How Much is Too Much?

02.07.24 04:08 PM Comment(s) By Adrienne Towsen

How much is too much? One could ask this question about many things when it comes to raising children. How much is too much freedom, discipline, material things, rules, pressure... and the list goes on. I think one of the areas this applies to the most in the technology age is screen time. It is such a different world now as compared to a mere 15-20 years ago when my kids were young. There was no concern when mine were 2 and 4 years old about how much time they were in front of a phone or an ipad because there were none! My daughters were born in 2000 and 2002. The first iphone came out in 2007 and the first ipad in 2010. 

As we are now on the iphone 15, it's hard to remember a time without them or whatever the smartphone of choice is for you. It makes it very different for parents of kids born in the past 10-15 years who need to decide how to manage these electronics. Kids seem to be drawn to the phone screen or even the watch screen, even as a baby. While technology is amazing, and we would all be lost without our phones in 2024, it raises the did we get by without them?  We absolutely did in a now seemingly primitive way including maps, encyclopedias and home phones with answering machines! However, there is something to be said for a time when instant gratification wasn't the norm, and I think in some ways, it was better for our young kids. 

A perfect example is the cartoon above, We have a group of school age kids glued to their phones on the playground and the one wanting to actually play is depicted as the outcast. What is wrong with this picture??....exactly that. Our kids should be playing outdoors and interacting in ways other than online games and social media (a topic for a future blog post). Where is the balance? Perhaps in the hands of us, the parents. We need to try and lead by example especially when the kids are very young and then set limits and make use of parental controls as they get a bit older and have their own devices. 

We cannot deny that our phones have truly become a necessity. While many of us, including me, remember a time when there were no cell phones, not just no smartphones but actually no mobile phones. It is interesting to live through the evolution which makes this now something which is impossible to live without. It is truly incredible what we all have at our fingertips these days. It is certainly exciting for kids growing up now in a much more technologically advanced society, but it's also a little scary. We need to try and teach our kids from a young age that there is a place for this technology in our lives, but it should not be totally dominant over other ways of learning and having fun. 

There are many recommendations out there regarding what the screen time limits should be based on age groups. That's step one. Step two is parental controls. At whatever age you decide it is appropriate for your child to have a phone, you need to set limits and parameters. There are many ways to do this, and I think it's important to do some research ahead of time and figure out a plan. This is also important for their safety, since we all know there are many dangers which exist online. Of course this can be with the use of a computer or any device, but somehow seems a bit more worrisome when it is their own handheld phone. 

We can't forget the flip side to this however, which is how nice it can be to be able to reach your child or have them reach you when needed with a simple text message. It can be very reassuring to know that if your child is not with you, he or she can easily text you if there is a problem or you can text to check in. We can probably go overboard with this too as the kids get older, but still I would call this a positive aspect of the easy access allowed by phones. Who remembers using a pay phone to reach their parents?? Young kids today have barely any concept of a land line, let alone a pay phone or a phone book. Ancient history😅  We can also consider easing them into a smartphone. It could be a good plan to begin with simpler device which merely allows calls and texts depending on what age you decide to start. A smartphone upgrade could always come later. 

Whether you like the guidelines above or create something of your own, I think it makes a lot of sense to have limits in place that you try to follow. It can be very easy to stick a screen in front of even a very young child as way to calm or occupy him or her while you get things done at home or when you are running errands with them or perhaps in a social setting. There are many wonderful shows and movies which can be loaded onto a device, and this can be an  enjoyable option for kids in these situations. I see nothing wrong with that in moderation. I didn't have that option with my young kids when we were out, but certainly at home there were plenty of times when a movie or the Disney channel  was a great way to entertain them once they could safely be in front of a TV together. That was a golden opportunity for me to get some things done or even just relax and watch with them. There were very basic gaming systems when my kids were young too which provided great fun and learning opportunities. These cannot even compare to what is available today. Perhaps another area to exercise some caution.

I think advances in all of these areas are great overall, and let'e face it, inevitable; but I also think it has made parenting of younger children today more difficult.  Many of us working moms (and dads) rely heavily on our phones for work, and it can be necessary to use them often while at home for this reason. We should try to limit the use while with the kids if possible, and explain to them the difference between use for work and use just to pass the time.  

We also need not forget the camera feature which is another reason phones are ever present especially with the parents of younger kids, We want to capture every moment, and today it is super easy to do so...too easy. Don't forget to also live in the moment, because while you can have 287,000 photos to look back on from their early childhood years, you will never get those moments back. 

My advice: 

1. Protect your kids when they are young from everything including technology. 

2. Teach them how to use it appropriately and try not to get too wrapped up in it yourself. 

3. Let them explore more as they get older but keep a watchful eye, albeit from a distance.

4. Always try to live in the moment even if you can't let that photo op pass by.  

5. Never forget... they grow up way too fast.

p.s. My daughters first got iphones at ages 14 and 12. 

The older one did have a more basic phone at age 13, and then we upgraded to an iphone at 14, so her younger sister started off that same year with an iphone at age 12😉  

Seems to me like the norm is more like age 10 or even younger these days😳

Adrienne Towsen

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