Smart phones & kids
*I want to preface this blog post with a I’m not perfect, nor have I ever said I am statement. You have to do what’s best for YOUR family. I fail everyday, but I get back up the next day and give myself grace, understanding, and try again.*
Why is it an unpopular opinion? Because it makes parents really think. Question decisions they made. And no one likes to second guess their parenting. I know it made me uncomfortable a few years ago when I was in the thick of it. Lets take it back to when my oldest daughter went into middle school(she’s 19 now and in college). All this child wanted was a smart phone. She begged for months and months…everyone has one mom. That kind of reasoning never really resinated with me, but gosh she was such a good kid. SUCH A GOOD KID. I would monitor her activity, do random phone checks, invade her privacy-don’t even get me started on that last statement. A few months went by and I could see the shift in her. Something was off. She had been told the restrictions, understood the consequences of her actions if she chose to disobey, and one day I got a feeling. A small little voice that told me to check her phone. I went up to her, asked her to hand me her phone, and her weight shifted. Her face changed. Hummmm, yep that’s not good I thought. Keep in mind, I had been doing random phone checks and tracking her phone usage from the very beginning. Oh, but kids are smart. Smarter than we give them credit for. She had found a way to download those “off limit” apps and to hide them from us. It took me awhile to figure out how, but when I did…
I won’t go into detail what I found(keeping her privacy is important to me), but do know that the phone got immediately taken away, sold, and she was given an old fashioned flip phone…you know, the kind you have to push letters multiple times to text a four letter word lol.
She was so embarrassed. She knew she had not only crossed the line, but had disappointed me greatly and that in itself was punishment.
Why do I tell you this story? Because it was the start of new territory for me. I didn’t even have a phone until I was 18, so I had no idea what having one at 12 could do to a middle schoolers self esteem, the pressures, the what could come of it if just left alone.
You hear stories all the time about the use of these devices to send “inappropriate images of themselves,” bullying, not measuring up, and the ultimate price…
I told her from a very very young age that not only did I love her more than she would ever know, but it was my job to keep her safe…even if that safety caused her unpopularity. I’ve heard it all through those years with her. From family, friends, and even random strangers….
“Aren’t you scared she’s missing out?”
“What about when she goes off to college? Are you afraid she’ll just go crazy wild there?”
“I keep my kids in check and they aren’t allowed to download anything I don’t approve.”
“I trust my kids.” -That one obviously implied I didn’t lol
“I follow my kids on all social media platforms so I know what’s going on.”
I heard it all. Trust me. But the more I dug deep into research, I realized their brains aren’t made to handle that kind of responsibility. It’s just science. And that’ ok. My 13 year old missed the bus this morning and even though that was annoying, I knew that the universe had given me that extra 15 min drive time alone to talk to him. Here was our conversation:
Me: “Ryder, can I ask you a few questions about smart phones?”
Looking annoyed, he obliged.
Me: “How many kids do you know at your school who don’t have one?”
Ryder: “I dunno, maybe 5 or 6.” Went on to give me specifics of names.
Me: “Do you think you should have one? And why or why not.”
Ryder: “I do. I can use it for emergencies and watching Netflix, playing games, all kinds of stuff.”
Me: “Do you understand why you don’t?”
Ryder: “I do. I don’t agree with it, but I understand.” – I’ll take that answer
Me: “Do you understand the downfall of smart phones in the hands of children?”
Ryder: “Yeah, I remember last year(keep in mind he was in 7th grade) we had an assembly at school talking about sending nudes.” – I paused, holy crap I don’t remember getting an email about this.
Me: “What are you talking about, nudes?”
Ryder: “Yeah, some 8th graders were sending nudes to each other.”
Coming back to this later with him to dig deeper on his understanding of so many things.
Me: “Do you feel left out?”
Ryder: “Sometimes. When we’re on the bus and everyone has their phone out and I am just kind of sitting there.”
Me: “But deep down does it bother you?”
Ryder: “Nah, I know I kid who has a flip phone and he’s not even embarrassed by it. I mean, who cares anyways?”
And I wish him to have a great day as he climbs out of the van and think to myself…you’re doing ok momma. Keep going. Follow your gut.
I’d like to say I’ll feel this way with all the kids in this house as years go on, but I can never look into the future. What I can tell you is what I feel is right in this season of my/their life.
I’ll admit that we watch entirely way too much television and Ella is by far the most addicted to Netflix, but I’m honestly doing the very best I can and I have to give myself grace. We have implemented some standards at our home and so far they are working for us.
*No electronics (what I mean is that my boys would play the switch 24 hours a day if I let them) through the week for Jackson. He is a different child and I have to watch VERY closely the amount of screen time he gets. He’s brain doesn’t handle it very well.
Ryder is allowed 30-45 min each evening after the little two go to bed.
*Weekend use is twice a day for 30-45 min. We were doing only 30 min on the weekend but have now bumped it up to twice a day. It’s going ok so far, but if any mood changes…it will be dropped back down or taken away completely which we’ve done in the past.
*No youtube or youtube kids. These apps have been off my phone and the tv for awhile now. No, you’re not going to watch someone else play with electronics or open toys. Sheesh
*Ryder one time had downloaded youtube onto the Switch to watch how to beat a level on a game, and didn’t realize his daddy sees all the activity on there…he lost his privilege for playing for a week. That may seem harsh, but our rules are in place for a reason and in our hearts we know these small glimpses of teaching will hopefully show how we follow through when we have to deal with big things.
*This rain is killing this household lol. If it’s sunny outside…you’re outside after school. Find something to do. Want all the kids in our neighborhood over? Lets go! Make up a game, kick the ball around, build a fort, I don’t care…get outside.
*When the spring hits us, we bring tv time down to 30 min a day.
Now, I say all this, but want to touch on the subject of what we, as parents, show them. I run my business of social media. I hate it, but it’s a fact. I’m constantly bombarded with dings, text messages, facebook messages, etc. I’m working on it for myself. How can I tell them all these stipulations but not have control myself? I try really really hard to not be on my phone when they are home from school. Do I fail constantly? Absolutely. It’s a daily battle within myself.
Then, I called Kailyn this morning to ask her some questions…
Me:”How did you feel not having a smart phone in high school?”
K: “I felt left out I remember that, but looking back it didn’t matter.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
K: “I mean it was high school. I didn’t need to have one and I understand now why I didn’t have one.”
Me: “What do you use your phone now for? Now that you’re out of the house in college?”
K: “Texting, music, Pinterest, and a school app.”
Me: “Do you have social media now that you’re in college?”
K: “No, I never felt a need for it.”
I had asked her this a few months ago, but was still shocked she still didn’t.
Me: “Looking back, do you understand why we put a stop to smart phones?”
K: “Oh gosh yeah.”
Me: “Do you feel we did the right thing for you in that choice?”
K: “I do. I’m not addicted to my phone like other kids I see.”
Me: “Did you ever know anyone who sent inappropriate things by phone while in middle or high school?”
K: “oh yeah, I’m pretty sure it was in middle school. I can’t remember what the specifics were.”
Me: “Did you ever feel pressured in middle or high school?”
K: “oh yeah mom. Being that age you constantly feel like you need to fit in and when you don’t you feel left out.”
Me: “Is there anything I could have done, besides having a phone, that could have made you feel less of an outcast?”
K: “No, I think it’s the age, but you always talked to me. Even when I didn’t want to. I always knew you were there. Home was a safe place.”
She did end the conversation by adding that she is glad Ryder has a friend who can relate to him. And he does. He has an amazing friend who’s family is on the same lines as us in our beliefs and I think that does make a big difference. He doesn’t feel like he’s alone. Does that make sense? Can you imagine if it was a huge group of them who didn’t rely on those phones as well?
And break for tears. That was always my hope. That she(them) felt like home is where they can be their true selves. It didn’t matter the clothes they wear, the phone they didn’t have, the bad day they had…they were home.
And there it is. How we got to where we are. Now, what do I want for my kids?
I want them to HAVE A CHILDHOOD. I want them to run, get dirty, make mud pies, makeup games, go on bike rides, have friends over to play darts, make my house a disaster(lol) with their craziness, and have a time in their lives when none of what the outside world does matters. I want them to thrive.