How NOT to miss a childhood

Mother Daughter Red Laptop © Peter Cade; The Image Bank, Getty Images
Mother Daughter Red Laptop © Peter Cade; The Image Bank, Getty Images

I thoroughly enjoyed spending my Christmas stay-cation with my family. We had time to explore the city, catch up with friends, and enjoy each others’ company. I have to admit I spent too much time couch surfing on my favorite websites. Time tends to drift online, and I have noticed some disappointing behaviours in myself and my kids – in addition to some awesome creativity and self-propelled learning.

Regarding the former, my wife and I have begun using a screen time quota system for our girls, 5 and 9. While at the Ladies’ Market in Mongkok, I bought some poker chips in their favorite colors, green for J and pink for Z. Each week, J gets 10 chips with 10 minutes and Z gets 10 chips worth 20 minutes each, which they can use at Mum and Dad’s discretion to buy screen time, whether that’s TV, iPad, or laptop. We’ll see how that goes. My LTT colleagues Makky Fung and Vivian Fung have had success with this system, and I am learning from their lead.

If that takes care of the kids, then what about Mum and Dad and screen time? This was especially brought home to us after reading the article, How to Miss a Childhood, which is summarized here:

Yes, it is the 21st century. Yes, the whole world is online. Yes, the communications for your job are important. Yes, at times you must be readily available. But despite all those factors, you do not have to sacrifice your child’s childhood; nor do you have to sacrifice your life.

Here are my strategies to tame the tech tiger:

  • I have an extra set of poker chips that I have assigned to myself.
  • When my kids want to talk to me, I close the laptop, turn off the iPad, or hang up the phone.
  • When I have to be on the computer, I announce what I’m doing, so they know it’s for a purpose, not just surfing.
  • If I’m just surfing, I give myself a digital distraction allowance.
  • I have blackout days, where the computer stays off.
  • This being the first school week of the new year, I’m instituting a new screen time schedule – an allotment when I first get home to catch up and unwind, and a post-kids-in-bed time. I need a timer for both blocks, so I’ll use Time Out.

Wish me luck. Watch this space for updates (but not during family time!).

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