Warning: Things are about to get hot.
This summer, join me in a pledge to not make our kids stupider than we’re already making them. Too blunt? Apologies. My patience has been up to here lately with too much screen time in public, too much texting when you’re with friends in front of you, too much scrolling Facebook when sitting at a family dinner. Oh, and children, can you put the iPad away when cutting your sibling’s birthday cake?
Not in my immediate family – that’s the truth. I’m a mean mom who doesn’t allow nonsense like this with my kids – but taking extra notice during everyday activities these last few weeks (work, errands, dinners in busy New York restaurants) has me seeing these pathetic realities more times than I’m OK with. I’ve had it.
There is such a thing as bad parenting. And yes, we’re all at fault. Check ourselves. Too many of us are feeding the false need (I like to say stupid addiction) to be tethered to mobile devices. Our kids see this as normal. We can do better. We know better.
Some examples of this alleged bad parenting when it comes to tech?
▪ Being afraid to tell your child, “Stop texting your friend while we’re together as a family,” and then not unapologetically taking away the phone when they don’t listen to you.
▪ Letting your teens keep phones in their rooms overnight and wondering why you don’t know what’s going on in their lives.
▪ Giving the toddler the iPad in the restaurant so you can have peace – while also conditioning that toddler to think that going out means limitless screen time and no socialization required.
I say all of this with a firm conviction that we should be teaching our kids how to be responsible digital citizens – yes, they should learn how to manage their lives with phones, screens and all sorts of apps. But, boundaries.
“But these devices are a part of their social life now!” I agree. Which is why teaching them how to manage it all is our biggest uphill battle as modern parents. A teenage social life needs boundaries. Also, do elementary school kids really have that much bursting independence that warrants having their own phones? (Think about that.) Don’t get swept up in today’s nonsense and contrived drama.
As someone whose career depends on active social media activity every single day, I will confidently tell you with the utmost concern and disappointment: We’re slowly turning ourselves and our kids into a bunch of degenerates lacking manners, lacking social skills, lacking respect for others and lacking personalities from children who are being raised with no sense of self separate from an electronic device.
This is all because we no longer know how to live without taking a picture, posting a picture or scrolling Facebook to see what a bunch of strangers think about things happening in our world.
Common Sense Media has reported that approximately half of all teens feel consistently anxious and addicted to their phones. Occupational therapists have told me, face-to-face, that incoming kindergartners are consistently showing lacking development in fine motor skills because of too much “swiping.” This is our fault.
I dare you to take tech breaks and screen-time hiatuses with your family this summer.
I dare you to take the phones away at meal times and ignore the whining and complaining (and send them to their rooms if they don’t like it.)
I dare you to take your toddler to a restaurant and not immediately throw a YouTube video at them. (Don’t tell me it’s hard –I did relentlessly with two kids under the age of 2. You can do it, too.)
I’m daring myself to take fewer pictures and look less at my phone. Join me in not responding to every single text right away, unless you’re an emergency room surgeon waiting to hear when you’re supposed to head in to operate on the tragic emergency that just happened. Be vigilant.
Our kids crave guidance for how to be decent, responsible and in control of their lives – tech usage included. This responsibility is on us.
Jill Simonian, married and the mother of two girls, was born and raised in Fresno and graduated from Sanger High School. Creator of the TheFabMom.com, Jill is the parenting lifestyle expert for CBS Los Angeles.
Her book for first-time moms,”The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby“ is available now. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter @jillsimonian.