The Perils of Ping Pong

ping pong ball in a cactus
Our ping pong balls land in the most precarious places.

We’ve had our ping pong table for several weeks now. We’ve had fun playing casual games filled with laughter. Now my husband wants lessons. There’s a ping pong coach nearby who offers private and group lessons for all ages and he hosts tournaments. The coach is a national champion.

I suggested before we take the leap into instruction, maybe we should google the rules. I did yesterday and made a discovery of two rules we were breaking. First, we play matches to eleven and take turns serving every five serves. The official USA Table Tennis rules says two serves, not five. That’s easy to correct.

The second rule we were breaking is how we serve. This is a game changer — or game stopper. We were serving by putting the ball in the palm of our hand and sweeping the ball off. The official rules state we are to toss the ball at least six inches up in the air before striking the ball on its way down. Uh oh. This is no easy feat and takes a large dose of hand eye coordination.

I learned to serve with the ball resting on my hand as a second grader. I wonder if my dad taught me this method because he didn’t know the official rules? Or, was it because I didn’t have the ability at a young age to manage the ball toss and he wanted me to have fun?

In any case, this new serve made both of us really uncoordinated and frustrated. After practicing serve after serve, we both managed to get a few serves to hit the table. But it set us back in the fun department.

I told my husband I was done for the day and I headed off to the Casita for some “alone time.” I got out my laptop and began viewing YouTubes on “Four Killer Ping Pong Serves” and “How to Improve Quickly at Ping Pong.”

He walked in 30 minutes later and started laughing. He was doing the same thing in our bedroom on his laptop. We had been watching the same how-to videos secretly to gain the upper hand.

It’s not like we’re competitive or anything, right?

Ping Pong table on the patio.

Have you played ping pong? What kind of serve do you use? Do you think we need to follow the rules or play the way we want to have fun? I’m a rule stickler and my husband wants to play the way we used to. Is one of us right?

5 Tips for Parents to Reign In Smartphone Use

randk

Life before smartphones.

With all the evidence that more and more kids are suffering from anxiety and depression and with suicide rates skyrocketing, there is research that says smartphones may be making these trends worse. In a Time article by Markam Heid, “We Need to Talk About Kids and Smartphones” he shares these horrifying figures:

“Between 2010 and 2016, the number of adolescents who experienced at least one major depressive episode leapt by 60%, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 survey of 17,000 kids found that about 13% of them had a major depressive episode, compared to 8% of the kids surveyed in 2010. Suicide deaths among people age 10 to 19 have also risen sharply, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Young women are suffering most; a CDC report released earlier this year showed suicide among teen girls has reached 40-year highs. All this followed a period during the late-1990s and early 2000s when rates of adolescent depression and suicide mostly held steady or declined.”

In another article, “Is Your Kid Hooked on Smartphones? 5 Tips for Parents” Heid gives some great advice for parents who are concerned with their kids’ smartphone use. Here’s the abbreviated version. You can read his article in its entirety here.

ONE
Keep devices out of kids’ bedrooms. There is already strong data linking bedroom screen time with a variety of risks—particularly sleep loss, says David Hill, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communication and Media.

TWO
Set up online firewalls and data cutoffs.
Most devices and Internet providers offer parenting tools that restrict access to illicit content and curb data use, and there are apps that do so as well.

THREE
Create a device contract. “This is something you create with your child that details rules around their device use,” says Yalda Uhls, an assistant adjunct professor at UCLA and author of Media Moms and Digital Dads. These rules could include no smartphones at the dinner table, or no more than an hour of social media use after school.

FOUR
Model healthy device behaviors. Just as kids struggle to stay off their phones, so do parents. “We’re all, even adults, drawn to devices,” says UPenn’s Jensen. And if you’re a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different, she says.

FIVE
Consider old-school flip phones for your kids, or a smartphone without a data plan (and therefore no Internet access). This may seem like overkill for some parents—especially those of older teens. But unconnected phones still allow teens to call or text with parents and friends, says Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of iGen.

I think the best thing to do is put down firm guidelines and don’t give in. I was strict with my kids about when they got their first cell phones and I bought them at Target as pay-as you-go phones. It wasn’t until my son’s high school graduation that he got an iPhone. My daughter got one a little sooner because they were much more common, but not until age 16.

Today, I’m the one addicted to my phone. I’m always reading stories, looking at Twitter, checking out FB, etc. My daughter gets so mad at me when we’re together and asks me to put the phone down. “I”m here with you now!” she’ll remind me. I worry a lot about the kids who are in the iGen with peer pressure following them wherever they are. Getting the smartphones and computers out of their bedrooms at night is a smart idea. Making a weekend or week to unplug as a family is a plan, too. It’s such a different world, isn’t it, from when we grew up?

What rules do you have for your kid’s smartphone use?

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Me not on my iPhone–being in the moment with my daughter.