I am guessing if you are reading this, you grew up in a pre -cell phone era. You remember Encyclopedia Britanica, phones with cords, pay phones, and going to a neighbours house to see if they could play. You remember signing books out from the library to write a report. Not so for our kids. They are growing up in a much different time and we’d be unwise to not admit that and educate ourselves about it.
First of all, I’m just going to go ahead and admit that I, AS A GROWN WOMAN WHO DID NOT GROW UP WITH SCREENS, have a very hard time responsibly monitoring my screen usage. I know I do not want to be “addicted” to my phone, but looking at the hours tracked begs to differ. So if I, with my fully developed brain, struggle to make wise choices when it comes to technology than how on earth can we expect our kids to regulate this. I have recently put a time limit for social media on my phone and it’s pretty eye opening. If you haven’t done this for yourself, I highly recommend it. I do think it is wise for us to understand how we are modelling this behaviour as we look at kids and tech. This is a hard pill to swallow. Do I want my kids to use technology exactly as I do? No. I don’t. And thats a humbling thing to admit. Once you admit that, you can’t ignore it. Ask yourself that question, mama. Do you want your kid to use technology exactly as you do?
Having said that, I just want to clearly say that YOU ARE THE PARENT. You get to decide if they have access to screens. full stop. Let’s not utter excuses like “well all their friends have it”. You are responsible for only your kid. Sometimes we need to go against the grain and I strongly believe this is one of those times. Maybe chat with friends who have kids the same age as yours and make a commitment to each other to not give your kids a device. If you can’t find anyone to join you on this journey, go it alone. Our kids are worth it. You need to believe that. “Right is right, even if no one is doing it and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it”. Let’s be brave enough to do the hard thing for our kids and protect their childhood.
Another big reasoning I hear is that these devices are educational or they need them for school. Well, let’s stop right there. Are kids smarter these days than we were growing up? I honestly don’t find that to be the case. I actually think we are doing our kids a disservice by having so much of their schooling online. There are too many kids in jr high that cannot spell. They didn’t have to! All schoolwork was typed and spellcheck could be used. As well as the fact that once a brain gets used to the fast based learning apps and other online tools, slower paced things like BOOKS no longer hold their attention.
I am not a scientist, a researcher or an expert on this topic so I am going to point you to some of my favourite resources on this topic:
The Book “Glow Kids”. This book is outstanding and eye opening. Every parent, educator, or anyone in a position of influence over kids NEEDS to read this book. I cannot recommend it enough. I would buy one for every parent if I could. And I would read the entire thing out loud on my instagram if I could. Get this book, read it, take what it says to heart. It speaks in great detail about all the dangers and harm technology can cause to kid’s brains. It speaks to video games and social media alot, but the books focus is on any screen.
The youtube documentary Childhood-2.0. This is long, but it’s important. Guys, we cannot keep sticking our head in the sands about this. This documentary has lots of teens speaking as well as parents, psychologists and researchers. This is crucial information. It is our job to protect our kids and part of that is STOP GIVING KIDS START PHONES. Did you know that in 2019, porn sites had more traffic than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. There are the big offenders like pornography and sex trafficking; but there are also things like cyber bullying, screen addiction, mental development, relational skills and so on.
Follow Collin Kartchner on Instagram. He is extremely vocal about his #savethekids campaign and goes into schools to give talks on the dangers of social media. Follow him and watch his stories for a few days and you will never feel the same about your child having access to social media.
Follow Greta Eskridge on Instagram. She also has a “fight porn” highlight and travels to speak about it.
Watch The Social Dilemna on Netflix. (If you are still using Netflix and haven’t cancelled it)
Read my post where I share some resources to use to talk to your young kids about these topics. I have discovered many more since I wrote this post but this is a good jumping off point.
I could go on and on about this topic, especially as I continue to learn more, but I will instead refer you to those resources. I do want to say, it’s not too late. If your kids are using screens too much, it’s not too late. In the “Glow Kids” book, the appendix gives tips on doing a screen detox. In the end, you are the parent and you make the decisions. Let’s not fool ourselves by saying our kids will be behind if they don’t use technology. They will not. You can learn that stuff so fast. But they may be behind on creativity, human relationships, ability to focus, ability to find enjoyment in real life things, and so on.
One big way I combat this in our family is by always having a chapter book I am reading with the girls and bringing it in my purse wherever we go. So if we are waiting at the doctor or anywhere else, instead of passing them my phone I pull out our book and read. I do this sometimes at restaurants as well, on long drives, and anywhere I need their attention or to entertain them. We also encourage lots of outside time and sibling play. I am not afraid of their boredom, in fact, I think it is an important part of building creativity and character. This is not to say we never use screens, but we do try to keep it mainly to when we decide to watch a family show together or the occasional TV or learning app time. When it is less frequent, it feels more special and they don’t ask nonstop.
May I encourage you to please choose a resource about screens and look through it. At the very least, educate yourself and make an informed decision. I think we can all do that for our kids, don’t you?