Legos or Laptops?

I enjoy weekend trips with my wife to explore various cities, and a recent visit to Cincinnati yielded a delightful surprise. Other than a riverboat cruise and dinner, we had no plans other than to explore the city. As we wandered around, we noticed a steady stream of families entering a nearby convention center to attend something called LegoKidsFest.

I love Legos, and still have toy blocks from when my adult children were toddlers. I was intrigued by the idea of a Lego convention, so we walked over to the site only to be told that the event was sold out. I began asking questions about the convention, and one of the marketing staff (Aaron Wartner) explained what was going on behind the closed doors.  I must have looked awfully disappointed as Aaron graciously allowed us to enter the back door of the convention for a quick peek at the events. I was amazed at the thousands of kids and adults interacting with all kinds of fascinating Lego displays and activities. After a few moments, Aaron told us we could stay and enjoy the convention as his guests.

I was in Lego heaven!  We saw life-sized structures of Spiderman and Captain Jack Sparrow made entirely of Legos. Kids and adults were making art mosaics, towers, vehicles, and all kinds of creative structures from these colorful and creative building blocks.  I was amazed at the imagination, energy and enthusiasm of the thousands of children. However, what was really significant was what I didn’t see.

I never saw one child use a cell phone or play a video game. Technology was replaced by colorful plastic blocks, if only for a few hours.

I can’t imagine life without my cell phone, computer, and iPod. They keep me informed, entertained, and connected with important people in my life. These inventions come with a high risk, and I worry about the impact of technology on our family life. Kids and their parents text instead of talk. Kids expect to be entertained by a video game or DVD player during a short trip to the grocery store. During a meal at a restaurant we are bombarded by a myriad of monitors, connecting us with images on a screen rather than the people sitting next to us.

We are all trying to figure out that delicate balance that allows us to profit from technology rather than being victimized by it. Here’s what I’m advising parents.

  • Power down at dinnertime, and that means never answering phone calls during meals.
  • No computers in children’s bedrooms, at least until high school.
  • No texting or video games at meals, even at restaurants.
  • Avoid restaurants with video screens or ask to be seated someplace relatively private.
  • Allow Facebook for teenagers only if you have access to its content.

What technology rules do you have for your family?

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