How Can Our Kids Solve the Problem of Tech Addiction?
If it weren’t for my nine-year-old and her friend, my children might not have their homework done in time. Once, this 4-year-old noticed that her 3-year-old sister had been an hour late for class. When she got home, she asked where she had been all day. I told her that was bad, but the answer was simple: She had been on the phone with my daughter because her sister had run out of paper before she could go to school. This made sense to her.
I have not been the best at raising my kids. While I watch my son with wonderment, I have struggled with the task of supporting and encouraging him at times. As I see my daughter turn into a confident teenager, I find myself worried about her ability to multitask. My husband asked me the other day if I could get the paper for both of them in on the same day. I explained that was impossible.
My biggest question now is whether to ask them how to put it all in perspective. At times, I am dismayed by what is available to them. They hear songs about fame and fortune, they read racy books, and they see women who flash their breasts on television. There is a lot of temptation for my children to get sucked in. While I know they are smart enough to stay away from it, I worry that they will end up on the wrong side of things when they are older.
My daughter brings her laptop to school and finds herself browsing the internet and posting on Instagram. At first, she caught her mother’s eye because of her “likes” on posts about dancing and rock music. Now, she seems to be drawn to the page where someone posts about death, drugs and suicide. I’m not sure if that’s part of her homework because she says she studies a little on Instagram, or if it is just her instinct to look.
What I know is that she feels comfortable sharing her feelings on social media because I have taught her that it is fine to share personal things, just as long as you don’t post embarrassing or illegal content. I know this too because she posts videos of her playtime with her friends on YouTube.
In addition to being made aware of the dangers of being sedentary (based on real-life research), she knows that there are elements of fame and fortune that come with my Instagram page. Sometimes, she brings a glass of water to me because she has been impressed that one of her followers sent her a long message in Spanish. She knows my Facebook likes are public, and when she tells me about someone she has met online, I tell her that it is fine to be influenced by other people.
I get the sense that the advantage to getting friends on social media is that they might see something they enjoy that would not otherwise have been a focus. For instance, at one point she asked me why I didn’t post a few “likes” of her dancing and posted it herself on Facebook. If she were to pay close attention, she would see that I post all kinds of stories and photos, and she can be sure that I am not influenced in any way.
Eventually, she may notice that this is common practice, but right now, she is processing what it means to be social online. It is hard to have a meaningful discussion on the topic, so I simply let her get away with it as long as she does not do anything about it. I have started to read some children’s books about screen time because I see what it can do to my kids’ moods and concentration.
As I allow her to use her cell phone at school, she realizes that it is not that big of a deal. She no longer is bothered by the fact that she is late to class, even if it is for a half hour. As she starts to read some of the health-based books about the damage of screen time, I get the sense that she will get more of a handle on it down the road.
There’s nothing wrong with electronics. There’s something wrong when your children become co-dependent on them. As my children move through school, technology offers a tremendous opportunity for exploration and fun. To some, it is an obsession. To others, it can be a beneficial tool. But for the next generation, hopefully it will not be the reason they get a chance to practice.