What Happened When My Kids Left Their iPads At Home

by Megan Woolsey
Originally Published: 

While I love anything with the lowercase letter ”i” in front of it, I don’t love some of the behaviors that come from use of technological devices. I do not like feeling like I need to check my text messages and email all day long. I do not like unintentionally ignoring my children when they speak to me because I am concentrating on typing a message. I do not appreciate being harassed by my children about when they may use their device. I do not enjoy constantly being asked to download new apps. I don’t want to listen to loud banter while the kids are playing these apps. And I don’t want to hear the inevitable negotiations when it is time to put the i-Devices away.

So recently my husband and I decided to do something a little odd in our world of iPad and iPhone obsession; we decided to leave the i-devices at home during our vacation to Mexico. Well, if I’m being real I will admit that my husband and I did not leave ours at home. After all, we have so much, ahem, super important stuff to do on them all the time.

This was a social experiment for us. Going on a trip that includes a plane ride with a layover and a long sit through customs in Mexico followed by a taxi ride to our hotel without iPads or movies could be a recipe for disaster.

Interestingly, when we told the kids that we would not be bringing iPads on our trip they did not launch into an all out mutiny. Instead, they immediately began to throw out other ideas of what they would like to play on the trip.

The children appeared to be willing participants in our social experiment. They seemed perfectly content playing hangman, writing in their journals, coloring, and reading together. They longed for their i-Device a few times on the trip, but mostly they enjoyed playing at the pool or on the beach.

They learned to play card games during this trip.

They colored a lot.

They played imaginary games with each other.

While my children did survive their week long vacation without technology, it wasn’t always easy. The social experiment made me wonder: as technology becomes more pervasive in our lives and our children’s lives, what did we parents do as children growing up without technological devices? How did we fill our days without Minecraft, Candy Crush, social media, email, texting, and Google? Did we drive our parents bonkers by telling them we were bored every five minutes like our kids do when they are deprived of the screen?

Oh I know, we had our own technology addictions back in the 80s. We were the children of Nintendo and handheld NFL games. We played Pac Man and Frogger.

We lived during the birth of MTV and After School TV specials. I recently put out a request to my Facebook friends to tell me what they did as children for entertainment before iPads and iPhones. I received a lot of responses.

Bike riding was the most popular activity for us as kids. In the 80s, we were permitted to ride our bikes all around town on our own or with our friends. It gave us freedom to go places and do things independently. You know, like how Elliot and his posse were riding around on their bikes at night and found an ailing E.T. in the bushes. That was us before technology, just out with our friends riding our bikes, unsupervised.

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The runner-up was choreographing plays and dances. If you were a girl growing up in the 80s, you were all about the choreographed dance routines and plays. The other day I was shopping in the grocery store when a Pointer Sisters song came on the radio. It brought me right back to my days as a wannabe professional dancer. We all wanted to be Alex Owens from Flashdance, dancing her heart out to Maniac, or Baby when she jumped into Johnny Castles’ arms at the end of Dirty Dancing.

Here is the list of things we did as kids before iDevices:

1. Unsupervised exploration: walking out the front door in the morning, spending eight hours roaming the town with our friends, then coming home just in time for dinner.

2. Creating pizzas out of dirt and tree droppings: this one may just be a unique activity that my sister and I participated in, but it is a perfect example of how we would find simple things to do outside.

3. Collecting bugs: grasshoppers, ladybugs, worms, or whatever creepy crawly we could find in the plants.

4. Playing WAR: the most brainless card came ever but we could play it for hours.

5. Cops and Robbers: role playing.

6. Making forts: take every sheet and blanket out of the cupboard and tie them to beds and couches to make the most fun place to play in our small simple world.

7. Playing baseball and kickball in the street.

8. Making mixed tapes: fast-forward, rewind, record, repeat.

9. Gymnastics on the lawn: before parents were pressured into paying hundreds of dollars on gymnastics lessons and dance teams we just got out on the grassy field and taught ourselves how to do some kick-ass back-flips.

10. Doorbell ditch: well, we were bored. We didn’t have iPads.

11. Went door-to-door selling products or services: car washing, mistletoe, lemonade stands, fruit stands. Today we would take the money and save for an iPad.

12. Running through the sprinklers: we didn’t have swimming pools in our hood so we got the hose, attached an old sprinkler head to it and ran through it for hours.

13. Climbing trees: I once climbed to the top of a Pine Tree with my friend above me. She fell off her branch and took me down with her. It hurt. Good times.

Those were great times to grow up in. Every generation looks back at their time growing up with a sense of fond nostalgia about the way things were. I wish my kids had the freedom to roam and play like I did when I was a kid. I wish my kids would play outside more and use their imagination. I wonder what our kids will reminisce about from their childhood? As the first children of social media, I am sure they will have a lot to teach us about this great big world that we now know so well, because we are all so connected.

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