Would you leave your child alone with a serial kidnapper? It sounds like a ridiculous question or the beginning of a really inappropriate joke, but it isn’t. It is real and tragic.
Talk to parents who gave their child a cellphone one year ago, regardless of the child’s age, and discuss how the parent’s relationship with that child has changed.
The irony is these devices are supposed to improve our relationships. Their primary purpose is, after all, communication. But I don’t know a single parent who would say giving their child a phone improved their relationship.
And then there are all the other problems that come with these devices…
Study after study now show they cause or contribute to… behavioral problems, stunting social and emotional development, and vast mental health consequences, tiredness, nervousness, absentmindedness, eyesight problems, insomnia, negative impact on neck and spine health, arthritis in the hands… to name just a few.
And the pros? One study named three. The first one was self-sufficiency, in particular it explained that having a phone helps children to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these devices, creating healthy self-awareness and self-reflection. I don’t know too many parents who are seeing much of that. Their second pro was digital literacy. I don’t disagree with that, though they are going to pick this up in other ways in school and at home, so isn’t that like saying one of the pros of kids using drugs is that they learn how to use drugs? And finally, the third pro this extensive study found for giving children cell phones was access to emergency services. Again, that’s important, but if that’s the best we can come up with on the pro list, doesn’t that tell us something unto itself?
Now, let’s explore the real problem. Most parents have stopped listening because they would rather have someone poke pins in their eyes than deal with the wrath that would follow taking their child’s phone away.
I get that. It’s probably not going to happen.
But this is when we make two mental mistakes…
1. We let what we can’t do interfere with what we can do. This is essentially all or nothing thinking.
2. We close ourselves off from the truth that we can’t live or choose not to live. It requires intellectual honesty and humility to say something like, “I think my child might be better off if he/she didn’t have a phone” or “I can see now I should have waited longer to give my child a phone.”
Both of these types of thinking prevent us from improving our actual situation.
If you watch my videos regularly, you know I like to give you simple, practical steps. So, you may not be going to take your child’s smartphone away, but what can you do?
One clear suggestion: Designate one day a week as a no-phone day. If your responsibilities make it possible for you to participate that’s even better. Perhaps that seems impossible all around. If that’s the case, then perhaps you designate one evening a week.
What are we trying to accomplish? Let’s prove to ourselves and teach our children that we can live without these things. Let’s know that we can be free from them if we decide to.
You will get twitchy at first. They will get irritable, restless, and discontent in the beginning. All signs of addiction. Make it a point to spend more time with your children those days. Talk to them. Do this for three months, and after three months, observe how your relationships with your children are on the no-phone days.
Watch the video!