Can you relate to any of these scenarios?
- We are visiting the grandparents. We rarely get to see them so it’s precious time for the grandkids to bond and play games and do puzzles with them. Shortly after we arrive I come downstairs thinking the family is probably knee-deep in the special toys they only see once or twice a year but nope. My daughter is on grandpa’s phone and he’s on his tablet. He looks up and says, “She asked nicely if she could have it.” I smile and say “I’m sure she did, but I’d rather her not have screen time right now, maybe we can think of something else to play.”
- We are at church and my son asks if he can sit with a friend. I oblige and remind him to be respectful and quiet until it’s time for the kid’s program. During the singing I look over and think “wow, he’s being remarkably still with his friend” and then I see the glow shining on their faces. They each have a phone and are playing games so sweetly while we sing and pray.
- We go to the family reunion and I’m looking forward to the memories the kids will all make as they play with their cousins. After a few minutes though the aunts and uncles have all given phones and screens to their kids and everyone has a separate device and there is no talking or laughing, just a lot of lights shining on zoned out faces as I begin to wonder what the reunion was even for if we were all going to just ignore each other!
Am I the only one who sees this trend as unhealthy? I got a phone. You got a phone. Everybody’s got a phone. I get it, it’s the digital age! In a world of social media and texting, it’s easy to disengage and get sucked into that screen. It’s practically a Pavlovian response when you hear a ding or vibration you immediately reach for that phone and check to see what’s the notification. I’m guilty of it too! But I’m worried our kids are starting to think our screens are more important than they are.
It’s not that I never let my children have screen time, but it is rare. I don’t have games on my phone for them. We don’t watch screens every time we go on a road trip or to the grocery store. I don’t whip it out at doctors appointments, restaurants, or church services. I do expect them to learn to engage in conversations. I do think we can interact as a family in ways that don’t require electronics. It definitely is a challenge at times to find something to keep us entertained while we wait, but that’s part of building very important skills that I feel people are losing today.
A few years ago I heard many elderly people talk down about the ways we parents today were raising our kids with these video games and electronics, and now I constantly find myself having to ask those same people not to hand my child their device as soon as they say hello to them. I didn’t think I had to preface every interaction with another adult with “Please don’t give my kid your phone,” but I’m starting to realize that’s the case.
Family functions are getting more difficult because of this. I didn’t think I had to say “Can we all go to a park and turn the TV off for a bit?” I didn’t think before grandma babysat that I had to say “No screens please.” I miss the days when their uncle wanted to take them fishing, but now the uncle is passing the phone instead of the bait and hook.
I’m not trying to sound holier than thou, and yes I have given in when things got a little crazy and the patience was wearing thin, but it’s not every day. So why is it the knee jerk reaction of adults to hand kids their phones immediately? Is it a way to still promote “kids should be seen and not heard?” Has the effort of engaging and communicating really become a lost art? Have we just exhausted all the ways we can imagine and play with kids? Do grandma and grandpa really not know what to do with their grandkids after 5 minutes of welcome hugs and kisses are over? Or do people just think screens are harmless and entertaining and I’m just out of touch?
Do you find the constant phone epidemic a problem with your kids or are they are welcome device in your family?