We are the pioneers

Full disclosure: Back in 2016, both Shep and Maj had their own ipads and without even realizing it, they were on them way too much. When I tried to tell them their time was up, Shep would lose.his.mind. Like an addict. It was creating so much negativity in our home. Mainly from the struggle of trying to get them to put them down. 
One day my mom sent me an article that shook me and that very next day I took their ipads away cold turkey. The change was immediate. I actually think my kids were relieved. They entertained themselves better, they behaved better, they played better. Over 3 years later and we have never gotten the ipads back out. I'm honestly not sure where they are. Shep and Maj do occasionally get on our phones, but we only have approved apps they can get on, mainly little learning games. But honestly I don't think even that is ok, but I want to be honest here. I'm writing this, but I'm also working on it.

The thing is, you don't know what you don't know until you know it. Handing Shepherd a phone to look at a video while I change his diaper, whats the harm in that? He won't stay still, I need to change his diaper. There's a sale on iPads, wow that's a great deal, lets get one for the boys. I wish I knew what I know now, I wish I had the same thought process in 2012.

Right now, parents right now. We are the pioneers. We are the first parents to have to navigate the world of smart phones, of social media, of unfiltered access to the entire world at our fingertips. We have to figure this out.
I've been thinking about this so much for months on end. I've read so much, opinion pieces, research, just educating myself. Guys, its a crazy world. I would much rather raise my kids in the days when they could go ride their bikes and come home when the streetlights came on.
THIS WHOLE WORLD IS WALKING AROUND LIKE ZOMBIES, and the sad thing is its starting as soon as kids can hold onto a phone! GUYS!

I pick up Shep from school, and the middle school kids are walking around, staring down at their phones. My friend teaches middle school and she said she can't get them to pay attention because they're watching YouTube under the desk. I can't.

 I'm a big believer in practicing what you preach. I cold turkey quit Instagram and Facebook for 3 months in 2018, and while I did come back to it, it changed the way I approach social media. I can't go on about this, then spend my time scrolling like a mindless zombie. I unfollowed pretty much anyone I don't know in real life, I don't follow "influencers" and the people I still follow that I know in real life, I "muted" so I have the option to look a them still, but don't just scroll them. Its still hard. If I let myself, I could just scroll social media all day because its entertaining.

I feel like I'm fighting against the strongest current. Its everywhere. Its so hard. Sometimes I think the only way to beat the game is to get out of it.

I feel like what is good for you, is almost never easy. And what is easy is almost never good for you. 

We're a few years away from this with our kids, but I want to talk about social media. I do hope that by the time my kids are old enough, maybe social media will have changed. Gotten better? Probably not, but I can pray. I saw this and I think this is true.

Social media wasn't a thing until I was an adult. Facebook started when I was a freshman in college, and it was very different back then. Instagram didn't come about until I was married. Can you imagine going through middle school with Instagram? With Snapchat? With screenshots and Airdrop? With unfiltered access to the internet? With all the other things kids today are exposed to that I don't even know about because I'm old. I genuinely don't think I'd be the same person.

I don't want to send my sons out into this world. I want to go off the grid. I can't send my boys into a world, where porn is becoming acceptable for kids. Oh sure, parents recoil in horror at that thought, but they are still giving their kids smartphones. Even if I don't give them to my kids, they have access to the same things because their friends will have smart phones. I can't send my daughter out into the world where she'll be asked to take nude picture of herself to send to boy (CHILDREN!). I can't do it. I want to do something about it, so I'm starting with this conversation. 

I have so many thoughts on this that I have a hard time editing them down. So this may come out jumbled and in eloquent, but I'm posting it anyway because we have to talk about it. I realize words like "porn" and "school shootings" are polarizing and sound extreme. They aren't. This is what is happening. And as adults if we are uncomfortable with something, why in the world would we leave our kids to deal with it and figure it out on their own?
As a parent, Joey and I have committed to our kids to being open and honest and not awkward. No matter the question, we will answer it honestly. The more embarrassing the better. Get it from me and not your friends or google. Please ask me. In our house we don't want anything to be a "conversation." We won't be having The Talk with our kids. It will be an ongoing open and honest conversation. I want our kids to know they can ask us anything. Even now, if they ask, I tell them the honest answer. Kids can tell if you're skirting around something. I obviously make the answer developmentally appropriate, but I answer it honestly. Shep asked me the other day how girls can tell they're pregnant. I said every month girls get something called a period and if they don't get it, they can take a pregnancy test and know if they're pregnant. I don't think he really cared, he didn't ask any follow up questions. I could have dumbed it down, but I am starting it now, that if he asks, he gets a real answer.
This conversation needs to be happening more often. Please have this conversation in your circles. These are children and we are the pioneers.

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Some jumbled thoughts:

Why are kids allowed to have phones at school? Why has that even started? So they can call their final goodbyes if there's a school shooting? What is this world? Are we just going to not worry about if they're cheating on tests? How do kids even learn with the distraction? How much harder is developing real friendships when communication is always through a device.

This is affecting kids vision, their posture, their development. When Shep went to the eye doctor a few years ago, he told us that more kids are having glasses than ever before because how much they stare at screens is affecting the way their eyes develop.

Its not enough to put "parental controls" on their devices. First of all, kids are smarter than adults when it comes to getting around stuff like that.

Kids are being exposed to porn. Porn is addicting. You can't say, "Oh they don't know what they're watching." Its addicting and its life ruining.

Social media is hurting kids. Bullying, peer pressure, comparing themselves to others, self esteem, porn, self harm, anxiety, eating disorders. Shall I go on?

Pop up ads are pretty much impossible to block and they are usually not appropriate.

Kids don't have the ability to regulate this in their brain. Its literally not developed. I am an adult and I know social media is a curated version of people's lives. Kids see it and think other people are having more fun, are more pretty, are more liked. They compare themselves. Self harm and suicide rates are rising and what do you think has changed? Social media.

"Everything in moderation" does not apply here. This is not ok.

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Some info from articles about kids and screen time:

Smart phones are PROVEN to create the same effect on developing brains as drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and gambling.

For every 30 minutes of daily handheld screentime and 18 mo old gets, his risk of speech delay increases by 50%.
(Yes, research shows it makes a difference if it is a handheld device. That used to be something I thought, "well, I don't care if he watches tv, so its no different to watch a show on the phone. Its different!)

If you sign up for Instagram and put your info in that you are a male between the ages of 13-25, it automatically puts the "Explore" page with accounts with naked women and inappropriate memes.

CDC linked teen suicides (on the rise) with increased social media usage.

Time Magazine: Screens in Schools are a $60 Billion Hoax
Over 200 peer-reviewed studies point to screen time correlating with increased ADHD, screen addiction, increased aggression, depression, anxiety and even psychosis.

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Finally, these are all screenshots I've taken from Collin Kartchner's Insta stories. He is an advocate for NOT giving kids smart phones and he's traveled all over the country speaking about this. He often will post screenshots of things people send him (obviously with their name hidden) and it is heartbreaking and scary.

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I know this is a lot I just shared. I encourage anyone still reading to follow @collinkartchner on Instagram. He is so informative.
Right now my oldest child is 7, and we're hopefully at least a few years away from his friends having smart phones. I'm worrying and advocating about it ahead of time, in hopes that things will change for the better by the time he's of age to deal with it.

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