The little people and their gadgets aren't magically in charge of anything, just because they know fancy lingo. I'm not impressed. Enforce some boundaries. Here's an overview.
The iPad or Nook. My brother Benjamin has three children and he calls this the "iSad." It makes everyone cry. I mean the children are happy while they're playing around on it, but God forbid if it's time to take the thing away. If you tell them a place to lay it down on the counter, rather than making them hand it over to you, they seem to be able to part with it a little easier. The paper doll app and writing ABC's apps are fun for our young children. It's fun to keep family pictures and home movies on there too. We've disabled Safari explorer on one of them so that the children can't do any internet stuff. On the other one, my husband uses it so he has a security pass code to get to the internet. I use an iPad to do my high schooler's history lessons with him, because the teacher's manual is loaded on there under iBooks. Beyond that I don't care if I ever see another iSad the rest of my life.
The Wii. The Wii is pretty fun because it's a console that's hooked up to your TV screen so it's a group thing if you have several game controllers. It's for everyone rather than just one person staring at a screen. My 5 year old snuggles up with her daddy on the couch and loves playing Wii with him. I think the Mario Kart games are pretty cute. I am not thrilled with some of that flirtation stuff going on between Peach and that creepy Bowser guy. Some of the Mario games can get a little violent with fire and explosions that can distress younger children. Most of it is pretty friendly though. The racing is fun and mommy got a little competitive for a while there when we first got it, and I had a great time racing with the children. The Wii sports games are nice too and we enjoy Lego Rock Band, which is more wholesome than the other music ones. I'm not doing skanky drugged out people with blue hair.
Xbox or Playstation. Not a fan. These are fun especially for boys, but our son got hooked on his playstation when we let him have an internet-linked game. Our son shares about that in my blog called "Video Game Addiction." Ironically his game was called Zombies. It turns your child into a zombie. Some of the content on these games is very disturbing. But these consoles are probably fine if you get a less gory version and there's no internet feature so it's just your child playing a video game. And you have some time limits. We got rid of ours though and it's not coming back.
Skype. The last time my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, Skype saved my sanity. I was able to talk to him face to face on the computer screen using the internet. I was the bright spot in his dreary desert life. We enjoyed that so much and it helped with the distance the way I hear so many grandparents say they get to connect with their grandchildren.
Nintendo DS. We have a couple of these, mostly Mario Kart and some Cooking Mama or Gardening Mama games. They're the handheld games that don't have any sort of internet component to them. Which is nice. We limit the time the children can play on them, based on age. Our younger ones like playing DS. The companies love to update these devices so that you feel compelled to buy the latest one. We try not to play along with that.
Facebook. I am one of the two people remaining on planet Earth who don't have Facebook. The other person is basketball player Michael Jordan. My man Michael puts it this way: "I'm old school." That's what I'm talking about Michael. It's not that I'm hostile or opposed to Facebook. I just think of it the way I do coffee. I stay away from it because I know I'll like it too much. I know I'd blow a lot of time on Facebook. Plus I like to be difficult and not do what everyone else is doing. Until I'm forced to have it when my children are grown, I'm holding out. But hey, I'm loving my 18 Facebook likes. Keep 'em coming girls, keep 'em coming.
The iPhone or blackberry. We finally let our high schooler have a phone a while back. I regularly read his texts. He knows I read the texts. He understands that I care about him. I try to make sure #1 he and his friends aren't disgracing God and #2 he's not getting to a flirty point with any girls. A text that made me laugh out loud was when a girl said, "Isn't your mom, like, super overprotective or something?" Funny, because I read that text. Call me whatever you wish but I'm keeping up with my children's relationships. I'm not letting some flashy technology intimidate me.
And it's not just nosiness, I'm keeping him from utter destruction. Just this morning I read a text where he told a friend he had been doing something he knew better than to do while driving. I e-mailed his Dad who will decide what to do from there. My husband is counting on me to keep tabs on our children, and every 45 days there might be something important like this that he would want to know about. We also take our son's phone when we go to bed and charge it in our bedroom overnight. So he'll quit playing with the thing and go to sleep.
The iTouch. Our pre-teen daughter has one of these which is nice because it's like an iPhone without the phone part. It does e-mail, texting, apps, calculator, whatever else but you can't make phone calls with it. She enjoys it and we've disabled Safari explorer on it to protect her from atrocity. She has a frog game she especially likes where she collects and names frogs, it's fun. She also uses the iTouch's camera and digital abilities to make some elaborate little movies with figurines and stuffed animals.
Instagram. My belief is that this whole thing got started because the moms took over Facebook. It's no longer cool in the eyes of the cutting edge younger crowd. I'm okay with Instagram, my son has it on his phone, but I do monitor it. I've asked him to block a few people. I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings but if someone is dishonoring the Lord in their speech or manner, buh-bye. We talk about it first and I do value his opinion before we zap anybody.
I approve the pictures he posts. They're fine, usually just his shoes and a skateboard or something. If and when my daughters do it I want to see their pictures before they post because some of these girls with their flirty looking poses should be making their parents really concerned. Shudder. I like Instagram and it makes me think my phone is really boring when I see my son's account.
Vine. This is like instagram only it's little self made movies that last a few seconds. We don't have it on my son's phone anymore. Sometimes it was good clean fun, sometimes it was disturbing pranks. Unlike violence in a movie, the mean vines are truly tragic because it's real people actually doing real stuff.
In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis said that one of Satan's ploys is that if he can just get people to think something is funny, they'll go along with anything. Jennifer's not laughing. We got rid of Vine for now because it was bringing me down trying to manage it, and I am seriously maxed out on keeping up with all the electronic junk at this point anyway. My husband and son are in deliberations about getting it back, so if my husband says yes then I'll be staring at some Vine again and trying to stay on top of what's good and evil. My son tries to have good discernment too, so between the two of us we'll deal with the Vine again I reckon. I'll be jumping through the twisted Vine craziness like an Atari Frogger darting through the traffic.
Twitter. People saying stuff. A world full of soundbites. I can't resist talking so I started a Triumphant Chicks twitter just the other day. It's way fun. I've removed a few accounts from my son's that were suggesting that drugs and alcohol are a fun option for teenagers, and one that told not so clean jokes. Never any individual friends so far though. Our teenager is pretty good about looking for twitters that honor God. He has Fox News and Athletes for God on his twitter. My absolute favorite? I love his Hood Jesus so much. It's hilarious. When I first read it I thought: Dawg this be like my Bible commentary on my bloggie blog only shorter, yo?
Facetime. This is a face to face phone call sort of like Skype lite. It's on your handheld device. We don't allow our children to do it with friends of the opposite sex. I think it is a very intimate thing to do with someone. Um, cause I've facetime'd with my husband. It was kind of fun. Dude we're married.
Snap Chat. I dunno. This one really grates on my nerves. People send each other a picture of themselves they've just taken with their phone, but it fades away after a few seconds. You can't ever retrieve it or get it back. That creeps me out. For kids to do I mean. Our high schooler has it for now but that's just weird. It is actually brilliant because a big problem for rebellious people is having their parents monitor what they are doing. Snap Chat doesn't leave a paper trail. The evidence of any raunchiness disintegrates after a few seconds. Retro robot voice: "This Biblically unacceptable picture will self destruct in five seconds." I am not accusing my own son of wrongdoing, just saying Snap Chat sure does provide the ability to get weird with someone. Without parents knowing. We've got it for now but I'm way frowning at it.