When I turned sixteen (many many years ago), I finally got my coveted phone! It was black, the keys lit up green, and it was all mine! Connected to the jack in my room, which my uncle installed, it’s long black cord stretched all over my bedroom, allowing me to talk as I did homework at my desk, sat on my bed, or listened to music by the stereo. That phone and I were attached at the ear most nights from 7pm onward, much to the annoyance, I am sure of my parents. I talked to friends, I talked to boys (from Prep of course), and then talked to my friends about what the boys said on the phone. The only time I pried my treasured black receiver away from my ear would be in the wee hours when one of my parents, awakening for one reason or another in the night, would pick up the upstairs phone and say “Sarah, hang up the phone NOW!” Some evenings, they had to do that three or four times before I finally gave in and went to sleep.
Flash forward to today, where I rarely talk on the phone for any personal reasons; perhaps I use my iPhone to set up a doctor’s appointment, to call Abigail out of school when she is sick, or to talk to my mom (Keep Calm and Call Mom…that’s always been my motto!) More often than not, I text my family, my friends and even my dad and I would say the majority of time I spend actually talking on a phone is at my desk at work. My landline at home has gone the way of the dinosaur, as have many of yours, I am sure, and the play phone that came with Abigail’s toy kitchen a few years ago, was a toy cell phone.
Most of you, I am sure, have guessed where I am headed with this; back when I was a teen and today, kids do spend a lot of time on the phone. The difference is in how that communication has changed in the past thirty plus years. Recently, JANA Partners and CALSTRS sent an open letter to Apple INC, expressing concerns about iPhone and iPad use with children and teens. While they do recognize that using the devices do have some benefits, perhaps in schools and classroom settings, some of the information about extended use and higher rates of depression and suicide are quite alarming. The letter stated that most children receive their first phone by age 10; so I have a few short years before this becomes my issue. For many of my readers, the concern is already yours, I am sure. How much tech time is too much?
In my house, it’s a half hour of iPad videos or games before bed on school nights; with internet locks on. On weekends, it might stretch to an hour. Now, she can use her iPad for learning games, for watching a movie, or for listening to music at other times, but I do try to limit the YouTube kids, Disney kids, etc to ½ hour a day. Of course, that would not work in your houses. But I think all of us, as parents, have to think about what would work? How do we limit screen time? What are the lasting effects of too much technology use?
I encourage you today to take a few moments to read the Open Letter, of which the link is below and to talk to your daughter about what it says. And if you make any headway, send me your tips before Abigail turns ten; I know I will need them!