When it comes to children and technology, there should be one approach for parents. Resist the capitulation to digital demands, do not buy your little ones a phone, an i-pad, an i-watch, just stick to buying them i-ce cream for a treat. Get it. At most, maybe even a puppy, at least the animal can teach your child or children some personal responsibility, how to care for a living animal, how to interact with a real living thing.
Many people are #outraged at such a suggestion, to not provide a smartphone to their children. As though I had suggested they deny their child food and water. Some ambiguous relationship between safety and how a phone can provide it, usually follows the #outrage. ‘He/she/it has a phone so they can let me know they have arrived safely at school’. An oft used statement used to justify the phone. Parents – key point here – by telling your child to contact you when it is safe, supplants the idea that it exists in a constant environment that is unsafe. Children, you don’t need to phone your parents to tell them you are safe. If indeed you are propelled into an unsafe situation, the usual clue is the massive police search in operation, you will not be tweeting your parents during your kidnapping.
Secondly, if you think your pride and joy is safer with the phone you are also wrong. Consider the school bus example, many parents ask their children to text them when the school bus arrives at school, because, as we all know, school buses regularly go rogue and take children to BBC HQ for a real life-changing experience. Well, and I guarantee this, between putting little Jonny on the bus and him getting off the bus and sending you a ‘I am safe text’, he will not have been using his phone to research extra quotes for his critical analysis of Shakespeare homework. He will have had ample opportunity, surrounded by a peer group in which this is normalised, to explore the internet in all its glory. Working in a school I can tell you, children are curious (shocking I know), conveyor belts of questions, but knowledge was once the realm of the educated, of the teacher, is now becoming the realm of Google. I myself have been challenged many a time by some cocksure snowflake, who has told me I am wrong because he (cocksure snowflake) looked it up on the internet. Or not even that I am wrong, more scarily, that something is true because he saw it on the internet. Then there is all the internet content they don’t tell you about. But internet search history means I can see what my child is viewing you cry! Fat chance – even Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz could lead you down the yellow brick road and show you an ‘incognito browser window’, which hides all content viewed. (ctrl + shift + N)
Finally, alcohol and drugs are two ubiquitous substances that have fundamentally changed human behaviour – or change human behaviour, depends what time of the evening it is. These two substances have required regulation, those over committed to the joys of one or both are sent to wonderful places to learn to not over-commit. There is now a third substance that has had a fundamental change on human behaviour: the smartphone and social media, we are incapable of self-regulating our use of them. But, like many an alcoholic, many a drug addict, we trivialise it and then deny it. Parents – if you are ever in the presence of the light of your life (child) and find yourself scrolling aimlessly through Facebook, twitter, the daily mail, Instagram or Grindr. You have a problem. Play with your child, interact. My soul dies a little bit each time I see a child walking side by side with a parent, only for the parent to be neck down in the phone. Nothing is more important than your children you say…well apparently there is and it is on Facebook. When a child looks up and sees a phone and not the face this normalizes it. And normalizing intrusive and detrimental behaviour is apparently….not great.
In amongst all this we have confused progress with change. Technology has long since demonstrated real legitimate contribution progress, it has simply changed us by consuming us.
I dare you. Next time you go to the park – leave your phone at home. Interact with our child for an uninterrupted period of time. I bet that, just like an alcoholic looking for one more drink, you will manage to justify a reason to bring your phone along. Just like the drinker, just like the drug abuser, we don’t realise the seriousness of the problem, until it is too late.