Ana’s summer was being consumed by her phone. It bothers me that I am to blame. The only reason she can spend any time on it is because I provide the access. I, my friends, am the enabler. Without setting and enforcing limits it’s like buying a bag of blow and saying “Go at it!”!
Our kids need guidance to gain tools and set boundaries for the smart phones we give them. It’s far too addictive for them to navigate on their own. Those who grew up with unlimited access wouldn’t know better than to use it all the time. In some cases, parents are equally as addicted or worse. It’s too easy to disengage from life while endlessly occupied on computers.
I grew up under the influence of fashion magazines and I’d hear a lot about the fashion industry’s negative impact on girls. I was obsessed with the fashion, but not the models themselves. Magazines had some standards to abide by, depending on the company’s public image. Conversely, people put out anything they like on social media and make it as public and as pointless as they desire. Our kids can follow some pretty shady role models. There are positive one’s as well but it’s surprising how popular some of the really superficial characters become.
Okay, lets get back to our test. Summer holidays were coming to an end. Jack and I spent our weekdays at work while Ana was at home on her phone for most of the day. Was this to be her summer!? Days spend inside, face down, lit up in blue. She’d rush through her To Do List as quickly as possible so she could get back to her ‘net fix.
The world may be different now but that doesn’t mean she can’t live a full life. What about walking and biking around the ‘hood? Hanging out at the local skate ramp and lake? If not with friends, I was home pairing outfits, listening to music or making stuff at 13. The summer days of my youth are quite possibly best memories I have! It makes me sad to picture Ana not having that sense of freedom or the feeling of all-the-time-in-the-world. It’s unlikely that Face timing while playing The Sims will be an ever-lasting memory.
I was lucky enough to holiday with some like-minded parents over the summer. My friend Laura and I talked about the regrets of getting phones for our kids too early. She said “The longer we delay in giving it to them, the better, because trying to dial it back is not easy.” Damn straight! Difficult, yes, but I must do this!
Watching Ana on her phone while I was busy in the house after work brought me to the point of snapping. I had to do something pronto! We sat down as a family and had a conversation about how things where different when Jack and I were kids, WAY before smart phones. We all agreed on trying a test run of a week in 1983. Ana would have zero Internet access for one week of her summer break to get a window into what it was like for us at her age. She would have to find other ways to fill her time. I was overly excited about us all being on board!
What we noticed:
- She’d call me each day when she got up. It was uplifting to hear her voice instead of a two word text. It was an opportunity to connect more deeply.
- Her friend came over, knowing it was going to be a tech free visit. They walked, went out for tea, baked cookies, and went shoe shopping. Ana said time seemed to last. We figured that if they had their phones they would have been on them for most of the time.
- She met my parents for lunch and a walk. They thought she seemed less tired and more talkative, which made them happy. They reminisced about her non-stop chattiness as a child and it was endearing for them to get a taste of that again.
- She was patient, sweet, and giggly by the end of the week. She just seemed way happier and full of energy! I always love to be around her but our hearts felt right full as she lit up the room with her positivity.
What I have learned:
- We need to teach her to limit her use. There has been too much wasted time due to a lack of limits.
- I have been allowing her to use the smart phone almost anytime she likes. It’s hurting her and now she has seen what she is missing. I hope this motivates her to keep it in check and balance her life.
- She doesn’t hate me for putting restrictions in place. Being the “cool parent-friend” doesn’t work and misses the guidance youth need.
- She is happier and healthier with WAY less screen time. I believe her self-image will be more positive with less social media influence.
Although she missed that easy answer for “What to do?”, she now sees that time doesn’t have to slip by wasted and that it really is more fun and fulfilling to do things in the real world. Going forward we are implementing a daily limit of one hour. We will see how it goes but I have a feeling this will be ample!
How do you regulate your kids or even your own usage? Do you think it’s important?