Kids and Screens: It’s Time to Pay Attention

I’ve thought a lot about how to write this post. Technology is plentiful in our house.  My husband is in computers for work and well, we just love our phones, tablets, etc.  You name it and we’ve either got it or we’ve tried it.   When I say we, I mostly mean my husband, but I like it too.  Our kids were born to like it. It’s in their blood as the next generation of kids. Like many generations that are the first to face new innovations that their parents and grandparents never faced, our kids are facing technology.  They’re basically born with a cell phone in hand.  My 16 month old knows that when you pick up a phone you hold it up to your ear to talk.  That’s actually an ancient action to them, but I honestly don’t know how he learned that because I rarely talk on the phone.  He gets it though.  He can’t talk, but the phone he gets.

So, we all know that.  We are all aware that kids are using iPads in kindergarten, we all know that most kids have cell phones at like 10 years old, and that they know more than their parents know about any given piece of technology before they’re even born.  We also all know that there are opposing views on kids with technology.  They should use it, they shouldn’t use it, parents should balance it, etc.  I don’t care about any of that.  Use it or don’t use it isn’t really any of my business and I’m not about to pass judgement on anyone that chooses one or the other. The most important question I have come to ask myself is when is it appropriate for these technologies to go from mom’s and dad’s to play with after good behavior (or when mommy needs a shower), and when these technologies belong to the child.

There are about 5 really good reasons why I think my 3 1/2 year old should have his own tablet and most of them have to do with occupying him when times get tough for me, but none of them trump two of the most important reasons why he should not. I know some day when our blog becomes popular my in-laws will read this post. Maybe they already are, but we were faced with a very generous gift this 2014 Christmas. A tablet for our 3 1/2 year old. It wasn’t specifically a Christmas gift, but it just so happened to be the same time of year. It was a very difficult concept for me to grasp, but I was not ready to face this technology beast so early in life and I had a difficult time explaining why.  I mean, we’re still trying to work out not wetting the bed during sleep time. MY decision was NO, absolutely NO and here’s why:

Reason No. 1: Kids are Assholes

To be frank, kids are assholes.  We’ve all seen the funny articles on Facebook and Pinterest, the quizzes you can take that determine whether or not your child is an asshole for life or just at 3.   As funny as it all sounds, and with the loving way we all think it in our darkest thoughts in that part of our mind only reserved for how much we hate our husband’s cooking, but eat it because…well, he cooked; it’s true and real. All the things we give our kids now does affect them later. I look at kids now graduating from college that expect to be given high paying jobs and expect to free load off their parents until they’re making $100,000 a year and I wonder how they got like that.  How does anyone expect to be given a great job just by simply finishing college? You’re not a genius just because you graduated from college, you’re an asshole because you think it gives you some kind of free pass to the top. The thing about this is that you won’t be very successful teaching your kids to work hard if you start their junior year in high school.  The younger they are when you teach them to work hard for the things they want, the more it becomes part of life and the only way.  My son isn’t even old enough to know where technology babies come from.  He has no clue that you can buy them at Costco.  He thinks that’s just where we buy coffee and diapers. If you asked him where mommy’s iPad came from he’d probably say Santa.  He works hard for the treats that he gets.  He goes potty, he eats his dinner, he listens to mommy and daddy and when those things don’t happen then there are no treats. That’s age appropriate.  Work always comes first.  Teaching kids to find a way to work hard and be creative to get the things they want is how you have kids that start their own companies, graduate college and understand that their first job may be in a cubicle, and that the first place they live may be a crummy studio apartment.

Reason No 2: Me

Lets take bickering children or whining for instance.  Two things that drive moms into a crazy place only seen by their closest friends on a night of white wine and boyfriend troubles.  It’s the worst moment of the day. It’s pretty easy to just drop the phone on the middle of the kitchen floor isn’t it?  It’s not like I haven’t done it; we all make mistakes, but allowing my children to bicker is how they learn. I’m not saying all bickering is good, and teasing certainly isn’t ok, but letting them argue over a toy until they come to some kind of conclusion about how to both use it is very healthy and important.  Some things are worth making easier on ourselves like an uninterrupted shower or silence in the final 30 minutes of a 4 hour car ride. There is a time and a place for easy moments though. We have to teach our kids how to be respectful human beings and sometimes that means bickering, tantrums because we say no, and not allowing them to have everything under the sun the second they request it. I rarely buy my kids stuff when we go to the store. Every trip out of the house is not a shopping spree for my kids. I’m not going to say there haven’t been at least 10 Target tantrums over toys, but my point is that I don’t buy it.  My oldest has learned that now. Sometimes it’s a rough road because kids will fight for anything simply because you say no, but it’s a slippery slope.  It’s so easy to do things in the moment to benefit yourself or someone else without worrying about the consequences, but one thing leads to another and soon you’re both sitting on opposite ends of the couch looking at your device of choice during the short amount of time you have every day to be together.

Kids are getting their own devices so much younger now.  Parents want to see their kids faces light up at the sight of that new device, they want to be their kid’s friend and be “cool”, or they just want them to have what everyone else has. I think it’s harming the family dynamic and additionally teaching children that they can have anything they want, they deserve it, and they’re on an equal playing field with adults. In case nobody has realized, this stuff is expensive and last time I checked my kid didn’t have a job.

Whew, that’s a mouth full of non-funny information. These things have to be said though and parents have to start paying attention!