A Facebook friend alerted me to an article on the Washington Post that has resonated with me in every fiber of my being. “Parenting as a Gen Xer: We’re the first generation of parents in the age of iEverything.”
I was born on the cusp of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. I remember the days in college of wrapping rubber bands around the punch cards you inserted into the computer. Then, just a few years later, I purchased my first “home” computer shortly after graduation.
I have three children. A 21 year old daughter and 10 and 11 year old sons. And that 10 year difference might as well be 3 generations of technology users. When we finally let our daughter have a cell phone, that’s all it was. A cellphone. You called people with it.
Now? It’s a phone, a mailbox, an urban dictionary, an internet surfer, a radio, a photo album, a camera, a video recorder. It connects you to your parents, your siblings, your family, your friends, your friend’s friends, and every other sick-o stranger on the planet.
How do you teach “Stranger Danger” and stay current with all the tricks that twist and turn by the minute?
One answer: You can’t.
My sons, especially Mr. 11-year-old, have been begging for a phone. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not necessary. I drive them everywhere they need to be. We still have an old-fashioned land line phone at home.
But if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m scared to death to break down and let them have a phone. It’s one less screen in front of their faces. It’s one less screen I have to worry about breaking. And it’s one less screen that’s going to take their precious innocence.
We have limited screen time. Weekends = 3 hours each day. Weekdays = unlimited. Well, that’s what we tell them – so they think they’re getting away with something. But between school, swim practice, baseball, Kung-Fu and Boy Scouts it works out to about 1.5 hours a day.
We have “Unplugged” days when no screens of any kind are allowed. We recently took an unplugged 4 day vacation to the mountains. Just fishing and hiking and board games and card games . Campfires and mosquitoes and skipping rocks. Books with real pages and that intoxicating “new book” smell.
It was heaven.
Like the author of the Washington Post article, I just can’t outright ban the screen time. It’s oh-so-necessary in this day and age. They need to be connected and savvy. On the other hand, I worry about what it is doing to their social skills. Will they develop a Dowager’s hump, hovering over their Kindles and iPads? And who ARE they talking to on xbox-Live?
This is truly a rickety-tricky age in which to live. Oh, sure. I know that every generation has its struggles. But this is one arena where we don’t have a role model to guide us. It’s trial and error. And with cyber-bullying and sexual predators, it’s an error that can be devastating.
And you struggle.
And our kids hate us for keeping them from their precious screens.
But that’s just how it’s going to have to be.