Last month late one Tuesday evening, my husband and I called a family meeting. The reason for this meeting was to inform our teenage son that he no longer had cell phone service. “You will have no access to texts or internet access just phone calls in case of emergencies”. The cause for this level of punishment? His inability to stay focused while doing his homework. Many evenings we’d walk by and observe a screen opened to Castle Learning or Trigonometry and on his cell phone he’d be checking on the latest basketball scores.
In my simple mind I thought we had him for sure; this punishment would certainly fit the crime. But my 15 year-old 6 foot 2 inch son with those dreamy brown eyes looked at his dad and me and said, “I still have my iPad and I need it for homework.” I could have melted. He had a way out and I held my head down in defeat. We were being held hostage by technology.
As a student at PS 15 in Queens growing up in the 80’s, smartphones, iPads, and handheld computers seemed like wondrous faraway dreams.
During the “olden days,” as our two teenage children often refer to our junior high school days, students wrote with pencils and listened intently while taking notes as teachers instructed students and wrote on the blackboard. Fast forward to 2018, our society, including our homes, churches and classrooms, are inundated with digital technology that at first glance seem to promise to enhance interactive learning and increase student achievement. But as we take a closer look it seems detrimental not only in our classrooms and home settings but also seem to diminish a parent’s ability to discipline their children.
Technology is an essential tool in our modern world. It would be naive of me to think that our country could function if we only relied on a blackboard and an old computer. But how do we find a balance?
In many ways, digital technologies have made parenting harder. Gone are the days when you sat down to eat at a restaurant and talked to your family without hearing your kids ask “Is there wifi?”
It’s evident to me just how much digital technology contributes to the lack of social and emotional interaction, while intensifying the online dangers, increasing suicide rates due to bullying, and inhibiting our teenagers’ ability to concentrate. But how do we find a balance?
Since our teenage son was so quick to let us know he had a way around us taking his phone, we have “stepped up our game” in reestablishing tech free zones at home.
We continue to reinforce the “no phones” rule during meals, as well as prohibiting phones in rooms at bedtime. (Phones are left in a common area as the kids wind down for bed.) Our kids are using “old school” alarm clocks to wake up.
And, as parents, we have to be role models. We are more conscious of the number of hours we spend browsing on one of our many devices and making more time to talk and interact while spending quality time together.
The ramifications of the digital divide has no end in sight. But it’s never too late to start sending good messages to our children.