Fighting the Social Media War for our Children
I just watched a hardy, southern woman raise her rifle and take aim declaring, “I hereby denounce the effects that social media has had on my children . . .”.
Horrified, I wasn’t sure what she was aiming at, so I watched as she shot her children’s cell phones one-by-one. The video panned to the kids in between each cell-phone kill. Parts flew threw the air as their mother declared to the world on video that she is, “taking back her role as a parent to her children.”
J.D. Salinger, American writer best known for writing, The Catcher in the Rye said, “Mothers are all slightly insane.”
At first watch I was intrigued and cheered her on. I thought thought, what a woman! What a declaration she’s making against these horrible machines that are stealing our children’s minds! And, I had just watched the video on my own cell phone.
But at the same time I was appalled and wondered, what role is she playing in her children’s lives? What is she impressing her children with? I asked myself, would I ever do that to my children? As a mother, I know she did the only thing she knew from her experience how to do. Not one of us know how to be perfect parents. It’s all a big experiment right? Kudos to her for trying.
But, if I’m honest, I have to think of my own cell phone usage. Many times, I have felt the pain of my girls telling me, “Mom, don’t use your cell phone while you drive.”
I tell them, I’m using my map program, not texting.
(After all, between us parents, we have plenty of experience driving, and can handle glancing at a text when it flashes across our screen while we’re on the road, right?)
I’m in the military and during our safety briefs, we are shown videos of crashes and deaths from texting and driving. The videos are often kids, and they make me think of my children.
The truth is, it’s hard for me to keep my hands off my phone while I drive. But the harder truth is, I’ve watched my girls mimic my examples in many things throughout their lives, and not consciously doing so. It stands to reason that they will mimic my driving as well. Sure — I won’t die driving and texting (will I?), but if they do someday, is it because they saw me drive and text? What am I teaching them by my actions? Do I want that blood on my hands?
Back to the woman who shot her children’s cell phones and, “took back her role as a parent.” We’re not just talking driving here — we’re talking general use of cell phones — all the time — that is being blamed for destroying our children, their genius brains, and their futures.
Another thing my kids have said to me, “Mom, you’re always on your cell phone.”
Why should I be surprised now my kids have their own cell phones, they are always on theirs?
Our future is technology and we grownups and children are learning how to integrate it into our lives together. Growing technology is a part of us, and no matter how many people shoot cell phones, they are not going away. They will evolve to and be integrated into our beings, as virtual reality and artificial intelligence get more sophisticated.
But let’s be honest, really honest. As parents, is it not easy to give your child an ipad, cell phone, computer game to give them something to do?
If they have technology then you get to do what you want right?
I’m not sure people are saying this, so I will.
Before cell phones were all the rage, I could turn cartoons on for my girls. They would watch their shows and I would do my thing, whatever it was at the moment. Sometimes I needed that break and I gave minimal checks on their well-being. Besides feeding, bathing, and putting them to bed, I was not very engaged with them at all.
When my children started acting indifferent and disrespectful, I’d turn off the television. Initially I’d have to be willing to endure their emotional retaliation (fits that can last an undetermined amount of time). If I had the courage to withstand, a certain magic would begin to happen.
First, they emerged as entirely different children, as if coming out of a trance. The mood in the house would feel more connected, content and happy—there’s just no words to describe the radical transformation that would take place after turning the television off. It was like magic. Suddenly my girls were happily finding creative things to do, smiling and talking to each other and me— just from turning the technology off. It was powerful.
I’m certainly not suggesting we should turn it all off or even shoot our cell phones.
But I am urging us as parents and grownups (even if you aren’t a parent), to have times together that you turn off technology and connect, engage, talk.
One way I have began to take back my role as a parent is by declaring we all leave our cell phones behind (including me), and do something together. We call these times, the Cook’s unplugged. (Of course my girls roll their eyes at the name, but it works).
We might visit parks, take walks, swim, play boardgames, eat our dinner outside by the patio or just drive with the radio off and talk. Sometimes we tell jokes. I am slightly ashamed to say that I had no idea how funny my girls can be. Driving around town with them is better than comedy night.
Putting down the cell phones has been magic. I have felt closer to my daughters in the last month than ever before. Even one night a week, or one focused hour or two at a time without technology has had an amazing impact in the conversations we’ve had and what I’ve learned about them.
Because of the Cook’s unplugged, I have gained small but mighty victories on regular days. The last two mornings my teenage daughter has greeted me in the kitchen, with no cell phone in her hand. She made eye contact with me (sometimes a stretch for a teen), smiled and said, “Hi Mom, how are you?”
Since she’s been a teenager, that never happened while she was holding her cell phone.