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Unschooling and Electronics

Unschooling and Electronics

If you limit the time your child can play video games, be on the computer, or watch TV… WHY?

I’m aware of many conventional reasons…er…excuses…. Have you ever really thought about it?
I know that a lot of parents put limits on their children; it’s pretty typical in mainstream families because they rule and control everything. They use it as punishments and rewards.

Many unschoolers that I know of do not put artificial limits on their kids. I believe that if you do that you are greatly reducing their access to valuable resources. I’m not talking about sharing and taking turns, that’s real and something that needs to be worked out.

Our kids have always had freedom to use electronics.

I’ve heard parents say… My kid is addicted and if I let him he will play all day and never do anything else…Do you really believe that?  Have you actually tested that false theory? You probably have not. If you let go of the controls for a few days or even weeks I bet they would play every minute they could stand because they didn’t know when it would be taken away. Then you would panic and put the limits back on them again, so both of your fears would come true.
But…Your kids are different….Of course our kids are different, they aren’t controlled.

If you really let go of the reigns I’m sure they would play as much as they could but eventually they would see that you aren’t taking it away from them and they would feel safe in leaving it to do other things.

Our boys have been saving for an XBOX 360 since Christmas. They all put their money in and bought it last month along with several games. At first they played quite a bit but really not as much as I thought they would and they even took turns. Now they only play it once in awhile because they know it’s there whenever they want it.

Now technically they own it. We did not purchase this and have no claim to it. But honestly just because you purchase something for your kids it doesn’t give you the right to limit it and take it away at your whim. We own other game systems that we bought for the kids. We have never taken it away from them.

I really believe that setting up adversarial relationships with our children just causes stress, strife and rebellion. I believe in partnership parenting, parenting with our children, not at them or over them but beside them.

Video games are not evil, they aren’t the enemy, and TV isn’t brain sucking and mind numbing. Some people may use it that way but they weren’t unschoolers raised in a respectful environment. Computers are part of everyday life now. Information is at our fingertips. If you trust children to learn then why would you limit their access to the world?

Lately our youngest son has spent more time on the computer than ever before. He is working on creating video games and it takes time and it involves some frustration as well. After he’s been on awhile he gets up and runs laps through the house to expel the energy that builds up. Even though he is spending a lot of time on there now he does do other things and I believe it’s temporary. As all interests go he is invested in this right now and it’s important to him. I don’t want to take that away from him.

I help him out as needed, I’m here for him answering questions and watching all of the cool things he is creating.
I firmly believe that if these things are limited or used as a reward or punishment then there would be some sort of power given to them. As it is they hold no power and they are just another tool or resource, they are also a form of entertainment and learning.

Written by Stephanie Waldron

© 2011 An Unschooling Life

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11 Responses to “Unschooling and Electronics”

  1. Stacey says:

    In our house we do limit, not by some arbitrary number but by our moods. But the limits are for all of us, especially since I am the one most likely to stay up way too late on the computer. So we all monitor each other and make request when we see it is effecting our relationships with each other. I can see when both my DS and I get so focused on the screen that we get grumpy, my husband on the other hand plays computer games for a week a year and then throws them out (oh sure he get obsessed for that week) he is a much better self monitor. Just like some families are aware of how certain foods effect them we are aware of how the screen effects us (and yes in our case it’s more the glowing and flashing than the content).
    Stacey´s last post: Updated the About PageMy Profile

  2. Stephanie says:

    I have BTDT, we have 4 kids and at one time had one computer, we have 3 computers now but we didn’t always. Real life situations call for sharing, taking turns, respecting each other.

    If the noise bothers you, that is your issue, you can find ways to remedy that. I just don’t believe we need arbitrary rules on anything. We live and model respect, we discuss everything. There are no punishments or rewards. We live and learn naturally together, we have never schooled or parented in an adversarial way. So yeah it works because we have spent 16 years laying the foundation. I wrote two other articles here called, Living the Unschooling Life and Unschooling the Early Years if you are interested. If not that is fine, I’m just sharing a different view from what most people do.
    Stephanie´s last post: People are peopleMy Profile

  3. My main problem is that I have 3 kids, 1 computer (that we ALL share) and 1 Xbox. Therefore, a lot of sharing has to occur. Usually, this is not voluntary. I find that if I limit the time they can play, they ask less. If they ask less, they play it less. If they play it less, they crave it less. I truly cannot stand the constant noise of televisions/computers/game systems all day long. It wears on us as a family and has proven to disconnect us.

    So, for us, limiting “screen time” has worked. I am so glad for your family that your method is working out!
    tracey – justanothermommy´s last post: Too long for TwitterMy Profile

  4. Stephanie says:

    I appreciate you not arguing Smile
    To answer your questions, we are unschoolers, always have been. We don’t separate life into subjects, educational vs. non-educational etc. It’s all equal learning all the time. Life is full of interesting things, we don’t study but we do look things up, discuss, ask etc…

    I do not think that children given the choice would just play video games 24/7 without eating, sleeping or going to the bathroom. Even if they did how long could they keep that up? We all need to eat, sleep and pee.

    I know people who limit for the same reasons you do. I have been told that my kids are different but they are not different, they just aren’t controlled.

    Letting go of these rules would take time because they are used to being limited, they may not believe you. It’s probably best to do it gradually so it isn’t chaotic.

    I hope I’ve given you food for thought Smile
    Stephanie´s last post: Why do people even utter the word?My Profile

  5. Gidget says:

    I was all set to argue with you – really, I was…..after all, we use a one hour rule which is so much more fair than my previous use of the “ask me, and if I say yes,then you can” rule. Instead of just the one hour though, we do allow unlimited time for educational TV shows and for using the computer for research or certain educational game sites, or – well, you get the idea……

    I’ll be honest – my kids do great most of the time about varying their activities under this plan, but I do really see your point – I’ve thought about things like that before that it doesn’t seem fair that we as adults can choose what we do. I just am really concerned that my kids would choose to play games if they were available all of the time. We actually implemented the one hour rule because this seemed to be the case.

    But, I am still very intrigued by your method. How do you keep track for your own peace of mind that they do other things – that they study part of the day, etc….
    Gidget´s last post: Geography for JesusMy Profile

  6. Debi says:

    Fantastic post! Being new to unschooling, it is vital that I keep finding these wonderfully positive and supportive experiences that remind me how aligned I am with my children. Thanks for your transparency and honesty – your sharing really helped my family.
    Debi´s last post: 5 Quick Ways to Stop a MeltdownMy Profile

  7. Stephanie says:

    I understand because my youngest son, the one I referenced here is like that. Highly intelligent, has a photographic memory and gets hyperfocused on things. If he doesn’t eat he gets really grumpy, he will not realize he is hungry until it’s too late. So what I do is watch for cues, realize when he woke up and how long it’s been between him eating something and I offer him food. I ask him if he is hungry and help him so he doesn’t get to that point. I still wouldn’t limit his time, he is creating awesome games online. He is 9.
    Stephanie´s last post: Unschooling and electronicsMy Profile

  8. Micaela says:

    I agree for the most part. Here’s the glitch, for me: my oldest son is brilliant AND has been diagnosed as ADHD. He absorbed information at lightning speeds, and he could hyperfocus on certain activities to the detriment of his health (not eating or going to the bathroom). So while I agree very much with the spirit of what’s being said here, I just wanted to propose that in some instances, the “limits” are necessary for a variety of reasons that have to do with the individual child’s attention span and/or need for nourishment. And it can also be a bit more challenging for kids growing up without siblings at home to compete for resources & function as playmates.

  9. Sandra Dodd says:

    We didn’t limit our kids, and they have done all sorts of things *by choice,* freely, willingly and happily, because they had the choice. Holly rode a bike a long time today. Marty went with his girlfriend to visit her mom. Holly’s out at a music show; Marty is either on the computer or a game; not sure. They’re grown, but this is how it’s always been. Because it was one of many options, they chose it sometimes and didn’t other times. They have practiced making choices since they were little and are good at making choices as young adults. (Holly’s 19, so adultish.)
    Sandra Dodd´s last post: Kirby, Kirby, KirbyMy Profile

  10. Penny says:

    All so true! If you know you have an hour to do your favorite thing, of course, for that hour, you will not do anything else because you know the end is coming. Freedom’s not a concept most of us have ever lived, and it does take trust to just let the limits go, but they really do only cause strife. Prohibition only makes the desires stronger.

    Of course, being involved in what your child is doing is important. Trying to arbitrarily control what they do is not.

  11. Stephanie says:

    Our story is much the same, regarding tv, games, and electronic play. (watch/study, run run run, jump, swim, chase, watch/play…)
    I think what gets me above all else is that the bigger people in the house are free to play and create and vent and work and explore to their hearts content… while the smaller ones must be given limits because their interests just aren’t as important or relevant.
    Stephanie´s last post: Unschooling via Rainbow SnowconesMy Profile

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