Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of Be The Parent, Please for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.
I have three children. When the older two were younger, managing the tech was SO much easier. We barely even listened to the car radio. Instead, we listened to CD’s of kid music that we found at the library. My kids developed their love for Harry Potter through the audiobooks we got from the library.
By the time the third one came along – forget it. There is a five year age gap between him and his closest brother. I’m pretty sure he was the only two year old in his preschool class who asked to watch iCarly instead of some appropriate kid show because of his brothers’ influence.
Now, at 15, 14 and 9 my boys are thoroughly entrenched in the digital world. And I allowed it to happen.
In Be The Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat: Strategies for Solving the Real Parenting Problems author Naomi Schaefer Riley offers scores of interview excerpts from people who are considered experts in fields such as education, parenting, technology and psychology. This isn’t a “Screens are bad. Technology is bad.” manifesto. I feel like Riley submits a balance of views from researchers.
One of my favorite chapter titles is “Babies Aren’t Meant to be Einsteins”. I’ll admit – I consider myself an “old” mom. I had my first baby at 31 and had the last right before I turned 38. In some ways, I had it easier in resisting technology because I had my older kids when tech for kids wasn’t a big part of the culture. You know what was? Books on CD. DVD and VHS. And I controlled all of it. No iPads. I didn’t have a smartphone to hand off. If I thought we’d get stuck somewhere waiting in line or standing around, I brought books, paper and crayons.
This isn’t me saying that I’m a superior parent. It’s just what every parent was doing.
By the time the third came along, things were changing. Handing him one of our phones in a restaurant was a thing. Bringing the Nintendo DS along for car trips was a must. Headphones appeared, so each child wouldn’t have to listen to what his brother wanted to listen to. Peace at any price seemed to be our new family motto. And it wasn’t just us. That was the norm in most families.
Be The Parent, Please talks about this new digital culture. iPads for toddlers is a community standard. DVD players in cars used to be portable and for long car trips. Now they are built in and are playing in morning carpool.
What’s The Problem?
According to the author, the problem is that kids are becoming more distracted in the name of being “entertained”. In fact, technology itself is NOT the problem. The reasons we as parents are handing it off mindlessly is the problem. We can’t stand for our kids to be bored – we feel it’s our job to make sure our kids are entertained non-stop. We want the kids plugged in, so we can be plugged in. More and more people are working from home these days and trying to balance work and childcare. We want them to have an educational advantage, but sometimes we forget that it’s best for some skills to develop naturally during play instead of in front of a blinky screen.
What’s my personal reason for not limiting tech? Peace. My oldest child has some behavioral issues that have mostly phased out with maturity and age. However, his anxiety and defiance kick in when I attempt to limit the tech usage. The fight when we wanted to take the phones out of bedrooms at night was epic. EPIC. We ended up compromising and installing a software that shuts the phone off at a certain time. But the battle itself was telling. I tell myself that he’s a good kid. He has in-person social interaction with friends regularly. He’s athletic and gets exercise. Maybe it’s not that big of a deal….
Anything, though, that elicits that strong of an emotional response when it’s about to be taken for eight hours (when he should be sleeping anyway) IS a big deal.
What’s the Solution?
This is where I was a touch disappointed in the book, but honestly I’m not sure if that disappointment is justified. I was excited to read Be The Parent, Please because the tag line is “Strategies for Solving the REAL Parenting Problems“. I was hoping for some step by step suggestions on weaning my teens off the screens. What I got was tough love. Reminders that I am the parent and I set the rules. There is no magic system. There is no magic pill.
What Be The Parent, Please does give you is motivation. It gives you so many reasons for taking back control of the screens. It gives you real-life situations from parents who struggle just like you do and why they are concerned. It gives you permission to BE THE PARENT.
One of my favorite examples is in the following quote:
Set a rule about when phones are allowed. If you violate it once in a while, so what? You can tell your kids that you’re the grown up. In every household, there are different rules for children and adults. And there’s no reason why the use of technology should be any different.
When my kids ask me why they can’t do something and I can, I respond with, “Because I’m 47 years old and I can do what I want. When you are 47, you may do what you want.” I’m not sure why I thought that answer shouldn’t apply to my limiting their technology.
The bottom line is that I AM the parent and as unpleasant as the process may be, it’s my responsibility. I see this as a “pay me now or pay me later” situation, and if you choose “pay later” you could make it a whole lot harder on yourself.
Be The Parent Please, gives you the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for your family.