I got a text the other day from the Producer of a show that my son’s performing in this summer. She wanted to share that she had to speak with my son because he was on stage, during a dress rehearsal, looking at his phone.
I was mortified, but not surprised. Devices have been a point of contention in our household for a while. As a result, they’ve been taken away, sometimes for months at a time, while we try to navigate the waters of this new era of technology.
I gave the Producer full permission to take his phone away for the rest of the day. I also instructed my son to leave his phone with her at the beginning of every subsequent rehearsal. But my sense is that’s just barely going to scratch the surface of the greater issue.
There are several benefits to having all this technology. We’re able to reach our children (or anyone for that matter) in an instant. We have all the information of the entire world at our finger tips. And we can to stay in touch with people we otherwise may have lost touch with before the social media era.
But the detriments to this new way of living are vast. Our children can reach us at any given moment and I’m not sure that’s always a good thing. I’m concerned we’re creating a generation that's unable to problem solve without first checking in with someone else. And I wonder if the safety net that the 24hour connection offers is actually enabling our children to be too reliant on others to make the tough decisions or get through the uncomfortable moments.
We’re also easily distracted by the never-ending stream of breaking news our devices provide. And being able to research anything and everything can send us off in directions that we otherwise wouldn’t have gone. My son recently researched a pain he was having in his buttocks, announcing in a doomsday tone that he’d discovered he had a rare disease. (He had a sore butt!)
And as much as I really enjoy staying appraised of what’s going on in my friend’s lives, I also worry that using social media as a main source to follow friends can create a false sense of reality. I mean, let’s face it, I’m more inclined to post about all my wins than all the times I’m feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry etc.
Having said that, I’ve appreciated the times I was having those feelings and was able to ask for and receive support through social media. And, uhhh... the internet has presented me with a platform to share these blogs.
I guess my primary concern is that a picture or post only provides a small glimpse into the lives of those we’re following and it’s easy to fall into the whole ‘grass is always greener’ way of thinking when we’re inundated with pictures of smiling families, wonderful vacations and amazingly delicious foods. And if it’s challenging for me, I can only imagine how my thirteen year old son is grappling with this whole thing.
So what’s the solution? Removing all devices isn’t realistic. The world is a ‘changing and it’s up to us to change with it . So like in so many other areas of my life, the solution is finding a healthy balance.
Here’s what that looks like for me: I check Facebook only occasionally and rarely comment or post any longer. I appreciate being able to wish friends a happy birthday or offer condolences to someone who has shared a loss. But honestly, I much prefer reaching out to people directly these days. Somehow that feels a bit more personal than posting on social media. And when one of my kids has a big accomplishment, I’ll occasionally post, but I’m cautious to present a realistic representation of our lives. It’s not all rosy all of the time and I want to balance the successes with the other aspects of our lives. I accomplish that partly by sharing these blogs.
As for finding a balance for devices with my kids, well, that’s another matter entirely. While having a device is a luxury item for me, they’ve grown up in a world where this is the norm. Both of my boys attend a school that encourages device use. They no longer have backpacks filled with heavy books. Instead, all of their work is completed with online resources. So when I ask them to put their devices away for a few hours a day, they think I’m cruel. But that’s exactly what I do.
I discourage any contact with me during the school day- no texts or calls to problem solve or complain about feeling ill. If they need to come home due to illness, the school secretary can contact me directly. I’ve created device free zones in the car and at the dinner table. And I’ve put some time limitations on their device usage, restricting them from using all devices before 7:30 in the morning and after 8:30 at night. That may not seem like a lot, but at least it’s a start.
I just want to make sure that when the important stuff is happening, we’re experiencing it together, in the moment, live. Not missing it because we were buried in our phones.
So today, take a moment as you’re outside, put your phone away, and check out the sky for a good long moment or two or twenty! It’s really beautiful and opens up all sorts of worlds to our minds.