My uncle is in the hospital and my kids are sick and the last thing I should probably be doing is blogging, but I have nervous energy right now and there is only so much of The Good Wife that I can watch and each time I log onto Facebook someone else has liked or shared that damn Louis C.K. interview about cell phones.
I have made lots of decisions in my parenting life about technology. My kids do not have gaming systems anymore. We do not have live TV. I did not buy a minivan with a TV in it because for heavens sake if you cannot take a car ride without watching television, then you have a serious problem. Watching the rain drizzle down windows and learning that the moon follows you as you drive? Precious!
I have also been to restaurants and have witnessed two parents, two pre-teen children, all plugged into iPads and iPhones, none of them engaging in conversation or even looking at each other. So I get it, Louis C.K. I get that kids being plugged in at all times is probably not ideal.
However, a phone is a phone. Smart phones do lots of cool things (like make your interview with Conan explode into cyberspace). William has edited some pretty kick ass videos, connected with other kids from all over the world, shared his modeling portfolio with clients, and on top of it, can easily get in touch with me if he is lost or hurt or running late. Plus, he is my go-to-guy for cool new apps. If he turns out to be a kid who does not make eye contact or understand what it means to be empathetic, then that is my fault, not the phone’s fault.
Giving a phone to a kid before they are in high school has let me, while my kids still like me and are willing to listen to me, the ability to help them navigate social media discussions. What is appropriate? What is out of line? It is an opportunity to teach and to guide them into a world that does not even exist yet. Plus, if it weren’t for the damn PBS kids app, I would never survive four hours of volleyball with Quinn. Three games he can watch. Four? Where is Cat in the Hat?
I work with a ton of teenagers. If you want to know which ones hate their mothers, which ones sneak around, which ones repeatedly make bad decisions, it is frequently the ones whose parents try to control and monitor every single aspect of their adolescence. I am sure there are a ton of great reasons not to buy your kid a smart phone. They are expensive, for one. Maybe you read an article on their negative impact on growing brains. Whatever the reason is, I get it. But if you are going to use a phone by dangling the idea of a phone over their heads or use a phone as punishment or make phones seem really “grown up”, or make four thousand rules around the phone, then you have a long ass high school battle ahead of you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I used to babysit for a couple in New York who only ate organic natural foods. Their pantry looked like the famers market. When they told their kids “no soda,” I respected that because they were living their message. I had zero respect for the mom who always barked “no soda” at her daughter as she downed a diet Coke. I just think that if Louis C.K. thinks smart phones are the devil, then he should not have one either.
The last few Sunday’s I have wandered into Target or the grocery store, only to realize that 90% of the people around me were wearing Packers jersey’s. I have never watched a football game in my life. A game, of any sort, sans the Olympics, has never been on the TV in my house (though back when we had live TV, I think William might have watched at Marquette game or two). Still, when I have that realization that the rest of Wisconsin is tuned into a football game, I always find myself thinking that this seems like a giant waste of time. You could be drawing or reading or baking or hiking or inventing a recipe or walking your dog or meditating or learning piano . . . I mean, seriously, how many hours do you spend watching strangers play ball?
See, there are lots of ways you can zone out. If you play Words with Friends for three hours in a row, well, waste of time, watch endless amounts of NFL, kind of a time killer, but if, like Lizzie did last week, you use your phone to see how many photographs you can take that illustrate the word “truth,” than that seems to be a creative use of your time. Could she do the same thing with a camera? Sure. Would she? Not when it is so easy for her to document, edit, and share her results immediately. That would be like choosing a butter knife to cut your steak.
Plus, I like that she follows her cousins in Colorado. I like that she can connect with a family that she would not really know otherwise. Her phone is a tool. She uses it like a tool. She also plays volleyball, reads, runs, and has deep conversations with me about God and the universe and what it all really means.
Bottom line, I agree with Louis C.K. that “everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” I just don’t think the reason behind our universal depression or our failure as parents is the phone. It’s football.
No. No it is not, but that was pretty funny, right? Did you LOL reading this on your phone?
It’s a brand new world. TTYL
I have four kids, two are 17 and almost 16, and they both have phones. If I didn’t think I could trust them with phones, they wouldn’t have them. But I find I am a minority.
Several of my kids’ friends parents have told me they take time every day — EVERY DAY — to sort through their child’s Facebook, phone texts, numbers called, Kiks, Instagram, and what’s that other one? Oh, yeah, Snapchat.
Holy cow. If I did that…. I mean just imagine the time spent on two kids let alone FOUR.
It would have to be my new job.
If a time comes when my trust has been broken, then those privileges will be lost.
But if I don’t show them I trust them now…well, then, how will they ever believe they are trustworthy people?
Hallelujah, Sister. Thanks for your reply. I know it is a touchy subject for a lot of folks and I do not think that all kids must have a phone, but do think the issue is overblown.