Parents: we have a problem. Technology is changing our kids.
Of course we know this. Extensive research is conducted. Long-range studies are published. But recently, I witnessed the impact on my own family firsthand. Please realize this is not some comprehensive or organized experiment. It is simply real life – my life – and to be honest, the outcome would vary based on individual situations. But I will say this:
My son has changed. For the better. And it is all because we took his phone away.
Our kid is a good kid. He is smart, kind, hardworking, shy, witty, and an incredible blessing. But at the beginning of February, something occurred in our family that led to a revamp of rules for our son. Access to technology is a privilege not a right in our household which means he has to earn the ability to have and use. And while the trigger for this decision is not important, the results are.
WHAT WE DID:
- NO PHONE. Not at school. Not at home. Not anywhere. No calls, texts, internet, music, gaming. Nothing. He does not have access.
- NO COMPUTER. He must use a chromebook for school, but he is limited to homework and assigned internet searches.
- NO EMAIL. Personal email has been blocked, and school email must be related to assignments.
WHAT WE NOTICED:
- more conversation
- more interaction
- more connection
- more focus
- more patience
- more consideration
- more creativity
- more inspiration
- more laughter
- more joy
- more peace
- more love
Our son has always been amazing, but now he is like a different kid. There is less arguing and mood swings. He plays outside more. Free time is spent reading and writing. If he wants to talk to someone, he must do it in person. If he wants to learn about something, he needs to ask. We have never allowed social media apps but perhaps just the pressure of texting, emailing, and being in the know was too much.
Like many teens, he was addicted. But I also think he was fearful. Of not being cool. Of not keeping up. Of missing out.
These rules might seem harsh but they were necessary for our end goal: a reset. And though there was reluctance by our son, they were agreed upon as a family. It has now been one month, and we are planning to reinstate phone privileges slowly and with time limits. [Note: It would be unfair to abruptly change the rules for a child without thought, discussion, or a valid reason. But if the opportunity arises to make a meaningful change as a way to guide or teach a lesson, take it.]
We are not perfect parents. We are ever-learning. But this experience has taught us to disconnect so we can reconnect.
With the horrors of recent current events, it might feel harder than ever to parent, especially teenagers. But when the outside world begins to overwhelm our children that is a sign for us to take charge of what is happening on their inside. We must not be afraid to follow instincts, make tough decisions, and say no when everyone else seems to be saying yes.
Our kids can do without and survive, but we must take the initiative. More importantly, we need to lead by example – that means logging off more and going screen free as well. There is much to be found online but in the end, the best of life is lived offline.
We have the power to power off.
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash