The thing is, the world of the internet is exciting and terrific and mind-blowing and brilliant. It can also be terrifying. My kids got hand-me-down phones that were so worthless, and non-functional that my husband and I had bought new ones for ourselves. Somehow, as soon as they were in our kids’ possession, they worked perfectly, and the kids had ipods. We had tech support help us set them up for kids only.
The ratings for YouTube and any sort of email or Facebook say kids are supposed to be 13 before being able to have an account. I know some of Ben’s 10-year old friends already have their own phones, and their own Facebook accounts and emails, but I’m trying to stick to the rules. I set Ben’s phone up with the ability to see YouTube videos, because he does R&D (research and development) for his builds on YouTube. He finds other people making Iron Man suits, or guitars, or motorcycles, and studies what they are doing, so he can up his game.
However, without constant supervision, the internet can become a place where all sorts of inappropriate things are being viewed. The boys would get glued to their screens, and that resulted in no fighting, and a false sense of peace and quiet in the house, and I thought they were getting along, and left them well enough alone. *Sigh* Until dinner time conversation started turning up all these whacked out websites they were viewing. Quickly, the phones disappeared. They no longer have access to YouTube on their own.
Here’s the thing, though. The internet is also full of gorgeous images, inspiring stories, inventions, designs, art, history, fun and people following their hearts and dreams and building truly amazing feats of engineering.
I don’t want to keep my boys away from all of that. I want them to be exploring the vast worlds available to us, right at our fingertips, at the computer. I just want to know what they are seeing. So, like when they were littler and we had different nights of the week to explore different school subjects, like History and Geography nights exploring the glaciers online, or Math nights exploring the Geometry of Cathedrals, we have come up with a plan and new series called Eat Art. Ben and I came up with it on one of our walks, and each night of the week has a different focus topic for art for us to explore.
By the time we got home from Bean’s baseball game, Ben was chomping at the bit to see the Sculptures I’d picked out to share with them for our first Friday – Figures / Sculpture night. I’d been dropping hints all day. We went straight to the computer with the big screen in my room, and both boys pulled up chairs. It was like we were going to a drive-in movie, all excited for what was to come.
First, we looked at photos of Miniature Artworks Carved onto the Tips of Pencils. The article link has more photos, and the Etsy site of the artist and his Instagram account. We looked up close at every single example of this man’s art, because it is exceptional and fantastic, and we were in complete awe of his talent.
Then we looked at A Steampunk Pegasus Made from Scrap Metal. My boys were freaking out and wanting to look through every picture and close-up detail available on this and many others like it.
And we weren’t even near done yet. Next, we looked through the photos and videos from the article: This Guy Spent the Last 40 Years Building His Own Human-Powered Theme Park. One of the rides is a Bicycle of Death with an insanely fun video.
And then, for the most fun of the night, we went through the entire website at BoxWars, viewing oodles of videos and plotting how we can enlist our friends to develop a BoxWar event here in Southern Oregon. We are already building with cardboard all the time. We already have the barn set up as a cardboard creation shop. Friends come over to build with us. We just need to plan a time and date and go nuts with a super build and do this.
Resources for Content Creation
I love the app Pocket, because as I’m searching the internet for things to share with the boys, I can quickly store a great story or picture easily into Pocket, code it as needed so I can find it again, and not spend lots of time trying to figure out exactly how I worded that search string in order to find things I’ve found before.
A website I love that is full of interesting and amazing art and the stories of the people behind them is TwistedSifter. The website is already genius at content creation, so it’s an easy place to start and find beautiful, amazing things to share.
Of course, Pinterest may be a fun place to explore with your kids – but it may also be overwhelming. It’s the kind of place we, as grownups, can’t seem to handle. We get lost on bunny trails and before long, we are attempting really ridiculous baking adventures that could sap our will to live. Seriously, there are so many articles and videos titled “Pinterest is Ruining my Life,” that I couldn’t even choose one to link to. That’s your own crazy google search if you want to go there. So, yeah, I think it might be best not to include Pinterest in your family time.
What works for you will be your own passport to adventure. Our families main interest happens to be art, so we set up the following calendar to help us focus our search on things that will fit into these categories.
Monday – Murals
Tuesday – The Universe
Wednesday – Wonders of the World
Thursday – Theater and Dance
Friday – Figures / Sculpture
These may not be your areas of interest, but figure out something that works for you and your kids, and go explore the internet. Tag the articles or websites or videos you want to share with them in Pocket for easy retrieval later, and let them know what to expect. Know that Tuesdays are the days you look at Cheesecakes or Cupcakes or whatever else gets your kids super excited and plugged in – than share those things like you are their most interesting teacher in the world.
Spending twenty or thirty minutes online Together, looking at things that inspire, or get you thinking of the next thing you all want to build yourselves is Quality Time. Everyone zoning out on their own devices forgetting how to speak to one another is something I think we’d all like to avoid. But ooohing and aaahing over something together is fun. Sharing the experience, living it together, and daydreaming of the next great find is half the fun. When my kids start feeding me ideas to search for because they can’t wait for the next Sculpture night – we are onto something super fun.
I will admit, our first night doing this, we spent more than twenty or thirty minutes. But, we were so motivated and engaged, it was so much better than a Friday night movie night, we completely lost track of time.
Photo credits: Initial photo from here, each of the other photos are from the articles I linked to in this post.