Ok that might sound a bit dramatic, but I get more and more worried about the impact of technology as time passes and my family is exposed to technology.
Buckle up! I’ve got a lot to say. This is an important topic that has been on my mind for a while. I know many parents struggle with how to use technology in their home… how much to allow their kids to use, how to monitor it and how to keep their kids safe and healthy despite all the technology around them. Everyone has thoughts on the impact of technology so I’d like to create a safe place to discuss them. So here we go.
TECHNOLOGY IS EVERYWHERE
I’m worried about the impact of technology because gradually, it is taking over the minds of my children.
Oh, it’s subtle and crafty. Just a little here and there. First they beg for a phone, then they ask for an Instagram account. They get added to a group text and then suddenly eyes glaze over as notifications bling out of control. Focus is shot and self-esteem is knocked down again and again.
So why in heaven’s name do we let our kids have cell phones??
I’ve written my thoughts on cell phones and the impact of technology as I see it on this blog more than a few times. Check out some of my top tech posts:
- How to Protect Kids and Teens from Technology
- 5 Tips for Training Kids to Use Technology
- The Tech-Wise Family Book Review
- Lesson on Technology — How to Unplug and Regulate Technology in Your Home
- Technology Contract for Teens and Kids
Technology is tricky. It keeps changing and my views keep changing, too. Rather than settling down and feeling like we’ve done our research and we’re good with what we’re doing, we need to stay vigilantly on top of how technology is affecting our kids.
WHAT AGE SHOULD KIDS GET A PHONE?
There was a moment in a family gathering a few years ago that I have thought about over and over. We were sitting at dinner with all of Dave’s adult siblings, many with older kids in college and younger kids that were all the same ages and all among the youngest in their families.
My younger sister-in-law Kara, from Life With Fingerprints, leaned over and asked: “All of you have told me to wait as long as possible to let my daughter have a cell phone. Yet each one of you, one by one, have let your kids have them. Why is that?”
I sat there wondering the same thing. What were we doing?? How did we get onto this slippery slope so dang quickly?
Now, I have to say choosing when to give our kids a cell phone was not just a spur of the moment decision. We did think long and hard about the optimal time for a child to have a cell phone. And the truth is, it was different for each child. Some families can set an age that kids get a phone and that works great for them… our experience was different.
WHEN WE’VE GIVEN KIDS PHONES IN OUR HOME
After handing those puppies over to our older kids, we did wait longer with some of our younger kids. Let me explain why!
- Max and Elle were born back when life was a bit easier. All they really knew about were flip phones until they were near the end of high school.
- We gave Grace a phone when she was still in elementary school for some crazy reason. I regretted it ever since. She turned out just fine, but we sort of “lost her” for a little while when we first handed over that phone.
- With Claire, we thought about the flip phone, it works well for some, but for us the cons outweighed the pros. She had an iPod Touch that was great for a while, but in the end, we wanted to be able to get in touch with that girl whenever we needed her. So, at age 13 we wrapped up Max’s old cell phone and gave it to her for Christmas along with our “family cell phone contract”. It was long after most of her friends were fully immersed in the cell phone world and she was determined it wouldn’t make her eyes glaze over like it did to some of theirs.
- Lucy is kind of a different story, too. We actually had to talk that girl into a phone as a sophomore in high school since it had some adaptive technology to help her with her dwindling eyesight. She could care less about any social media…unless solitaire counts;)
5 CONCERNS ABOUT THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY
For each of our kids we felt it was important to train them how to use a cell phone in a world that is overflowing with them. Cell phones are not going away anytime soon. We’ve watched as the apps and social media on them inch their way into everyday life. I sometimes second-guess the decisions we made giving our kids access to tech so early. It wasn’t that our kids did anything wrong. They were actually quite responsible and great with their phones. But having a phone is a big responsibility.
Today I’m sharing some of the biggest reasons I think technology is ruining our kids. But these concerns apply to our youth, as well as adults, anyone with cell phones for that matter!
Having a Cell Phone Makes Kids Grow Up Too Fast
Once my kids got their phones, they were exposed to more adult conversations and had to make more adult decisions. Suddenly they had group texts with friends saying things a sixteen-year-old would say. There is no way to monitor everything that happens on their phone. It’s a huge job for a parent. Their phone allows them to see and follow so many older kids that they morph into them too early in my opinion.
Social Media Knocks Down Self-Esteem
Let’s talk about social media. The impact of technology on kids seen from social media is probably the most obvious. The next step once a child has a phone is social media. It’s not new news that it affects self-esteem, of course, but it’s scary. Social media is a comparison trap. There are some kids who can handle it. They couldn’t care less what other kids are doing or how perfect someone else’s make-up or abs are. But I think that’s very rare.
Everyone knows everything about everyone else. For example, I took Claire and a few of her friends to an art museum shortly after she got a phone (as many as would fit into our car), and as we were pulling out of the driveway the girls started getting texts from other girls saying things like, “well, thanks for the invite!” News flies. And everyone feels left out whether it was intentional or not.
I studied an article my friend sent me about how Smartphones Have Destroyed a Generation. It has statistics and stories about how social media knocks kids down, especially girls. It says “Boys tend to bully one another physically, while girls are more likely to do so undermining a victim’s social status or relationships. Social media gives middle- and high-school girls a platform on which to carry out the style of aggression they favor, ostracizing and excluding other girls around the clock.”
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
This is new territory for us. There was no such thing as texting when I grew up. No notifications or “likes” blinking up at me from the palm of my hand. I had no idea what my friends were doing when I wasn’t with them, unless I was standing tethered to the mounted-on-the-wall-phone by an extra-long cord. I would twirl in and out of that cord when I was talking to them on the phone. Or try to hide, stretching that phone cord as far as it would possibly go, if I happened to be talking to a boy. 🙂
Because it’s new territory we don’t know what the impact of technology will be on the next generation, nor do we really know how to “parent” it. I’ve noticed the negatives starting to come into play as these kids deal with the comparison trap. I’m worried about their focus. Even more, I’m worried about their self-esteem. I’m worried how it affects their school work. On top of all that, I don’t have enough time to monitor everything, it’s just not realistic. It’s not that I don’t trust them, but in this world of ours I think parents have a responsibility to do at least a little monitoring.
There’s something just not right about this next generation of kids with cell phones. I think we’re all just sinking into it without fully realizing what’s happening.
Phones are Taking Control
My brother-in-law sent an article not too long ago that intrigued me titled “Our Minds have been Hijacked by our Phones”. In an interview with former Google project manager Tristan Harris, he states “Tech industry uses design techniques to keep people hooked to the screen for as long and as frequently as possible. Not because they’re evil but because of this arms race for attention… everyone is competing for attention. The way you win is getting someone’s attention. And then again tomorrow. And then the next day.”
It’s really kind of scary. Not only for our kids, but for us. In the interview Harris related that on average people check their phones 150 times a day. What are we doing? There are so many better things that we can be doing with our time.
Tristan Harris says, “Technology steers what 2 billion people are thinking and believing every day. It’s possibly the largest source of influence over 2 billion people’s thoughts that has ever been created. Religions and governments don’t have that much influence over people’s daily thoughts.
As a kid, Tristan loved to do magic tricks. To him they were the ultimate act of persuasion, making the mind skip over things, having the ability to do things to people’s minds in a way that they wouldn’t even see what is happening. He likens this to the technology world. It is persuading our kids to be and do things they normally wouldn’t. The impact of technology is huge.
Technology Takes Us Away from Real Interaction…
With friends, with strangers, our families, and with God.
I was talking to my neighbor recently about how social media can hurt our spirituality. He talked about how when he was on social media he would say his prayers, roll into bed and scroll. How can you get guidance and direction from Heaven that way? Can you leave that connection open when you’re so distracted? And in the morning, since he uses his phone as an alarm, the first thing he did was check the news, check social media and emails. Once he realized this was hindering his connection with God, he finally decided to turn everything off.
Answers to life’s questions cannot be found when so much distraction takes us away from listening, and connecting, and making us whole.
This talk “How to Live an Abundant Life,” makes you stop and think about the best use of your time and the relationships you have. How can we make relationships stronger when we’re so distracted by our phones? I was talking to a few different groups of girls at an activity at church last night. We were working on setting goals. Every single one of them said one of the things they wanted to improve was turning off their phones more. They wanted to have better relationships with their siblings and parents. In general, they want to be kinder and more thoughtful. They all claimed cell phones were taking them away from that connection.
THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON KIDS, TEENS, AND ADULTS
We’re crazy if we think our kids are the only ones suffering from lack of focus because of these mini computers in our back pockets. I am a horrible example at times. I’ll check my phone at stop lights, at bedtime, while making dinner, and when the kids get home. One thing that helps is I’ve started to put it away in a different room and walk away.
I’ve been trying so hard to listen to “nudges” and I’ve been nudged over and over to find some kind of solution. I can’t just sit by and watch my family drift bit by bit into la-la land. That is not what life is supposed to be like.
So why not just get rid of phones and the tech that’s taking over our lives? Good question! Believe me, I’ve thought about that a lot. I’ve thought about how I can’t expect my kids to calm down on all the social media stuff if I can’t get along without it myself. There was a time when I was convinced that I needed to get rid of everything. My wise husband thought otherwise. He offered the thought that maybe we work on limiting usage first. Self-control. Self-discipline was our motto for the year after all. But are kids capable of that? Are adults even capable of that? I’m not sure.
But we’re willing to try.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY
I want to make it clear that I know there are so many GOOD things about technology, despite all the cons. It provides the ability to connect in different ways and spread light and goodness to so many. This blog runs on technology for crying out loud. I’m so grateful to have a journal and a record of our family, as well as a way to connect with others who help me see the big picture. I learn so much from others through this blog. But sometimes I wonder, is my blog taking me away from my family too much? Is it taking others away from theirs? How do we find balance?
It’s great to be able to get a hold of people when we want to, it’s great to be able to get a great recipe or learn something new, ask Siri a question and to learn from all the wonderful ideas swirling around in Cyberspace. There is never-ending goodness out there, but sometimes even the good things can become the bad things if they take away our concentration from what will really give us “the abundant life.”
How To Find Balance With Technology
As a family, we recently pulled out Lucy’s little IKEA whiteboard and I had Grace list two columns: one filled with “pros” of cell phones, the other filled with “cons.”
I loved that these girls saw exactly what I did — they saw the problems. My girls recognized that phones take away their focus. They know that they make them feel bad sometimes. We had a really good talk about how we’re going to work on “self-regulation” for now to see how that helps. We are in the very beginning phases of figuring this thing out, and we have a lot of work to do, but we’re going to conscientiously work on it together to see what we can come up with.
One thing that hit me was that during our meeting Claire mentioned how glad she is that we have a cell phone contract, and that she has to leave her phone plugged in the kitchen at night. She said she was just talking to a friend who told her she will lay in bed with her phone and scroll and be mesmerized for FOUR hours at night. That right there made me sick to my stomach. Yes, cell phones are hijacking our minds.
How Do You Limit The Use of Technology?
As of right now, our family has realized that a continual dialog is necessary. We haven’t found one right answer and probably never will. As we finished discussing how we would regulate our usage better, Claire went right ahead and took off her Instagram account for three days to see if it made a difference. She was so happy that it did…she claimed she loved it, and then put it back on, with an effort to “be careful.” We’ll see how that works… I have made an effort to only check Instagram every few days and look up into the eyes of my family more often. Dave and Grace made their own goals. We’ll see how this all works… but I have a feeling there will be more “parts” to this post in the future with more thoughts and worries and hopefully triumphs as well.
Technology will keep changing, as will we, but if we can continue to make tweaks and keep each other in check I know that will help. Take breaks from apps when you need to, set time limits on your phone, educate and train yourself and your kids and check out even more ideas for how to protect your kids and teens from technology.
So I’ll leave this post with a question: What do you (and your family) do to limit and control cell phone usage? I know there are so many thoughts about the impact of technology and the pros and cons of cell phones and I’d love to hear them. Do you recognize the impact of technology in your home and your lives?
More Tips for Helping Families
I share so many tips that I feel will help on the journey of motherhood! Here are a few more of my favorites that you should check out.
- Money is another one of those concepts that I feel parents have a responsibility to teach their kids to be successful as an adult — Check out A Money System That Works for some ideas.
- We all want to have a bit more love in our home. Here are 10 Ideas to Foster Sibling Relationships.
- A great way to connect with your kids and build them up is the Fingertip Talents tradition that we have in our home. Try this with your kids