Unplugging in the tech age.

Growing up now seems a lot more difficult than growing up in the 80s and 90s. And I wish my girls did not have to live in this digital age. I am so grateful that I didn’t have to. I can’t imagine how living in the instant gratification world of texting and hand held internet access would’ve done to shape me during those most influential years.

This digital world is f*ckin scary. My kids are 2 and under at the moment and I can’t stop thinking about these issues. And the scariest thing of all is that it is entirely relevant for me to think about this while my kids are so young.

  1. Privacy – How do you get your child to know how to stay private and safe even when you aren’t around? How to make sure there are no location tags in photos, no identifying signs, shirts, or logos in what they do post? Or what you post? Or what your friends (or their friends) post and tag you/them in?
  2. Just one mistake – Kids do dumb things. So do adults. How can you impress upon your kids the importance of thinking before they post? A picture, a comment or a share can haunt them for the rest of their days. How can you be sure that you haven’t posted posted something (that maybe you thought was cute or funny) but that will later become embarrassing for them?
  3. Having to say yes when you don’t want to – I’ve been a middle school teacher for five years and have had many parents speak with me about cell phones. And the ones that do are the ones that weren’t allowing their child to have them. And the result? Their child was suffering for their decision. They weren’t texting so they were no longer getting the invites, or their friends were losing touch. Their children was on the outside through no fault of their own. And the parents were struggling with this decision. And there really is no easy answer to the question they were asking me.
  4. Out of touch – Nothing is more depressing to me than to see parents and their tweens/teens out and everyone is glued to their phones. They could be at dinner, standing in line, grocery shopping – it doesn’t matter. And I know exactly who to blame. The parents. And I will be a sanctimonious asshole on this one. When we are out to dinner, the phones don’t come out. And if they do it’s because one of us was expecting an important text/call or we were looking something up. And if I’m going to grab my phone during a meal at a restaurant, I always ask, “Do you mind if I…”. Now, I’m not saying this to ask my husband’s permission. I’m saying this because I am letting him know that he and our girls are the most important thing to me. And I want to model the behavior that phone time should be absolutely minimal when you are with your family. We don’t have phones out at mealtimes at home, either. When we eat as a family, we eat as a family.
  5. Setting limits – I let my girls grab my phone/ipad off the couch and play with it. Can they do anything with it? No. They swipe at it with their fingers but they don’t know how to open anything. And I have no games or anything like that either. I don’t play them videos. I don’t let them sit in the shopping cart and watch tv on my phone. I talk to them. People look at me like I’m nuts because I’m naming colors in a fully conversational way to my 2-year old. But really, any chance I get for her to actually listen to ME is a good thing. I also talk to myself, but that is neither here nor there. And my goal is to continue to do this – and to not get them games, and not let them watch videos. Because I think then they will expect it. And I will have created little phone obsessed zombie monsters and that thought terrifies me. Can I do this? I hope to hell so. And I know that at some point they will want their own device. And I honestly have no idea what I will do at that time. But I am hoping that I can have the brain then that I have now, and set serious limits and parental controls. I deleted facebook off my phone just the other day as a way to stop myself from “just popping on.” And I’m an adult with a fully developed brain. How the hell can we expect some kids to have any type of control when from infancy they were given phones and ipads and tablets to play on?

My goal, really, is to model an appropriate level of technology use. I know that it’s not going to be easy because I too have been sucked in by instant gratification of news, of likes, of comments – of attention. Hey, it gets pretty lonely being the only adult in this house day after day! I’ve made so many positive connections through facebook, through my blogs and through my instagram feed. Sure, part of it is pure instant gratification. But that other part is knowing that someone sees you, that someone else understands, or that someone else is thinking about you in that moment. It does wonders for me when I’m feeling overwhelmed and frustrated with this stay at home mom thing, or with the money worry thing, or with the fitting into my jeans thing. I wouldn’t give it up, but I have taken steps to curtail it, especially when I am with my children. It’s a work in progress that’s for sure.

My phone is always nearby. Mostly because I take A LOT of pictures. I also keep it nearby because my husband calls me during his free period every day, and I want to make sure we can facetime together with the girls. We don’t have phones at mealtimes, and we try to avoid using them when we are together either playing games or watching tv, before bed.

Sidenote – How rude is it when you are out with someone, driving with someone or visiting with someone and all they do is text or play on their phone? It drives me nuts. It even drives me nuts to see waiting rooms full of people on their phones. You know what I do? I bring a book. Because it’s really the only chance I have to read is when I’m waiting for a doctor or dentist appointment!

We have also nixed all technology in the bedroom. We haven’t had a TV there in a couple years, but now there are no ipads and no phones in the bedroom. I was definitely nudged in this direction by an article about blue light and how it can affect your sleep patterns. Sometimes it takes me an hour to fall asleep, which is nuts because I am so exhausted all the time. But I have to say, even though it has only been a couple of weeks, the bedroom feels so much more relaxing to me. I’m waiting for a phone upgrade and then I can de-wifi my old one and use it as an alarm clock. There is something about an old school alarm clock that just doesn’t quite feel trustworthy enough to me.

I sure do wish sometimes that this technology didn’t exist. It is a blessing and it’s a curse. But I am hoping that I can keep limiting myself and can keep modeling restraint so that I don’t raise phone and social media obsessed kids. Or kids that ignore me in public because they are talking to their friends. And I know it won’t be easy. But at least I can try!

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