Have I told you how I am the meanest Mom ever? Its true, my kids do not have a video game system, iPod, cell phone, tablet, or any other sort of electronic device. They also don’t have any social media accounts and I don’t let them browse around on YouTube or the Internet. Being that they are 5, 7, and 10 you wouldn’t think this is too bad, but when my son was 9 he was the only one of his friends in the neighborhood who did not have his own device. 9 years old! I feel sorry for kids these days whose childhoods are being robbed by little metal devices.
I feel pretty old when I think back to the fact that we didn’t have video games until we were in High School and I don’t think my Mom had a cell phone until I was in college. That means my childhood was spent playing with primitive cardboard boxes, scrap wood and nails, and that wonderful thing called imagination. We thought playing in the house was a punishment and a Monopoly game that lasted a week was the best way to enjoy our summer. We put puzzles together – actual puzzles that you had to touch and try to make fit. They didn’t just kind of pop into place when they got close. Kids wont ever have that kind of childhood again and it makes me so sad.
I hope that parents will start to consider the consequences of fighting this new and easy trend of parenting. Sure my kids would sit perfectly in church if they had an iPad but that’s not the point. Part of what they are learning in Church is how to sit still and listen! The same concept goes for grocery shopping, doctors appointments, and even sitting in the car. Everywhere I look parents are turning vital social skill teaching moments over to little electronic boxes that entertains with ease.
My kids do play on devices every once in a while but it is a tool that I use very sparingly. When we travel we have one very old iPad that the boys get to share. They take turns, each getting 15 minutes. If they fight, the iPad is gone for the trip. That means even though they are being entertained they are still learning about cooperation, sharing, and cheering their brothers on.
The other day my oldest told me he wanted to save up for his own iPod, not for games just for music. I made a deal with him. I showed him how to set up his own playlist in iTunes and then how to play that through the Apple TV. I also told him we could burn him CD’s to listen to in the playroom, his room, or even outside. I am not ready for him to be stuck with headphones in his ears all the time and there is no need at his age (in my opinion) for him to have his own iPod.
When it comes to phones, I don’t see why kids have to have their own phone! John and I each have our own phone and then we have a third phone that we use as our home phone. There have been times when Caleb needed a phone so he took our extra family phone. As the kids get older we will add more family phones, not give our kids their own phone. It might sound like we are splitting hairs because our kids will have a phone to use, but the point is they will not feel entitled to it. We will also be able to regulate what goes on it and when people are texting. Most parents tell me that when they give their kids a phone they do so with the understanding that they can check what is on it at any time. The question is, how many really take the time to check it regularly? What girl is really going to send my boys a dirty picture of themselves when they know its going their parents phone! I will have to evaluate how this is going to change when my kids hit 16 and can work and pay for their own phone, but until that time they will have to use one of their parents old boring phones.
As for social media – thank goodness it didn’t exist when I was a teenager! I think back to myself at that age and how immature I was and yet how deeply I felt the ups and downs of High School. I CAN NOT imagine what kind of regrets I would have if I had social media back then. Part of our role as parents is to protect our children. I believe that also includes protecting them from themselves. It would be naive as parents to assume that future employers are not going to use social media before hiring an employee. Protect your kids by keeping them away from social media until they are mature enough to understand the consequences. Oh, wait some adults don’t even seem to understand that either
I see so many teenage post on Instagram and I just cringe with what they put out there and the regret I know they will feel one day. Instagram is super fun and I love it but it does not have parental controls and kids can see some extremely inappropriate and pornographic material.
I’m not naive, I know these devices are the way of the future – but that is my point the future! They don’t belong in our children’s young lives and need to be saved until they are more mature and have the ability to weigh the consequences and make good decisions. Childhood is where we learn about right and wrong and social norms and behavior. When our kids are babysat by a video game they lose those moments of teaching and watching social interaction. Someone once told me that they think its important that their kids know how to use computers because in the future he doesn’t want them to be behind. My brother Mark was an engineer for NASA/JPL. I once asked him if in his work he meets people who are super smart but cannot communicate their thoughts clearly and articulate what they are trying to say. He said all the time. Computer skills can be learned later in life, but can social skills?
Parenting is not about just keeping kids safe and alive, its also about preparing them for the future. There is not enough research on how these devices are affecting our children and their neurological development. Research is starting to come back on video games and so far it hasn’t been great. Parenting is hard, really really hard! Its hard to be on all the time and to answer all of our kids questions…which leads to more questions…which can go on endlessly! It can also be trying sometimes to listen to their long (and on occasion boring) stories they want to tell. But please don’t stop the questions and don’t stop the communication by shutting them down and numbing them out to the world.
I love my boys and sometimes they think that I am mean because I am so strict. But I want what is best for them. I want them to be happy now, but I also want them to be happy in the future! Everyone has to do what is best for their family and I certainly don’t have all the answers! My stance on electronics is not popular with a lot of parents out there but I’m not worried about them, I’m parenting my boys with a purpose. I hope other Moms will feel like they are not alone in taking a stance against the overuse of electronics.