How do you feel about toddlers watching iPads? Hm. If you’ve followed me, you know I’ve been famous to claim my longstanding no-iPads-in-restaurants-rule as one of THE key reasons why my kids can (mostly) control themselves restaurants and public places. (I continue to be equally proud and pleasantly shocked about that, by the way… turns out, hard work can pay off.)
Then, last week, there were two stinging pieces from Mom.me — both that I really loved reading. One about calling out parents who use iPads to quell toddlers in restaurants (hell yeah! go woman!) and the other, a kick-ass response and defense for those who sometimes need to do it. (I tackled this topic on my weekly CBS Los Angeles FAB Mom segment — video below!)
I figure now is the time to make things really hot:
This summer, join me in a pledge to not make our kids more 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? Just ask Josh from Safe Smart Social about how I feel about screen-time for kids — I think I scared him.
There is such a thing as bad parenting. And yes, we’re all at fault on a rotating dial when it comes to this tech nonsense. Too many of us are feeding the false need and senseless addiction to our mobile devices and care about what strangers say. (I tackle this in my new book and warn brand new parents about the perils of being tethered to internet.) Our kids see our obsession with online activity as normal. We know better. We can catch ourselves. We can do better.
Some examples of our alleged bad parenting when it comes to tech? Being afraid to tell a 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. Letting a teen keep their phone in their room overnight and wondering why we don’t know what’s going on in their life. Giving a toddler the iPad in the restaurant so parents can have peace — while also conditioning that toddler to think that going out means limitless screen-time and no socialization required (and let’s not forget about delayed speech and social skills in toddlers who don’t get enough face-to-face conversation with human beings).
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 this digital lifestyle 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 contrived drama when it comes to ‘needing’ to post a picture or check emails.
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 with 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. 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 continues to report disturbing findings about how approximately half of all teens feel consistently anxious and addicted to their phones. Occupational therapists have told me that an increased number of incoming Kindergartners are consistently lacking appropriate fine motor skills because of more ‘swiping.’ This is our fault.
I dare us all to take tech breaks and screen-time hiatuses with your family this summer. I dare us all to take the phones away at meal times and ignore the whining and complaining (and send them to their room if they don’t like it). I dare us to take our toddlers to a restaurant and not immediately throw a YouTube video at them. (Don’t tell me it’s hard — I relentlessly avoided all screens at mealtime with two kids under the age of 2… in public… by myself. You can do it too.)
As for me? 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 ER surgeon waiting to hear when you’re supposed to head in to operate on the tragic emergency that just happened or a breaking news reporter trying to get the latest details on the local break-in. Be vigilant.
Our kids crave guidance for how to be decent, responsible and in-control of their lives… tech usage included. How we manage it, and teach them how to manage it, is on us. Let’s not mess it up.
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