Earlier this week, I wrote about how too much technology could be bad for your brain. I made the comment that there was no real reason any child under 16 needed a cell phone – if the argument for cell phones is safety. I’ve been handily challenged via comments and other methods to reconsider that blanket statement. After consideration, I concede that maybe children at the age of middle school might need a cell phone for safety. Under that age, it seriously seems that hands-on parenting is what should be providing the safety for that child.
However, even if parents do believe their young ones need a cell phone, thought must be given to the negatives (cognitive development, bullying via texting, the inability to “disconnect”, decreased ability to connect with anyone not tethered to a texting machine, the cost, the ability of creepers to track where your kid is by the fact they have a phone, the unknown effect of holding a battery to your head or in your front pocket all day, the decidedly unsafe practice of texting/talking by teens while driving) versus the positives (reaching your kid, tracking your kid with those creepy tracking devices, talking via text to a teen who won’t talk in person, safety).
If you think your child needs a cell phone, give him one. But as the grownup, perhaps you should consider setting limits on usage of that phone. If it truly is for safety, he doesn’t need it once he gets home – turn the thing off and turn on face-to-face interactions. Then again, many parents are just as addicted to their devices as their children are. Awhile ago, I saw a family of four at a restaurant. Mom and Dad were both reading/using their smart phones, the baby was propped in front of a tiny video device watching a kid-vid, and the young boy, who looked to be about 8, was saying, “And then, when my teacher told me ….” while his parents stared at their phones and said, “Uh-huh, hmm” and other grunts of feined interest. The sad thing is, this isn’t a rare sight and personally, I’m not sure this is all that great for family development.
I know the risks of being over-wired. When I first discovered instant messaging about 15 years ago (after succumbing to begging from my family to get the Internet in our house), I was instantly addicted. It was like a drug – all this real-time connection with people all over the place. Now, I have to fight wasting 30 minutes here and 40 minutes there reading Twitter feeds or Facebook updates – and don’t even get me started on what happens to my morning if I start searching blogs for a particular teacher topic! I really want a smart phone, but I’m fairly certain if I get it I’ll not be able to control my insatiable need-to-know what is happening right this minute in Japan, New York, the Middle East. Right now, if I leave my computer, I’m off the connection web. If I were to have a smart phone, Lord only knows what might happen.
Do you think someone who is 10 years old knows the risks of over-connection? Does a 16 year old understand what she’s missing in real relationships as she feeds her virtual ones online? We’ve all seen the interviews with tweens who say they can’t sleep if they aren’t holding their phones. Should we just accept this as normal or should we use are critical thinking skills and question it? Should we poo-poo what the the research in the story Monday was showing or maybe give it a little thought? Or should we wonder that wiring up our kids at birth may be one of the reasons college students today are showing 40 percent less empathy than students did just a decade ago?
I’m not saying we should all go back to the unwired dark ages. There is so much potential for good out there in the wired world. I’m saying we should not all march like lemmings to bow at the altar of technology without thinking about it longer than five minutes, especially when young children, young brains and young relationships are involved.