There are unintended consequences to being an earlier adopter to the iPhone. I have had an iPhone since the 3g and have upgraded every couple of years. This meant then passing my old iPhones down to my children as an “iPod” so that they could play games and use the old one as a music player.
Since then, my kids have all saved up money to upgrade their own devices and it has been crazy to see the pull that these internet connected devices exert on my kids.
But before I act like this is generational, the power that my smart phone exerts over me is equally chilling. I can find it in my hand while out to eat, while watching a movie, in a meeting, or at times when I should be spending time with my family. The reality is, the device was designed to fill up time. To avoid down time and increase productivity while waiting for something else. Inadvertently, we have bought into devices that would easily amuse us to death.
But disconnect a smart phone from the internet, and its power diminishes. For my family, I have worked to try to limit internet access, but it has not been an easy task. It is hard work to keep on top of this. So I have come up with 5 reasons why you might not want to monitor or limit internet access for your kids.
1. You want to be their best friend
Limiting internet access at your home is not a way to get a “parent of the year award” from your kid. There are times when you would think that I have cut off their arm. I have been accused of limiting their future because the internet is, of course, a business tool that they need to be well acquainted with in order to be successful. Ironically, I am pretty confident that ‘Plants vs Zombies’ and Instagram will have limited benefit in their future careers.
2. You don’t care who has access to your kids
Having honest conversations about the danger of internet chats and strangers on the internet is very important. If you wouldn’t mind your kids getting together with complete strangers to hang out and chat, then these conversations with them about internet dangers are probably not a big deal.
Predatory behavior on the internet is real. And it is not just young kids who get taken in, but teens are regularly and routinely targets of internet predators. Don’t end the conversation when you think your kids are finally old enough to “know better.” Work to have honest conversation with them about social media and other apps they are involved in. Even many video games have become places for predators to fish.
3. You think pornography will be helpful to their future
It is likely that if you are reading this and your kid is over 12 then they have encountered pornography. I have read several statistics that the average age of first exposure to internet pornography is 11. Unlimited, unmonitored internet is a genuine risk to children regarding pornography.
With the dangers so readily accessible on the internet, I cannot understand how parents trust their kids with unlimited access to the interwebs . . . Especially in their bedrooms.
4. You don’t mind raising a child who has a hard time with face to face conversation
I am trying not to be an old curmudgeon who has nothing but criticism for this next generation. I have hope that they will move out into good things. They will look different from generations before them, but they will carry things forward in their own way. What concerns me is the rapid isolation that I see coming. People are alone in crowds. They are so eager to share things on the internet that they can be busy taking pictures of their food to share with virtual friends instead of enjoying the company of the friends they are with. They don’t just enjoy the concert but they record it for others while watching it on a little screen.
We really do not know the impact that this “always on” internet connectivity will have on this next generation, but there seems to be indication that they will struggle more with face to face interaction as they increasingly prefer virtual interaction. Do you want your child to have an easier time relating to a screen than another person?
5. You find the Internet to be a convenient buffer between you
I have found that the internet can easily occupy my kids for hours. They will not ask me questions, get in my way, or even cause any trouble while they are playing games online or working their social media status. The internet can keep kids in their rooms and out of the way during the tough years of adolescence. But is that what we honestly want? It may be an easier road in the short run, but I am convinced it will not be a good result in the long run.
The internet is a tool. But even that is an increasingly false or misleading statement. If we are all completely honest, for most of us the internet has become a diversion, an amusement, or even a distraction. We need to control it or it will control us. I am not nailing this personally on my own or for my family. But I AM in the battle to monitor and limit the screen time and connectedness of my kids.
I was thinking about this just this morning, and I honestly do not know if my kids will be grateful someday that I tried to limit their internet use, or if they will eventuallly need counseling because “dad was mean and didn’t let us do whatever we wanted . . . And he EVEN RESTRICTED OUR SCREENTIME . . . (cue sobbing).”
I am doing what I hope will be genuinely beneficial for my kids. But this brave new world we live in, has new challenges facing families all the time. And for most of us parenting in these days, we are making this up as we go!