Raising a Family in the Tech Era

A friend reached out to me today with encouraging words about my blog (thank you) and said it reminded her of fond memories growing up around the Gunn farm. I had a commute this afternoon and some time to reflect on how things are so different now as a father of 4 in 2016 compared to being a boy growing up in the 80’s.

Life on the Farm

I grew up with my brothers (Jeff and Craig) and my sister Krista on our dairy and poultry farm in Scotsburn, Nova Scotia. Being the youngest, I followed them and their friends around as we explored the farm and our rural community. My days as a boy were spent staring in amusement at my Dad driving tractors, milking cows, feeding the chickens and then falling asleep on the couch after an honest day’s work. I was woken at 2 a.m. to load the chicken truck at 12 years old, I was driving tractors on the road at a very young age, and I even got to experience a friend going to the E.R because we stuck him with the chicken vaccination needle (sorry Haines).

From a very young age until I moved out at 18, I always had a soccer ball at my feet or a hockey stick in my hand. Everything was a rink or a soccer pitch to me. Our front yard had a permanent baseball diamond etched into the soil and my mother’s flower beds were all dead by July after weeks of ‘playing through’ her gardens with our community and family sports games. My parents were either very trusting or very fatigued by the time I was a youth and left me to my own schedule to leave early in the morning in the summer to spend a day at the tennis courts, only to call Dad at the end of the day and ask him to bring the truck to pick me and my bike up…too tired to bike home.

How times have changed

Times have changed and I am learning in how to deal with it…slowly. Kids have phones or at a minimum a tablet from a very young age and I am uncertain of the impact this will have. We didn’t have the world at our finger-tips and we had to explore and use our imagination. My brother Craig had an Indiana Jones bullwhip and made a swing out of any tree branch or hay barn rafter he could reach. He and the rest of us learned about the world one bump, break, scratch and burn at a time. Kids and youth now are consumed by screens and the ability to have a face to face conversation is becoming more and more scare.

We have moved from protecting our kids from breaking bones and falling off bikes to protecting our kids from dangers related to the internet. We have moved from chasing the kids into the house at the end of the day to pleading with our kids to go outside to get some fresh air. We used to go outside out of boredom and explore and get into harmless trouble. The house was boring and the only reprieve was two country cable channels which only broadcasted hymn sings on Sunday from 11-4 p.m….so we went outside.

I think I am like many parents who have youth. My kids are no better nor no worse in the amount of time spent staring at screens, taking selfies or Snapchatting. It isn’t their fault either, it is just the times. This is a new era and I for one and not sure how to deal with it to give my kids the opportunity to develop a technology acumen yet not at the expense of experiencing good, old fashioned, creative play. I search the internet for best practices, I try to establish good habits and encourage my kids to have those as well. But, I think I have a lot of work to do.

My Commitment

So, I am making a commitment to going tech free as a family for regular periods during the week. I am going to ensure technology is being used to bring our family together (staying in contact for pick-ups, watching movies together, etc.) and not create distance between us (example- all of us half-listening to each other). I am going to encourage the use of technology as a tool so they are tech-literate as they grow up and further their education and move into their careers. However, I am also going to take family time back and ensure we are getting outside, wearing holes in my lawn from overuse, smashing windows from errant balls, falling off bikes, and going on walks that are “toooo lonnnngg” on cold Sunday afternoons.

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