What is your name and where do you live?
For blog purposes, I refer to myself by the somewhat silly name of “Mom Unplugged” and I live in the snowy mountains of Arizona (yes…such a place exists!) in the United States.
How many children do you have?
I have three children aged 13, 11, and 7 (girl, boy, girl).
Why do you have a blog?
In January 2007, a good friend suggested that I start a shopping blog for children’s toys since she thought I always chose great toys for her daughter’s birthday. My response was: “What’s a blog?”
Well…by February 2007 I had figured out what a blog was, and I created Unplug Your Kids. Over the years, Unplug Your Kids has evolved from just toy and book recommendations to a lot more. I still like to write about toys and books, but now I also pass on information about the effects of TV and technology on children, as well as crafts and activity ideas to help keep children unplugged.
Just how unplugged are you?
Good question. I have no big hatred of technology, in fact I find the internet and blogging to be rather fascinating! I simply feel a need to moderate the amount of technology my children are exposed to so that they have time to be children. I want them to play outside, to use their imaginations, and to learn how to entertain themselves without a screen.
- TV: We have been without TV for 8 years. Living in a remote area where any TV reception at all requires cable or satellite, TV is an easy thing to avoid here (money saver too!). When we travel, the children watch some TV as a treat, but I make sure it is appropriate. Not having TV at home means they even love the Food Channel or HGTV which are good options at hotels where there may not be any suitable evening children’s programming. I don’t miss TV at all, and neither do the children (never having had it). Much to my surprise, I have still never had the question that I have long been expecting: “Why don’t we have TV when everyone else does?”
- Videos and DVDs: I do allow videos and DVDs, but in moderation. I try not to use them as babysitters, but I will allow them as a treat and they must ask me first. Again, I believe that moderation is key.
- Video Games: We do not have any video games. No TV-based games and no hand-helds either. I feel that these become easily addictive and are not necessary. I don’t mind if they play them at a friend’s house, but I don’t want any at home. Again, I find it surprising, but they have never yet asked for me to buy them a video game.
- Computer Games: I allow educational computer games from time to time. I think learning to use the computer is an important skill nowadays and there are good games out there. As I keep saying (sorry to be so boring), I simply believe in moderation!
- The Internet: I do not allow the children online without me being right there. It is just too easy to accidentally wind up someplace VERY inappropriate. Since our only internet connection is in the kitchen, this is not difficult. The only time the children use the internet is for school project research where internet research is required, or to play certain games that I approve (usually a French language-learning game).
- Electronic Toys: I hate noisy, flashing, battery-operated toys. I like open-ended toys that allow children to use their imaginations. I find that many of the so-called “educational” toys out there are perhaps not so “educational,” are too high-stim, and are pretty annoying for parents as well. We owned exactly one battery-operated toy (an electronic globe that “teaches” geography) and it broke after 6 months. Legos, blocks and dollhouses never break.
How much time is the right amount of time for children to be “plugged-in?”
I don’t know. I feel that the answer to this question will be different for every child and every family. Some families may want to eliminate screens completely, while others, like me, might find that moderation is right for them. As to how much time to allow if you don’t want to cut it out completely is very much a personal decision.
I find that things change here from week to week. Some weeks the children never ask for a video, while other weeks they want them. I have one child who would probably never watch a video, but two others who would watch frequently if allowed to.
Why are you online when your children are “unplugged?“
I am not unaware of the seeming hypocrisy of blogging about reducing technology use and posting digital photos of our “unplugged” activities! However, I do feel that (for better or for worse) the internet has now become our main form of social communication and information gathering. If I want to share my experience of raising my children “unplugged,” then a blog is the best way to do it. Since many people have told me that my blog has inspired and informed them, I feel that the time I spend online is worth it.
Any final thoughts?
I hope you enjoy Unplug Your Kids. My goal is to inform and inspire, not to preach or intimidate. Each family and child is different and technology is not evil. Do what feels right for your family and don’t feel guilty or defensive about your choices!
Finally, please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions: unplugkids “at” gmail “dot” com.