March 2015 - Gadget Guy MN

Archive for month: March, 2015


Kids and Tech Hurdles

toddler and preschooler using tablet

I have no issues letting my children use technology. I am a dad who loves sharing tech with his kids. I think it’s great that my kids want to play with it, but I also want their tech playtime to be educational – not just full of SpongeBob SquarePants videos.

My 4 year old daughter loves playing on her tablet, which is my old tablet. The tablet is stripped down with an app locker added – this way, apps are locked so she can’t access the Internet, YouTube, email, Netflix, etc. I also added a thick, pink silicone case. Recently, I showed her that we have a keyboard dock for the tablet. Now it’s no longer her “tablet,” but her “computer” or “laptop.” She loves to sit next to mom or dad and type on the keyboard – or work on her “texts” as she likes to call it.

But back to her tablet use. When it comes to installing apps, I tend to be pretty selective. I’ve added some great memory games as well as letter and word games. But I’ve also installed a few “fluff” games – some of her favorites are a cooking game, a baby care app and a pet care app.

Which do you think she prefers?

Despite my better wishes, my daughter sways toward the “fluff” games that offer little to no educational value. And some of those apps are pure bait designed to purchase other games or in-app purchases. Also, I recently installed the YouTube Kids App, and now all she wants to do is watch clips. I can’t blame her. But streaming video after video wasn’t our intention with giving her the tablet.

So how do we strike a balance?

For starters, we track her overall screen time. We also put limits on that time. And at four years old, we feel like screen time is still something special. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of her everyday routine. For instance, there are days when she asks to play on her tablet and we simply say no. (Like on bright, sunny days when we’re all better off running and playing outside.)

Additionally, we monitor her use and recognize that it’s a tool for us to use together. My plan tonight… and in the next few days, is to sit with my daughter and remove some apps that are complete rubbish and find educational games that interest her. In short, I include her in the process.

I am amazed to see how she gets around the tablet and easily does things – like look at the list of recently used apps and close them out, or click the cancel button when an app wants her to buy something (mind you, the Google Play Store is locked so that she can’t actually buy anything without my assistance). She says the app is teasing her if it keeps trying to get her to purchase an upgrade or another app.

While technology is wonderful, we need to protect our kids. It’s challenging to find the right balance between supporting my little tech natives’ curiosity with technology, and gauging when enough is enough… like when the real paints and paint brushes need to come out and the paint app needs to close down.

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Kids and Technology Introduction

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Sometimes I allow my kiddos to eat lunch at a side table with small stools in the kitchen, instead of our usual dining room lunch routine. They love it. But the challenge is, my 2 and 4 year olds just don’t sit still. Sure, antsy pants are expected at this age. But for some reason, lunching in the kitchen amplifies their fidgeting. Not to mention, there seem to be a lot more distractions (“Squirrel!”) in the kitchen.

Anyway, one day I was encouraging my lovely antsy little children to finish their lunches. And I decided to play some music to help. And not just any music… I offered to play the Frozen soundtrack if they would agree to eat. They were game.

So, I grabbed my phone and went straight to YouTube. I quickly found the soundtrack play list and tapped play. I was delighted that my plan seemed to be working.

But then my kids started begging, “I want to watch. Can I see? Daddy, I want to see!” Of course, I should have expected this. But I didn’t.

Anyway, I briefly showed them the screen for a few seconds. Then I flipped the phone over and explained that we weren’t doing screen time now. “Girls, it’s lunchtime. Not screen time. We’re just going to stream music.” I told them.

They were content. But more importantly, they were eating. They were eating their nutritious lunches instead of squirming around the kitchen.

When their lunches were finished, “Fixer Upper” from Frozen was nearing its end. And, not surprisingly, their demands for video resumed.

But this time, I gave in. Their bellies were full. And they hadn’t had much screen time for the day. So I sat on the floor cuddling my girls. And together, we watched Sesame Street: Star S’Mores (Star Wars Parody).

I want to continue to share my experiences as a father integrating technology into my family’s lives. I hope you will share your own experiences as I delve into topics such as IP cams, allowing and limiting screen time, and using technology for education.

Please share your comments or questions below.

Thanks for stopping by!
Paul Burnstein, AKA Gadget Guy MN

home technology help