Parents! It’s Not Too Late–Don’t f*ck up your kids with technology!
Can a toddler have screen addiction?
I don’t think we can start thinking about dealing with technology and screen addiction too early. For instance, here is a conversation I overheard yesterday:
Mom: You must go potty.
Child: Give me your phone and I’ll go.
Mom: I’m sorry, but it can fall in the toilet. It can break. I’ll hold it for you if you go potty.
Child (frustrated): I want to do it myself.
Mom: No! I’m sorry you are frustrated but I’m not giving it to you.
Child: Why?! You do it at home!
This conversation went in circles for at least 10 minutes. I was simultaneously laughing and shaking my head. Though I could relate, I also wanted to give this mom my card for the future.
If the phone is already an issue AND part of the bathroom ritual, imagine what it will be in 10 years?
I’m not mom-shaming this lady–we’ve all been there. But can we step back for a sec and agree that it’s weird how much we rely on technology to occupy our attention? We add entertainment to moments that would otherwise be mundane. We bargain with our toddlers and teens alike, using phones as the bait.
Screen use vs. screen addiction
Normal usage means the ability to engage and then disconnect without compulsive feelings. Though many of us feel the compulsion to fill empty space with our phones, as adults we have enough self-control and self-preservation tactics to put down the phone.
For kids, not so much. Studies show 8- to 10-year-olds spend eight hours a day with some form of electronic device. Teenagers averaged 11 hours. Even children under 1 are using tablets or smartphones about an hour a day. WTF?!
Even Steve Jobs recognized that the potential danger of unstructured phone use. When it came to his own kids, Jobs limited their use of tech. He didn’t allow the iPad in home because he thought “ it’s too dangerous for them in effect,” he said in a 2012 interview.
What if I don’t want to deal with technology?
It’s your right as a parent to pick and choose. No judgment if your kid will only poop with a phone in hand. If they will only eat veggies when they are distracted by watching something, so be it. After all, screens are here to stay.
But as an educator and parent, I want to draw the line somewhere and force my kids and students to experience life as it’s happening. I want them to be able to experience the real joy that happens from being connected and engaged. I also want them to be able to endure the discomforts that life inevitably brings and tolerate boredom and awkwardness long enough to find a way through them without soothing themselves with a phone.
When it comes to raising kids, here’s one of the many challenges: Teach them to look out and face the world as it’s happening. Let them self-soothe instead of throwing a screen at them. If they tantrum, don’t give in. Model your own ability to endure discomfort.
As kids grow up, we are the ones who will set the boundaries for screen use. Foster the habits needed to be one of those “exceptional” children who can have a conversation and express themselves in complete thoughts. Even though technology is here to stay, people still need to be able to endure the discomforts of being a person–boredom, awkwardness, speechlessness–and see that they can survive and THRIVE anyway. Facing these moments builds grit and character, traits that evolve from an engaged existence.