I laid awake this morning at 5:30 a.m. thinking about ways to limit our youngest child’s technology usage. This is not a new line of thinking or personal anxiety, and usually I feel we have it under control, having tried various ways to limit his time online. But, since it is nearing the end of Christmas break and there has been a fair amount of “down time”, I have felt overuse of technology creeping up on him again.
Both of our other sons have seemed to escape the grasp of being constantly connected. One, in graduate school, most probably does not have time (nor desire) to be “online” socially. His life is full with the business of living. My senior in high school has “shunned” social media for the most part, using it mainly to contact friends to set up actual face to face activities, check his work schedule, listen to customized music, complete college applications and scholarships, and search for STEM projects and/or contests that he can pursue. A couple of years ago, he asked me not to post things about him or photos of him. I try very hard to be respectful of his desire. Through our conversations, I realize that both recognize the good and bad of online communication.
My youngest, now 16, loves technology. He listens to music, searches for copyright free photographs that he can use to complete drawings of his own, spends time watching online videos (YouTube), and enjoys snap-chatting with his friends. But, the hours add up. And, it is hours. I get to the point where it seriously annoys me and makes me search for ways of further limiting his usage. Although, we do already have some rules in place.
We have a rule that there are no phones in the bedroom at nighttime. He readily adheres to this rule, without any reminders from us. By 10:30, or a little later like 11:00 p.m. if there is no school, his phone is placed on the kitchen counter to charge. He does not ask to have the phone in his room and does not need any reminders to place it in the kitchen. I know this is a win. However, it is the constant need during the day to be checking notifications and/or messages from his friends that annoys me. His time needs to be better spent. And then, on the other hand, sometimes, it is – like two days ago when he spent the better part of an entire day drawing a portrait of two sisters that are both friends of his from school. Music was playing, but his hands were too busy drawing to be snapping everyone and anyone else.
When school is in session, the phone is supposed to be placed in the kitchen while homework is done. He usually complies with this but sometimes needs reminding. In all honesty, with google classrooms, online study groups, and a digital grade book, schools are actually reinforcing the use and/or dependency on technology in our youth. However, I believe that the responsibility for limiting technology use in our youth falls squarely on the shoulders of today’s parents. Unfortunately, it is a large and constant burden that probably goes ignored by the majority of families.
We do not allow phones to be out at the dinner table. Breakfast and lunch are harder to control as in many instances we are eating at different times. No one asks to use their phone during dinner; they know the answer is no. So, I take this as another win.
But today I asked my youngest to limit his time online – including everything that requires technology, even his music. I asked that he be on no more than an hour before noon. Now the day is roughly half over. He has done alright, but still needed a reminder to get off of Amazon on which he was shopping. He did not argue with my request to limit his time, but I do think he barely realizes how much time is being wasted by texting friends, waiting for them to reply, and searching for things online.
Right now he is off to the YMCA to play some pick up basketball with friends. This is a relatively new activity that we will continue to encourage. After all, he is with actual people playing a traditional game and gaining some physical fitness from the activity. Our sophomore is between seasons right now, being a fall soccer team member and spring track and field runner. Once the sports seasons are underway, and his “free” time is more limited, he does use his time well – it goes towards studying and drawing for the most part.
Look, I know as a parent our children are growing up in a different world. The phone rarely rings – a text is sent instead. Plans are made via the technology. Social customs such as flirting occur now with a click of the button. But still, we as parents, are in charge of guiding our youth towards being productive and involved community members with skills that involve actual human interaction.
In the light of day, I know we are doing alright with the limits we place on technology in our house. Could it be better? Yes, of course. But, we do have good kids. Could it be worse? Absolutely. I will take my small wins. I will continue to observe and limit the technology use in our home. Good luck with your own limit setting, as you can tell, I hope there is at least some!