Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Computer Battle Plan

Ahhh summer, the sound of birds chirping, crickets singing, and that annoying little jingle that plays as the computer fires up. My house is no exception and these days we are 1:1 in the ratio of computers to humans. This means that on many a Saturday, you will be amazed by the eery silence that fills my house, punctuated by the occasional “Aghh, I died!” or “OMG, you have to see this!”

As the end of school nears (in fact it’s in sight), I have been frantically looking for a way to curb the computer use. I can’t bear the idea of my precious spawn wiling away the hours staring at a screen and having all of their creativity slowly drained and replaced with an irritability that marks the extended use of computers.

My first assault was to try to work with the beasts. I informed my two older children, who have basically unlimited access (although the computers are programmed to shut down at 10pm and fire back up at 7), they will be joining me in the blogosphere. I figured if they are going to spend time on the machines, at least I could force them to engage their brains while they are at it instead of mindlessly chasing digital chickens in Minecraft.

Child #2 will create her own blog and is required to post to it three times a week. Posts can include poems, stories, songs, videos (created by her), powerpoint presentations, or screenplays. My husband and I (and of course the grandparents) will have the blog address and will verify that there are at least three new posts each week. After the initial groaning, Child #2 has been a font of ideas. She just can’t seem to come up with a name for this blog.

Child #1 already has an excellent blog and is expected to post to the Teen Takeover blog as part of his commitment to writing for the York Daily Record. His assignment is more vague – three posts a week to either/both blogs and/or a third blog created for the summer project. His reaction was a heavy sigh and an eye roll, but being the first born, he’s a willing subject.

The real screen addict, though, is Child #3. He begs, borrows, and barters for computer time beyond his two day-a-week allotment. He knows how to work the grandparents and babysitters, plus he’s expert at sneaking computer time when I’m preoccupied by the garden, animals, or my laptop. We finally put lockdown on the computer, but he figured out how to get around that by signing in as a guest.

I can’t bear a summer of negotiating with this child. This past Sunday as he presented all the reasons he should be allowed a few hours with the sacred screen, I threw up my hands and said, “Go ask your father!” I’m usually where the buck stops in this house, at least in regards to children, so this outburst shocked us both.

His father was equally surprised and after considering telling him to call Nana, he proffered his ipad. Something must be done or this persistent child will be running the show by the end of June.

We huddled up as parents and created the “Summer Computer Plan”.

No computer (me included) can be used before noon.
Every Friday will be “Screen Free Friday” in which no computers, TV’s, Itouches, Iphones, or Ipads will be turned on with the exception of family movie nights, but then everyone must watch the same screen (forced togetherness – love it!).

As you would expect, groans all around. But then I said, “Isn’t there a project or hobby you’d like to work on this summer? I’d be happy to help you get started.”

And my ever thoughtful, but never present on a Friday, husband offered, “Maybe you could find some fun things to do all together on Fridays.”

This got the creative juices flowing and before the end of the evening Child #3 had drawn up elaborate plans to build a “real fort”. Child #2 was asking if we could go to laserdome on the first Friday after school is out. Child #1 was quiet, his wheels turn more carefully.

If the onslaught of summer has you quaking in your parental boots, consider taking the battle to them. Make your own plan and announce it, don’t bargain, negotiate, or even seek the input of the shorter species. Just do it.

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