iOFFSHORE MY PARENTING

Upfront I will admit that there was one time and one time only that I handed my mobile device to one of my children to hold without me and it was in a local urgent care center where I had to have my son’s eye examined for possible glass shards and the poor baby was hysterical and it was the only thing I had to hand over for a distraction to help the medical staff get him calm—that being said, I will not do it again and as my four year old son asked me recently if he could hold it I said no as it was mommy’s and he hasn’t asked again.  At the same time, I only use it when I need to and always inform my children as to why I am using it.  Example: “Mommy is calling Mama So-and-So so I can check where we are meeting her and her daughter for our play date this morning.”  I could go on and on as to how I conduct myself in front of my children when it comes to my phone and computer but it wouldn’t be to seem better than anyone.  It does require sacrifice, it’s not convenient sometimes and of course it would be easier to just put a child app or video on my device to pacify my energetic boys when I’m in difficult social situations like traveling with others or out to dinner, et cetera.

Yet, as hard as it can be to deal with being so fully engaged mentally with my children in their relentless conversations daily whether or not we are around others, I wouldn’t trade it for just handing off my mobile device to them to shut them up.  I’ve noticed that adults are amazed everywhere I go with my older son because they find it remarkable that he can initiate, conduct and even inject clever humor into conversation with them.  I started to get concerned about it because although it’s a nice compliment, I couldn’t understand why it was getting such special attention in a wide variety of audiences: family, friends, cashiers, new acquaintances, strangers in a store.  Except when you start to notice around you how young children are being satiated for their constant need to interact these days.  DVD players in car seats for just regular driving during the day, iPhone educational apps at their fingertips in the doctor’s waiting rooms, shows on the mobile device while sitting in their high chairs at the restaurants, getting into fights with their parents while playing with their iPhones in the register checkout lane at the supermarket and the combinations are seemingly endless.  What are our children learning in terms of human interaction in the mundane although necessary parts of our lives?  If the world seems like it is full of people struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation today, what does it mean for the adults of tomorrow who are growing up with lighted-up colorful moving wonders in a rectangular disc being thrust in their faces when they reach out for that human touch and instead get a cool, slippery metallic device?

iHOPE iPRAY iLOVE

It goes without saying that what matters most in our parenting is that we love our children and make sure we tell and show them so.  While I may rail in an anti-iPhone rant more times than I can click a photo in a minute, I also have hope that our humanity will prevail despite the numbing speed at which we are progressing when it comes to our mobile and computing devices.  As with the countless battles and wars we’ve endured, I do sense that we can overcome the drawbacks of our overconsumption of iPhone and like device usage and use them for positive things like motivating political and human rights change.

Most important, may our love for our children always win out so that they can pass that on to each other and  their own possible offspring one day.

R.V. Saridakis Bean

Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

Face It: Facebook is the New Sex Talk with Our Children

In The Economist magazine’s June 9, 2012 issue there’s a short piece on page 18 entitled: “Facebook and children: Let the nippers network”. You should be able to read it at this link: http://www.economist.com/node/21556578  I will be quoting from this article in my blog post unless otherwise indicated.

The article can be boiled down to what it says at the start of the second paragraph: “There are two options. Facebook can either try harder to prevent children from joining, or it can let them in, but with safeguards.”  This is the new frontier for most of us parents, the age of social networking via cyberspace.  At a time when many of us are becoming parents for the first time and just barely catching our breath as we realized the responsibility of raising these boys and girls to be the adults of the future–we’re struck with a very real concern regarding what age is deemed appropriate for a child to begin interacting socially on the internet.

“Social networking does not cause cancer. There is no compelling reason why children should not socialise with each other online.  What is worrying is that those on Facebook  today are treated as if they were adults.”

While this statement has truth to it in its logical argument, I’m afraid it’s lacking the deeper problem that should be glaringly obvious.  Just because a child can use the technology and can respond/communicate on a social network online doesn’t mean it’s right for them to do unfettered or unsupervised.

This may seem like a leap of a correlation to make, however, this is eerily the same argument we face when discussing ad nauseam as to when is the right age for youngsters to engage in sexual activity.  So what if their bodies are physically able to engage starting from 10-14 years old, does that mean they should be allowed to carry on as if it’s their deserved rite of passage? Oh, but if we give them condoms and pills, that should take care of them just fine from preventing unwanted pregnancies–nevermind how this early sexual behavior may interfere with their physical, mental and emotional development.

“Far better to let children openly join Facebook and create a safer environment for them to socialise in.”

Understandably, we all understand that as long as we have rules there are those who will break them.  The response to the age requirement for alcohol consumption is to have those who will attain illegal IDs.  The current trend for those under-13s on Facebook is that they can enroll anyway when they lie about their age in the form.  But the notion that we should just “let children” go ahead and do Facebook anyways as long as it’s “safe” is preposterous.

Q: What Is Safe About The Internet? A: NOTHING

Here’s the reality: you are the parent/guardian of your child(ren), therefore you are the most powerful gatekeeper when it comes to all the gateway rites of passage for your fledgling humans.  I don’t expect Zuckerburg and his people at Facebook to be the shepherd of the social pasture online for our kids.  That sentiment extends to any of these social networking sites.

The fact remains that we are still learning lessons today about what has happened to us since most of us came of age with integrating usage of the World Wide Web in our personal and professional lives.  It’s aggravating  to witness this hasty resignation attitude reflected in The Economist and other publications when it comes to the idea of children participating in social networking.

One more note on the internet: please keep in mind that no matter what your “settings” are, NOTHING is private when you post on the internet. Consider that when you put photos or written word onto the internet in any form, it’s as if you just submitted them to the marquee at Times Square in New York City. Please think about this seriously in regards to your children-whether it is you or them posting such things.

Nightmare Fodder: “Facebook and other social networks already have millions of vulnerable, clandestine underage users. It is time to bring them into the light.”

Why do we feel that we have no relationship with our children after they hit 5 years old?  Statements like the above disturb my heart’s fabric because I don’t understand how it is that there are 10 year olds who are participating in social networking unbeknownst to their parents/caregivers while they have hardly cut their physical teeth in face-to-face contact with their peers and others.

Again, I admit that I wrestle within over my love-hate relationship with the media technology that our global society has exploded with since I was born.  At the same time, I also recognize that there is not a quick and decisive answer to this social networking debate.  We are on the ground floor of learning about it ourselves and how it affects us all, including our children.  The question you and I must ask is what is best for our child(ren) as individuals and that will be the start of finding what “light” it is we want them to be in.

R.V.S.Bean

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

WHY BOTHER? FOOD AND RELIGON FOR THOUGHT

As I wrestled last week with my very hyper older son while trying to hold on to my squirming infant son in our Greek Orthodox church pew during worship service, I thought: Why bother? The same question pops into my mind when in the middle of a grocery aisle with two restless little souls while trying to decide which dry food good is healthier for my family’s pantry. It seems there are a couple items I’m quite passionate about when raising our children, one rooted in spiritual sustenance for their souls and the other being physical fuel for their bodies. I’m guessing that I’m not the only mom out there in any given country that feels the same way.

WHAT’S IT ALL FOR? Sense of Incense and Icons

So back to last week: As I chased the rabbit in my mind who was screaming “why bother?”, I reminded myself to look around and remember why I do bother, along with my husband, to go through our weekly ritual of attending our Greek Orthodox church. I cannot speak for other faiths such as Jews, Muslim, Hinduism, et cetera—but in my faith, besides the obvious theological tie to the miraculous belief of the Trinity and Christ’s Resurrection…I appreciate the hope of things to come and that while we’re going through the rumble-tumble ride that life can be, we can find ways to help and love each other. There are so many things about our world and the creation beyond our atmosphere that I don’t know that I’m in awe of the God force behind it all and I’m grateful for the chance to live and participate. If I can share this with my children in a way that inspires them to embrace life, love and respect for others then I will be at peace at the end of my journey here. This can be a tough philosophy to re-enact when dealing with a temper tantrum or a tired-tot meltdown, however, I encourage perseverance if not to help you remember what’s important to your belief system in your practicing faith. My husband and I do agree that ultimately if our hearts are not in it, then it does our children no good and it would be a moot point for us to attend church if we are only bitter shells of ourselves in the congregation.

FOOD IS FOOD, RIGHT? Discerning What’s Best

The ridiculous part about this food subject is that many of in the “civilized” world have way too many choices. It’s sort of like how women hundreds of years ago didn’t have so many choices when it came to family planning but now are sort of paralyzed sometimes in whether or not to have children. When it comes to planning our family’s menu day to day, I make countless choices in the lead up to the final product that arrives on the table for the main meals and snack times. For my own crazy methodology, I like to seek out organic and locally fresh ingredients when possible. Organic and even local can mean very high prices: in those instances I may purchase conventional or just skip that type of meal until later. It helps to educate one’s self on the foods you and your family prefer to eat so as to know if you want to make a concession or not. But don’t peg me for a purist, either. I often tell family and friends that in the end there’s a reason I give thanks and pray before every meal, especially when eating out at a restaurant: I can’t control every single ingredient sometimes and as we’re finding out in recent news, I may unknowingly purchase something under a false label or omission of vital information (Google search the recent news on meat labeling for items such as poultry and pork-evidently many of those meats are injected with solutions like water, broth and other things to plump them up and they’re not currently mandated to be labeled as such). Let’s not forget-for some of us, fixing food is our way of loving our family and friends, so it’s worth the hassle even with the “bewitching hour” for parents (I highly recommend Crockpots!)

FOOD AND RELIGION, IS THAT ALL? The Countless Other Things

As a lover, mother, daughter, sister, friend and wife that I am these days, there are many other things that I strive each day to share and instill in my children. I know that I’m not perfect and many times can be hypocritical in my beliefs—sometimes even changing my views on what I thought was my solid opinion beforehand. What’s most important must be how we love each other and when it comes to our children that’s truly what they need the most is our unconditional love, all the rest of the countless other things we try to give/share with them are just the details of life that make us all unique.

RVSB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"