My oldest son, Jacob, has only been a teenager for a few weeks, yet we’re already arguing about his use of technology.
You may recall a few months ago I posted about him begging me for a smart phone and a Facebook page. My feeling– backed up by Wilson- is that I don’t want to incur the extra cost of a smart phone and its maintenance, and I don’t want him having access to the internet whenever he feels like it. That can only lead to trouble.
I’m not naive enough to think these privileges aren’t going to happen in the near future, but I’d like to hold out as long as possible. Every day he’s learning and maturing and hopefully when I’m forced to give in, he will have that much more smarts to make the right decisions.
13 is a significant birthday and for Jews, becoming a bar mitzvah– which Jacob will do next month– is a big deal. So his grandparents wanted to get him a special gift and suggested an iPad mini.
At first I balked, thinking it was too much. But then I realized that we would not spend the money on a tech luxury like that for him right now and he would probably love it.
It’s been life changing.
One the plus side, it’s made Jacob more independent and self-sufficient. He had more apps on that thing in 2 days than I’ve ever had, on all my devices combined. He has it set up so he gets the weather (no more barging into my room to see the forecast every morning,) his favorite sports teams scores (no need for computer time instead of eating breakfast,) and his own camera.
He never cared much for a camera before but now he needs it to post on Instagram. Before I knew it, he was signed up and posting pix on Instagram almost hourly.
At first, I was concerned. I’m not on Instagram and didn’t know how to use it. I had banned him from Facebook and Google Plus but now, without even discussing it, he was right in the Insta-mix, gathering likes and friends like a magnet in a nail factory.
He spends hours every week making photo collages, scrolling through friends’ feeds and commenting on comments of pictures. I’m told his interest will wane after the novelty wears off, but he’s a social animal so I can see this becoming a powerful habit.
This is why I didn’t want him to have a smart phone. The lack of control and the complete abandon with which he jumped into the social media landscape makes me uncomfortable.
But then he was so happy to be part of the conversation, he told me he no longer needed a fancy phone. I realized that the iPad was the best short term compromise, because he has the social engagement and internet access he wants, but only at home (he doesn’t have 3G so can only use it with wifi) where its use can be monitored. He doesn’t take it to school or sports so the chances it gets damaged, lost, or stolen are slim.
What I didn’t count on was the obsessive use. Unless we take it away, the kid is clutching that device from the moment he wakes up until it falls out of his grip when he’s overcome by sleep at night. In addition to Instagram, he’s streaming TV shows, playing games, and Googling most thoughts that enter his head.
Welcome to modern parenting: limiting screen time and helping kids understand the importance of electronic-free activities. Jacob is a great student who does his homework before play time, and a busy athlete with many practices and games. When with his gang of boys after school, they often play sports outside, but our recent freezing, snowy weather has encouraged more inside activities, and TV and video games are too tempting.
Last weekend our family drove into Manhattan for the day and the kids played on iPads during the 30 minute trip in. But on the way home, there was an uproar when we took them away.
“Look out the window! See the world! Listen to the radio! Let your mind wander!” I yelled from the front seat as Jacob rolled his eyes and grunted. He managed to get through the ride but asked for the iPad as soon as we got home. We refused.
It’s a battle we’ll be fighting for the rest of time.
So I had a problem– Jacob wanted a smart phone– that I thought I solved when he got an iPad…but that created a new problem. He’s only 13, and my first of three kids to go through technology adjustments and teen angst.
I better buckle up.