My kids are growing. They are growing too fast and it’s NOT ok with me. I mean, I want them to grow up to be strong, happy, successful people some day, I just wish it would take longer. As they grow, some things have become so much easier. No more diapers, no bottles, no incessant crying for no reason, no giant diaper bags that can hold a weekend trip for two to some fancy B&B in wine country but is instead full of burp cloths that smell like sour milk and 47 pounds of baby wipes. All of that is done. And I can leave them unattended for a short time and they are usually all alive and not bleeding when I come back…usually.
But as they grow, the problems and the situations grow with them. The questions, the peer pressure, and the desire to be independent. I think I’m what you would call a free range mom. But my husband is not a free range dad. He will openly admit his freedom leash for the kids is very short. Luckily for them, it’s usually me here 😉 I am not, however, ready to hand them over to social media.
My nearly 10 year old has a phone. I know some people think that’s crazy, but it’s a tracfone and we had a legitimate emergency where she had to be in charge for a short time while the neighbor was on her way home and I realized that our lack of landlines made this interesting nowadays. So she got a phone. It was supposed to be for emergencies. But she started using it to google things when we had a question we couldn’t answer without help. Good use of a phone. Finding pertinent info. Then she used it to play music to dance too. Perfectly fine. She watched her favorite Artist/Vlogger on Youtube. Fine. She wanted games her friends play, but after much research I decided she couldn’t have those. They were too open. Too public. She also loves to take beautiful pictures and she asked for an Instagram account. “…hmm…well…” I am pretty familiar with the workings of Instagram and the privacy and security. We had a “talk” about social media safety and I locked her account down like Fort Knox and then I added the friends she was allowed to have. She had to ask me to add or follow anyone else.
She found some old friends from her first school. Ok. I guess. Which ones? I checked her account every single day. Then I started checking into her friends accounts from her phone and I was shocked. Little girls posting photos they shouldn’t. Using words they shouldn’t. Talking about topics they shouldn’t. And then it happened. My kid posted something mean to someone else…It was a celebrity, not like a friend they’re picking on, but still NOT OK. I talked to her. I asked her to explain. I yelled I’m sure. I made her write a paper about responsible social media use and then I disabled her account and deleted her app. I also took her phone for 7 days. I do think she gets it, but she’s not getting Instagram back any time soon.
She wanted to be on the phone…like she was an addict in withdrawal and asked daily for it back. That’s when it dawned on me, that that’s the culture and the generation we are raising. We are raising kids who think it’s normal to spend inordinate amounts of time on the phone. Looking at it. Reading things. Socializing. Working. Watching videos. Heck even banking and ordering dinner. On the phone. Never more than 10 feet away. Mine is 12 inches to my right as I type this. I can see it in case it lights up. In case someone calls (rare) or texts, or sends a Facebook message. I can pick it up any time and get dopamine hits from the little hearts on Instagram and the Like button on Facebook. When someone likes your photo or comment your brain releases dopamine and makes you happy. Your serotonin levels rise. But it’s a short burst and you need more.
8 tiny eyes are watching us. Watching us hold on to our phones too much. Guilty as charged. It must be wonderful if we’re doing it right? So they want to do it too. They want the dopamine hit. They want the acceptance of their peers. And the pressure to fit in comes in to play. 8 tiny eyes blinded by blue light.
I’m working on my addiction. I’m working on it so 8 tiny eyes want to play outside, maintain their creativity and their zest for reading and learning. I want them to get dirty and scrape their knees. I want them to build forts and not just on Minecraft. Real ones. With like sticks… 8 tiny hands. Covered in mud.