He reads book after book, noting the smallest details on characteristics and breeds. He researches the AKC website all the time. Last spring, he wanted to earn money dog-walking so that he could buy a new dog. Granted, we already had three dogs, but we talked over the idea and came to an agreement. He asked to go online to create a business card and a Gmail account. He also worked with me to create a Google form for potential interest.
Though he was only 11, I was amazed how quickly he was able to set up these things online. After a quick click of the “pay now” button, I had agreed to a business card he designed by himself. When his business cards came in, he began to post those around the neighborhood including the bulletin board at our local groomer. He checked his Gmail account every day!
A week later, Matthew received an email from his first potential customer, Miss Judy. With some oversight, he scheduled his first meeting with her. Miss Judy introduced him to Candy, a 4-year-old chocolate standard poodle. Miss Judy quickly arranged for a dog walk two times a week. Little did we know that one email would change our lives.
Over the course of the next 8 months, Matthew would go to Miss Judy’s house twice a week to walk Candy on the sidewalk up and down her street while my husband or I would sit and chat with her about the weather or the latest news.
Just after Thanksgiving, Miss Judy had to go to the hospital. Matthew was charged to help dog sit with his dad. After some tests, Miss Judy found out the Friday before Christmas that cancer had returned fiercely in her blood and bone marrow. After one week of chemo and another week in rehab, she passed away.
Guess who adopted Candy?
Yep, Matthew did. His weekly job became a full-time responsibility. It got me thinking about how this new generation, including kids just like Matthew, is using technology today. He took initiative to pursue his passion and as a result, realized his dream of another dog. Little did we know that a single email would impact our lives forever. When I think about my first experience with technology, I often think of games like Oregon Trial or Pong.
As a child of the 80’s, my idea of gaming was to walk down to the local video arcade. I was so excited to receive an electric typewriter at 16. I didn’t have my first cell phone until college and, even then, it was a bag phone attached to a huge antenna on the roof of my car. I knew what it was like to have a phone attached to a wall in my house hoping for the cord to reach my bedroom. I remember the first time my parents bought a VCR and how huge that purchase was!
I remember playing cassettes on my cousin’s boom box when it first came out. Our primitive form of mail consisted of handwriting a note, putting it in an envelope, sticking on a stamp and mailing it with the hopes of arriving within the week.
Yet today, preschoolers know how to swipe to find their favorite app on their parent’s cell. Elementary kids are often fluent users of common computer programs. Some preteens have developed their own website or YouTube channel.You can watch virtually anything where you want and when you want it. You can listen to music digitally. You can be connected with grandparents miles away and an email takes seconds to get a response.
Because our kids are growing up in a technology-driven world with constant connection and on-demand selection at their fingertips, we must provide healthy boundaries in order to guard their hearts in this plugged-in generation.When developing healthy media boundaries and expectations, there are no cookie-cutter solutions. The most important key to creating boundaries and expectations is first to talk with your spouse to ensure you are united in thought.
At our house, we affectionately call this talk the “State of the Union.” We typically get together around each child’s birthday to think through the next 12 months regarding technology, life skills, Biblical training and more. It’s our chance to talk through what’s going well and how our kids might need help.
For the age of your child, what is okay in your household? Think about technology regulations. For example, is Facebook permitted in your family for age 13 and up? Which movie ratings are acceptable as they get older?
Access to Devices/Platforms
What technology, software, or platforms are okay? Think about a variety of devices like TV, a cell phone, a regular phone, a tablet, a laptop, video games, etc. For platforms, think about games, apps, email, certain websites, movies, etc. Can data be used?
How often per day and what length of time is permissible? What happens if chores or homework is not done? Can your child earn more time?
Where can devices or technology be used in your home? For instance, we do not allow technology in our kid’s bedroom. It must be used in an open space. Cell phones are not allowed at the dinner table and the TV is often turned off. Also, what can be done between friends?
How much are you willing to spend on technology for your child? Consider equipment, data fees, safety features, phone lines, etc.
Finally, discuss consequences if expectations are not met. Talk with your child and have them agree by signing a simple technology contract.
When you establish how your child can use technology, you may one day find a new adventure licking you in the face just like Matthew did!