According to my 4th grader, we are the only parents who don't let their kids have their own phones, iTouches or tablets. When he asks why, my answer is constant:
"I love you too much to give you one."
I am not opposed to phones for conversation, but I despise them as tools of mindless occupation, dangerous gateways, confidence breakers, and accidental (or intentional) bullying.
Kids everywhere are experiencing life with their heads down. They are missing the best parts of living while locked into a screen. I would hate for my boys to know the inner workings of their cyber world and miss the wonder and beauty of the physical world.
We have long Saturdays with endless games and countless errands to run. It would be infinitely easier for me to stick a device in each child's hand and let them zone, leaving me in peace. But then they would miss cheering for each other, finding bugs with their toddler brother, fighting and learning to resolve conflict, driving me absolutely crazy, making new friends on the sidelines, eating old popcorn under the bleachers, getting too hot to wear a sweatshirt, crossing the monkey bars, learning about the cost of food and healthy choices, and being introduced to 90's rock.
They miss childhood! Is a little peace and quiet for me enough to justify them losing out on these chances for growing relationships and real life goodness?
With electronics they often trade goodness for filth. Giving them a phone with Internet, Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat is as one friend declared, gifting "pocket porn." I am not naive to the places this junk can be accessed which is why we have regular conversations and open communication about what they see and hear in our home (yes, we have TV, computers, a gaming system and a tablet) or in other places that might make them feel uncomfortable.
While I know postponing personal electronic devices doesn't solve all problems, I am willing to battle this any way I possibly can. Keeping access to these types of moral traps limited is one way I choose to fight. My kids deserve time to grow and mature physically, emotionally and spiritually before they are confronted with images they cannot process, make sense of, question or discard. Raising boys who see women through eyes of respect and equality is incredibly important to me and it cannot happen with a mind steeped in pornography.
At 8, 9 and 11, my kids like who they are. They have good friends that are kind. They see themselves as interesting, smart and fun. I would hate that outlook to change because of their number of "followers" or "likes." I have no desire for my kids to see pictures of a party they weren't invited to or read snide comments about the braces they have to wear or wonder why more people didn't wish them a happy birthday.
Being young and innocent doesn't last long and surely this will change at some point, but I will not be the one responsible for hurrying it. I want them to be able to be their authentic self for as long as possible and enjoy a small sliver of time without worrying about constant social approval. It will happen soon enough, I understand that it will, but for now, I want them to put their energy into living their own life, not wishing they had someone else's.
When tweens and social media collide, strange things happen. Girls post pictures, asking for a rating on their hotness and boys publicize who is not hot. Kids SnapChat things we don't even like to think about and text harsh comments in the name of sarcasm and humor. I am more than happy to keep my boys away from this little microcosm. I'm hoping there will be a time when they are mature enough to shy away from hurtful games or brave enough to stop them, but while I can, I will "Let them be little."
My decision to stay away was cemented as I watched my kids partake in a little of the tween/phone/social thing over the holidays. With a borrowed phone there were lots of heads down, a little sneaking, some face timing with girls (what??), and insults thrown through texts. Needless to say, the phone was not available for long. And, what are they really missing out on? Looking cool? A chance at popularity? Bragging rights? In reality, I dare say, absolutely nothing.
Perhaps these devices are less harmful for girls or work okay for other boys, but for us, I'm holding tight. Kids have too much youthful potential to hurl it all into a video game or let it be whittled away by negative comments from so called "friends."
I want my boys to be conversant and interested in more than Clash of the Clans and FIFA. I'd like them to chat about real world problems and actually play soccer with their feet not just their fingers. I want them to read books, not status updates and pose for goofy pictures without worrying about who might see them.
And so my answer, for now, remains the same. Why didn't they all get phones for Christmas? Simply put, Because I love them too much.
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