Front page of the Wall Street Journal today, A1, “Investors Prod Apple On Child iPhone Use”. The article is about the “growing public-health crisis of youth phone addiction”.
A group of investors, together with the California State Teacher’s retirement system, sent a letter to Apple on Saturday asking them to both develop new apps that will help parents more easily control their kids’ phone use, and to study the effect of overuse on kids’ mental health.
A little like asking Phillip Morris to study the effects of smoking on our lungs, but well asked, at any rate.
I’ve posted here before on the some of the data coming out about the effects of too much screen/phone time on our kids.
Here’s the deal. You do have power here. You buy the phone, you pay the monthly bill, you are the parent. Please, do not be afraid of your children’s disapproval or the disapproval of your friends who have chosen to do it differently from you. You know in your gut what is right for your kids, do that.
If you’re curious, here’s how my husband and I handled this (and, for what it’s worth, our children are all straight-A students with normal BMIs who still enjoy talking with us).
No screen time Mon-Thurs during the school year. That’s right, zero. If you need to be on the computer to research something, you do it in a room with the door open where I can see you. (And then I go check on them multiple times.) One hour of screen time or one movie per day Fri, Sat and Sun. No smart phone till you have accepted an offer to attend college at the university of your choice. (Or military branch, or mission field, but no smart phone till you have stepped on the path of your adult life direction.)
My daughter told her friends we were Amish.
What did they do when that (horror!) boredom set in? They rode their bikes, they build fairy houses out of sticks and rocks, they read actual, paper, books. I had and still have an “art cart” in the kitchen, just to the side of the kitchen table, stocked with play-dough, little plastic cookie-cutters, crayons, paper of all kinds, water colors etc. They wrote and performed plays. (Note, do not put blue food coloring in the whipped-cream for the pie-in-face big dramatic finish.) They played board games with each other. My now sixteen year old spent literally hours shooting hoops.
At 6’2″, Mr. JV Basketball Player still has only a flip phone.
Their minds are rich ground for growth at this age. They can learn languages like we learn a new recipe for chicken. They are building the bone strength that will last them the rest of their lives (but only if they are using their bodies). They, we hope, are learning how to meet and talk to other actual human beings.
You do what is right for your kids. You don’t have to listen to me; you don’t have to do it the way we did. But, for sure, if there is something you want to do for them but are afraid to, look to that, sister. And be brave.