This week, my husband and I were at a breaking point with our children. At first we thought it was their electronic devices. Then we thought it was the early teen years. What we realized is that it's a combination of both. Teens + iPads and smart phones = Disrespect. So my husband did the unthinkable — and I agreed — and took away their devices.
My kids are going cold turkey on having to be present and without connection to the outside world. They, of course, are hating it. And they had questions like, "But what if I need to get ahold of you?" "How will you know where we are?" "What if something happens?" We live in a small town. There's nothing that goes on that I won't know about five minutes after it happens. The school administrative assistant said she'd call if there was an issue. They know where they are supposed to be when I pick them up from school at 3:15 p.m. and my office is walking distance from their school.
We live in an age of privilege. Sometimes it's good to parent like it's 1977 instead of 2017.
For 21st century American parents, we don't have a lot of leverage with the teen/tween set. We should however, have control over our own households. Here are some reasons to consider taking away their access to social media.
1. Remembering the Purpose of Technology
We originally got our son an iPad because he wanted to write and direct short films — and he has done that a couple of times — but he's spent way more time on social media and texting his girlfriend. Talk with kids about the purpose of the technology they have. Remind them it's about more than gaming and pop culture. It's also about gathering information. They seem to know how to add all sorts of gaming apps, but can't figure out how to get help with their foreign language learning. Sometimes it's good to remind them that technology is a tool for good as well as sloth. Taking technology away for awhile can help drive this home.
2. Social Media Overload
My daughter is currently suspicious of her classmates because of what they post regarding politics on social media. How can a kid function in school knowing what her friends and neighbors are saying on Facebook? Taking a breather from social media will make her dread going to school a lot less. It's important to take a break.
3. Manners and Etiquette
This summer, my dad and his wife had the kids alone for a few weeks. It didn't occur to me that when my kids got shy they'd retreat into their phones and tablets for comfort. My dad and his wife were hurt by their behavior. It was my fault in my haste to make sure they could get in contact with me that I let them out the door to self-monitor their time on the Internet. We see this everyday, right? Kids without manners not engaging in conversations staring at their phones. Kids need to know how to interact with adults — their future careers depend on it.
4. Finding a Replacement
Without technology, children are forced to play and create — which is what we all wanted them to do in the first place, right? Just like magic my daughter is going over to her sewing machine and my son is raking leaves, and they're spending time with their parents! No technology gives them the opportunity to learn new skills or revisit old interests.
5. You're Still the Boss
Too often, parents cave into their kids wants and demands and have no back bone regarding discipline. It's not easy to be your kid's enemy and everyone always wants to be liked. But it's important that they don't always get their way. It's important to teach them that the sun does not rise and set on them.
We aren't sure how long our experiment will last, but in the end, we hope to have kids who are reminded of how tech is a tool and not the end game. We hope they are politer and more actively involved in their world.