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TBeing a child or teen in this generation obviously means something different than it used to when I was growing up (80’s rule!). There is a whole entirely new element when it comes to raising children in this generation.
One in which we all are completely unfamiliar with because we didn’t grow up with the use of technology at our fingertips literally everywhere we turn. It is amazing to think that the youth today do not know a world that doesn’t revolve around the internet. This is a HUGE development in a short amount of time.
Where’s the handbook
How are we supposed to know how to raise kids in this new world of technology when we are still growing accustomed to it ourselves? This is something I keep asking myself. After all how can we figure out a guideline for this when there has never had to be one?
It seems that we are clueless and ill equipped on this matter. Our youth are exposed to subjects and images on the internet that their brains are not developmentally able to process…..half the time neither is mine. Things on the internet cannot be unseen and it leaves a detrimental lasting impression.
Unfortunately, our family had to find this out the hard way. At the age of 8 my son was begging me for an iPod. He said there were a lot of kids at school that had them and got to use them to play music and games at lunch. I was hesitant. That in between age is hard because they are starting to grow out of wanting toys. For lack of better gift ideas, as well as trying to embrace the generational gap, I thought maybe this was an okay starting point.
A Bad Decision
Wow was I wrong! Within the first year my eyes got opened to so many things. There were so many situations and problems that arose. At first, I was naive to the fact of what all you can access on an iPod with free access to WIFI. Even with all the parental controls set my son seemed to already know a way around any obstacle set in his way.
It soon become the only thing in his entire life he was interested in. Staring at this little device day in and day out. YouTube videos, internet searches, apps. I could supervise him as long as I was always with him, staring at the screen. It got taken away so many times for weeks at a time. Every time I did this my normal sweet son would emerge and be a participant in life again. I loved it!
It just keeps going and going
Fast Forward through the years and we felt pressured for him to have the newest Xbox. He convinced us that he really needed one because what would all the kids do when he had sleepovers. After all, all of his friends had this stuff and more and we would be the “lame” house without it.
Which, from what I could see everyone else really did have all the new tech gadgets.
Where was the moral integrity? Why weren’t any of the other parents having issues with this?
Trying to find my own voice in this
My whole life’s theme has kinda been not to make waves, I have always been the type to go along with whatever, as long as the focus isn’t on me. (Introvert issues)
However, being a parent makes you learn real quick that obviously it isn’t about you anymore and that method no longer works.
When you live in a small town there is always an extreme case of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, sadly I was no different. I didn’t see anybody taking a stand against this and I didn’t want to have that guilt of my son not getting to participate with his friends because I was too strict. Looking back, I feel so saddened that I got sucked into this theory.
After the XBOX came the need for a phone. We were doing away with our home phone, which is extremely common these days and I had to have a way to communicate with him when he would be home alone after school.
I had smartened up a little by this time and went with a flip phone, HA! He won’t wanna look at the internet on that tiny thing. Better yet turn off the data to it. After two different flip phones and a slide phone all in which the sound mysteriously went out on all three, he landed himself a smart phone. I could not seem to find an alternative way at that time. I was not happy and felt my hands were tied. Data still off, and I would even go as far as taking the WIFI modem with me so no internet access when he would be home alone after school.
Still looking for that handbook….
Little did I realize at the time that school was actually allowing free WIFI access, told ya we lived in a small town. He could go to school and have a field day! I was outraged! Nobody, really no other parent had issues with this? Why didn’t anyone care about the things their children could access? Was it just better to not think about it and everyone just turned a blind eye?
I understand, I have one of those tech geeky kids that his one interest in the whole world is computers, gaming and technology. I know that makes the situation even harder. Despite my many many efforts to get him involved in sports, church, camp, art, band, anything basically was to no avail. It is just not who he is and counseling has helped us both see some things and embrace what we can.
This became such a huge problem. He would sneak his phone in the middle of the night. We found the urgency and disobedience to come from an app called Amino. He apparently joined to put his animations and art work on there and ended up down a cesspool of boards following depressed teens, sexually confused teens, older teens that liked to post pictures of their body parts and role play. I was shocked! I could barely process all of this, what was his young mind thinking about it?
He was 12! After a sit down and a long talk it seemed that he didn’t even understand half of the things these older teens and adults were saying or what they meant. I was shook to my core and felt extremely responsible for this downward spiral and all I knew is I had to fix it! I mean we have went to church since he was 3, he read his devotional and prayed every night. He even got baptized over the summer. Where did I go wrong? How could he do this!
That’s It! We need to call in the Pro’s
Two counselors later and lots and lots of talks about safety and how people, including himself, should conduct themselves on the internet and I still feel like we weren’t getting anywhere. I mean we had the safety talk lots before but it just wasn’t sinking in. I was informed that I needed to not have an emotional reaction….really…really?! I was told to stay calm and always emphasize what was not allowed in our home and then issue the consequences and STAY CONSISTENT WITH THE RULES, no matter how many times this may happen.
My kiddo was and is an introvert, unfortunately just like his momma. I tried to listen and understand him when he told me that these people on the internet made him feel important, listened to him and cared about what he was doing. My heart was breaking for him because he was feeling alone. Despite how much I was there for him this was a hole only his peers could fill.
This has been an ongoing struggle and he spent almost a complete year when he was 13 without a phone. He would talk about sitting at lunch and feeling like the only person there not starring at a screen and how lonely it would feel. My heart ached for him but at the same time there was no other way I saw to navigate around this whole situation. He had a major issue and broke major trust and I just couldn’t allow it to happen again.
Bottom line, in retrospect I would have done it all differently. We would have delayed the screens and access to the internet as long as we could have even if it did make our family look out of touch with the world. The things my kiddo came across changed him and confused him.
AND this is with me actively monitoring the situation the best I could and I still failed miserable because I really just did not know what I was up against!
I truly feel like this is not the right way. I should have trusted my gut instinct.
Now I’m Ranting
Sometimes when I go in restaurants and see toddlers holding phones and tablets with a game or show on to keep them happy and quiet. I understand the ease of access. It works for that moment but at what cost?
Instant gratification is ruining our children. Studies have proven that they are lacking coping and social skills, patience, demonstrate a false sense of entitlement, and poor academic function. The list could go on and on.
Why isn’t anyone doing anything? Are we just too dumbfounded by this new generation and lack the skills ourselves of what it is like to grow up with the world wide web at our fingertips? I vow to never give my toddler a phone or tablet until she married….ha-ha or somewhere around there. I am careful now not to let her see me on mine or let her use it for entertainment.
I have spent a lot of time reading articles, going to counselling, and during my desperate attempts I even went to the theater to see Kirk Cameron’s Connect movie. Sitting in that dark theater taking notes, it was good to finally feel like there are other adults that have zeroed in on this epidemic. This movie is definitely worth the watch! We have to wake up! These kids are literally our future. We have to stand strong and not be afraid to say no.
Some of the most important rules in our house:
- All devices or gaming remotes get locked up at night
- No screens past 7 pm
- No phone at any meal
- Phone or iPod not allowed in his room
- Door stays open when tv is on for anything: gaming, YouTube, shows, movies, ect.
- When his friends are over same rules apply
Starting to see the Light
Now that my son has matured a little more, I find he has grown to accept the phone and internet rules better than what he used to. He can trust me to be consistent with the rules and I can trust him to not break them.
Yes, it is a FULL TIME JOB keeping up with it all. I have an advantage with me being a stay at home parent I have time to focus on him and what is going on. One of the many many reasons I adore being “My kid’s mom” as Dr. Laura would say. They are an investment I take seriously, and I am very blessed to be part of their everyday lives.
However, I can totally see how parents that work full-time are overloaded and have to pick their battles and it is hard to stay consistent. We all need a support system and help implementing this stuff, it is just too important not to.
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