“….and NO DEVICES!”
It’s the mantra that’s been on repeat here ever since we got an iPad for Noah for Christmas last year. I know, I know–it’s my own fault. I put the thing right in his hands and now I am trying to make it go away. More accurately, I’m lamenting my decision to give it to him in the first place.This iPad (with no data plan, mind you, it has to be hooked up to WiFi) was supposed to be a compromise. What Noah really wants is an iPhone (black, with a Star Wars cover) and I would rather he not have any devices yet, so we got him the tablet and hoped that its larger, more stationary nature might help curb the use of it on its own.
No such luck.
It’s not that I don’t like devices. I love my phone and my computer so much that I’ve had to set up parameters around them for myself. Like many of us in this post modern world, my iPhone and, by association, the social media accounts that feed it, have become extensions of my identity. The things that I ‘like’ or post or share online define my public face and inform my private one. Liking and Posting and Sharing also take up many hours, so I have to be careful not to spend so much time crafting an image that I forget to actually live a life. But these are concerns of smartphone and tablet users everywhere. I’m not sure that I have much more to add to that discussion other than empathizing with all of us as we navigate through these uncharted, data-cluttered waters. The internet isn’t going anywhere and finding a balance between its exceptional usefulness and its woeful addictiveness is big work for us in our time.
Incidentally, that the internet and its accompanying devices are not going anywhere is the very argument that my kid uses when he tries to talk us into getting him a phone. He’s eleven and does not have one although “all of his friends do” (which is not, as it is, true, but I understand what it feels like to not be allowed to have the cool thing when even some of your friends do). Getting a phone is, for him, a pretty simple endeavor. It’s about owning a cool thing and being like his friends and having the ability to play Minecraft no matter where he is. For me, getting a phone for my child is far more complicated. It’s a decision layered with my beliefs about parenting and philosophies about screen usage. It has to do with realities about money, logistics about data plans and many, many concerns about safety and identity and creepy people who lurk just beyond a link.
Noah’s father (my ex-husband) thinks that Noah should wait until 9th grade to get a phone (luckily we have similar hopes about putting things off for as long as possible) but is two more years too long to make him wait? I mean obviously there isn’t a ‘right’ answer to that question, and obviously he is going to survive if he doesn’t have a freaking phone, but this decision is one that I’m rolling around with this spring. There have been several occasions, just over the past week, that it would have been easier FOR ME if Noah had a phone. He’s in so many activities that coordinating pick ups and drop offs and remembering whether or not I have to bring him dinner so he can eat it between his baseball game and play rehearsal would be infinitely easier if I could just text him a quick note before I drive to school for the seventh time on one afternoon. Today, Noah and his classmates are in New York City visiting The Met and since I got closed out of the chaperone list I have to wait for his return (and monitor the news for signs of trouble and tragedy) from afar instead of being able to check in with him or have the ABILITY to check in with him at my will.
I understand that there are pitfalls to constant contact and I really don’t want to become (more of) a helicopter parent, but one of the great assets of Noah having a phone would be staying in touch–connection being a good indicator of the mental and emotional health of teenagers.
But that’s not my point. My point, or rather my question, is about what is appropriate and when. My point is about how to reconcile that, in America, people who can’t pay their rent have $200 iPhones (not that I’m judging) including kids who can’t possibly understand the decision between buying a phone while paying rent, not to mention how complicated it is to stay safe once you put yourself out into the cyberworld.
As you see, I’m spinning my wheels about this. I have no great conclusion, just many questions and my hope is that Gina will be able to shed some light on how the Italians do technology and devices with their kids. (They don’t seem to be as wishy-washy and equivocal in their beliefs as me.)
Any thoughts about this topic out there?