Screen time is often encouraged at our house - here's why

Are iPods, iPads and other mobile devices good for kids? The short answer, in my humble opinion, is yes! I am a Mom to a 12 year old boy and 9 year old girl. My husband and I happen to pride ourselves as good parents and we are ay-okay with iPods and iPads among other tech devices in our house and around our kids. In fact I probably shouldn't admit this, but we own an embarrassing number of Apple devices for 5 people in our household (2 MacBook Pro's, 3 iPads, 3 iPod touch's, 5 iPhones, 1 iPod Nano and 2 iPod shuffle's...I don't think I'm missing any, but maybe...) and guess what?! Our kids are empathetic, smart, polite, athletic, social and artistic! I could go on with how amazing our kids are, but those are the first 6 words to jump to mind to describe the two of them. I also happen to know many other families that have just as many devices or more per household member and guess what - their kids are on track to be excellent adult members of society one day as well!

I've been observing a lot of negativity regarding this and people who believe quite the contrary, which actually prompted this post. Here's 2 examples:

1 - I was recently having a conversation with a few strangers in the sauna, which I tend to do on a fairly frequent basis. One guy said to another, quite matter of factly and as a general statement to all parents of children today: 'Kids these days, they shouldn't use iPods. It's ruining them and their parents just don't care!' and the other seemingly fully agreed. I chirped in and said something along the lines of 'Well it's not all bad. There's plenty of good in it. It's all about parental control and setting limitations.' which of course generated a lengthier discussion. I will elaborate on the parental control part later in the blog post. 

2 - I overheard one Mom say to another as one child was about to show her child something on an iPad 'No, sorry, but we will not allow our children to interact with iPads'. I kept quiet and respected her parenting decision as I really didn't know this person, but I couldn't help but wonder for just a second if allowing my children to use iPads made me a bad parent. 

As you might know, I designed a bib made out of leather, the first of its kind, so needless to say I'm not generally one to necessarily embrace 'going with the flow'. Often I like to go a bit against the grain and maybe even break a few rules, however technology is the future, and there is no stopping it. You might as well embrace it, let your children know it and even utilize it and benefit from it - if not, they will be the minority. Think of people today who do not know how to read - children of the future who do not know technology, in a way, will be like people of today who can not read. Society will view them as unintelligent, uneducated and lower class. It's a skill, not a survival skill necessarily, but a pretty useful skill when the world is utilizing it everywhere you look. Obviously it is something that can be learned as an adult. Many older generations have done this, and in fact, I was absolutely floored by one particular eighty-something year old woman in our booth this past show season who was so swift with her iPhone that I'm sure she could have taught me a few tricks, but I do believe childhood is still the best time to learn and embrace it, just like it's the best time to learn a new language or learn to read.

Now I'm not a doctor, psychologist or a specialist in early childhood education. I'm just a Mom and an entrepreneur and I can honestly say I have struggled from time to time as to whether or not let my kids embrace technology as much as we have let them, but here's a few specific examples of moments that helped me to make the choice to do so:

chores in my house have become fun: Malia's choresKyler's choresAllowance & Chores Bot App

Yes, it's possible. Our kids have chores around the house that must be completed before they play with their friends or engage in any kind of fun. Thanks to the Allowance & Chores Bot app that we have installed on our phones, where we control the list of chores, and their iPods is where they check off their chores when done, chores are now a FUN GAME! Seriously, they used to get in the house after school, drop their bags, coats, shoes and lunches right there in the foyer and go along their merry way, leaving us frustrated and calling them back, eye rolling and annoyed, to pick up their stuff. Then we would tell them what else needed to be done - clean rooms, pick up dog poop, empty the garbage - whatever daily chores before they could go play, generating more eye rolling of course. Now, each day on their app they get to see what needs to be done. No questions, and they can actually check it off and feel they have accomplished something. They also know we will follow up. Children do love structure whether they think so or not, and they love to check off a good to do list just as much as you and I. If they don't do a chore, or don't do it well, we deduct .25 from their allowance, so they can see their weekly allowance progress right on their iPods! Now I know allowances are a whole other controversial parenting topic and maybe a blog post for another day, but we do give our kids a weekly allowance, yes. 

our Son has gained an interest in science:

Now, back when I was on the fence about all this technology in the house, my Son who can most often be seen playing street hockey, golf, soccer, tennis, volleyball, running, swimming or paddle boarding - yes, the sporty one, was laying down lazily for a period of time on his bed, iPod in hand, eyes glued to screen. I was concerned, thinking this would be the future of my current healthy and active kid. Just as I was about to say 'Kyler, get off that iPod!' he beat me to it and said 'Whooa, look Mom, you have to see this! I just watched this awesome YouTube video of baby leatherback turtles hatching!' That was kind of a moment for me to be honest. I sat down, watched the video with him and thought huh, he just learned some stuff here that he couldn't learn playing street hockey. He showed me a few more 'cool science' videos he recently watched. When I was a kid, I watched TV when I came home, if I wasn't playing outside. Now the iPod has almost replaced TV, at least for a good portion of the down time, but the good news is kids can be watching good content, and most of all learning! Here's Kyler enjoying a little rare screen time on a sunny day at our house. Notice the lovely Yapes Paints art work on the wall.

Screen Time

my daughter has learned some crafting skills: 

We are a pretty structured family. Once their chores are done, for about 90 minutes when our children come home from school, they have their free time to play and have fun before we get home from the studio. Then we come home and start cooking supper, and then it's on to the homework and extracurricular activities such as soccer or swimming lessons most nights before winding down for bed. Our kids are encouraged to play outside during this 90 minute period, unless the weather is absolutely miserable. They most often use this time to go outdoors and socialize and play with their neighbourhood friends. One rainy afternoon, I was feeling a little guilty when I got home to start cooking, as I hadn't heard any 'I'm bored' or 'Can I play with my friends?' phone calls, so I figured it was either an iPod or TV that likely entertained my daughter for the past 90 minutes. When I got home, Malia came running over to me with a pin wheel spinning in the air as she excitedly skipped over to me and exclaimed in practically one breath, 'Look Mom, I made this! I googled cool crafts for kids on the iPad and I found a video on how to make it, so I made it all by myself!'. Since then she has made paper airplanes, her own lip balm, and all kinds of fun things. I thought again at that moment, okay, maybe I'm a little okay with this tech thing now and then. What would I have done during that miserable day when I was a kid? Honestly, I probably would have watched TV. iPod wins again! It wasn't too long after that when she, along with every other child / pre-teen girl in the area became instant rainbow loom crafters. My daughter has amazed me with her new bracelet making craft. She has taught herself how to make various bracelets, among other things with her rainbow loom, all thanks to DIY videos she found on her ipod. The great thing is she's using her mind, she's creating something all her own, and she's enjoying it! Here's some of Malia's latest rainbow loom creations:

Malia's rainbow looms

Both kids ace their weekly spelling tests on a regular basis:

My kids have weekly spelling tests at school. In the past, spelling was a bit of a boring task for everyone, parents included. Don't get me wrong, we didn't mind doing it with them, but let's face it, spelling tests are a bit of a yawner. I would find myself giving spelling tests while emptying the dishwasher or preparing dinner just to make sure I didn't get sleepy. Both kids would typically moan and groan about spelling tests and then when they would get 3 or 4 out of 20 wrong and have to practice them some more, that was when the grumbling would really get bad, only to re-test and get maybe one more right. The point is, it wasn't fun for them, so they were not seeing great results. Let me tell you about a secret that made this part of the day something to look forward to, AND gave my kids spelling confidence - it's called Spelling City. It's a website where they enter their weekly spelling words online, take tests, practice and learn the words in more of a game like format. The program will even give sentences so they are learning the meaning of words that sound the same but have different meaning (there, their, they're for example). We still do regular old spelling tests, typically on Thursdays before their real test on Friday, but by then it's fun because they know it! They score 19 or 20/20 most weeks too! Of course, there are an endless amount of learning websites. We love the spelling one, and there's some great math ones too, but we love good old handmade flashcards in our house for math.

FaceTime. How did we travel before without it?! 

As you may know, we travel a lot during certain times of the year. There's something about seeing the faces of your children when away that makes them feel so much closer. Being able to show them our hotel view of the CN tower when in Toronto, or show them our latest booth display, and air kiss them goodnight is just a little sweeter than explaining or smooching over the phone. I don't believe our kids have much anxiety about us traveling. Sure they miss us, and we miss them terribly, but having an awesome Grandma take care of them while we are away and the little things like FaceTime really do make it a whole lot easier.

Honestly, there's many more reasons I am okay with screen time for my kids. The aforementioned is just a few of my favourite reasons.

BUT, before you hand over all devices to kids freely and frequently, please take note: 

1 - There is a time limit per day. We say up to 2 hours of screen time, but that also includes spelling or any other homework related stuff, TV or video games. This is just what works for us. You may have different guidelines. We are also a little more flexible on weekends or holidays.

2 - No iPods are aloud in bed! We are all for reading either a paper or e-book in bed for awhile before lights out, but no iPod! We may bend the rules on a special occasion like a Birthday or when on a family vacation, but that's it. The rest of the time this is strict! 

3 - Parents need to set restrictions on the devices. You really don't want your child finding something that is not age appropriate. If you don't know how to set the parental controls on your devices, find out.

4 - Monitor what they see online. Check the history now and then and let them know that because they are kids, you need to make sure what they are doing online is safe. They will understand and it's just another way to show you care about them. 

5 - If your child is aloud social media make sure they know what is okay to post and please turn privacy settings ON and location settings OFF. Also, parents should be the ones to approve any friend or follower requests. I can't stress this enough! I'm absolutely shocked at how many tweens and teens have open instagram accounts that can show complete strangers what their life is all about and where they live. It's shocking actually.

6 - Another tip - get your own instagram account if you haven't already, and follow your kids and their friends. They will think you're super cool and you will get to know who your kids are hanging around with. So far, by the way, we like what we see.

If you have any other suggestions or comments on this topic, please post a comment - I would love to hear! 

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Meet our latest collection; Touch of Gold - a Unicorn Inspired collection!

Over the years we have been both complemented and criticized for designing a wide selection of 'boyish' designs. Having a boy first, I know how shopping for a baby boy can leave Mama's of boys scratching their heads wondering why there's so much more for all the little girls. For that reason, I have always been really careful to design an equal selection of boyish and girly designs, with a generous mix of neutrals. Somehow with that, many people saw our boyish selection 'stronger' than our girls selection.

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