Editor’s Note: This article represents only the author’s opinion.
It happens all the time without me realizing it. I’m on my phone checking social media while my toddler nags at me to get up and follow him somewhere. I get frustrated because he doesn’t understand how important it is for me to go through my entire Twitter feed (I have terrible FOMO). I get up reluctantly, looking forward to the moment I get to go back to my phone.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized this isn’t okay and this shouldn’t be the norm just because we’re in the “digital age.” It’s like I’m treating social media like a job. Even then, a job should never take precedence over a child. I often think back to my childhood and remember watching my dad play guitar in our playroom while we played with our toys. Times were different back then. Our parents were living more in the moment and had less distractions than we do today.
Even then, back in the ’90s, I remember getting a taste of what this age would entail. We were fortunate enough to own a big, bulky computer when they first came out. My mom was in nursing school when my sister and I were young, and I remember going up to her while she was on the computer on one occasion and asking for some tuna. I remember her words exactly: “In a second,” she said. I counted to one and asked her to get me the tuna now. She chuckled and said to hold on.
I remember feeling frustrated. Like what was she doing that couldn’t wait? At least now I know it was nursing school, but imagine growing up to find out it was just her scrolling through her Instagram feed? This is the reality of what our children will face.
Our phones have taken over our lives, and I’m just as guilty as you are. Every free chance I have, I’m on my phone checking my emails and social media feeds. It’s literally like an addiction.
Sure, great things have come out of it. Like crowdfunding for important causes, spreading news quickly, and keeping up with people from ages ago. There are so many benefits that we forget the major drawback: We’re spending less time in the moment with our families. And when we are in the moment, we’re trying to document every second of it with photos and videos for our profiles. And not only are we doing this, but we’re dragging our children down with us.
We see it all the time. Toddlers at the restaurant on an iPad or iPhone. I’ll admit, when my son gets fussy, I’ll prop up my phone and play a good YouTube video to calm him down. But I don’t plan on getting my son his own personal device until he’s much older. He’s a kid right now and should be playing with toys and running outside, not watching someone else do that on a YouTube video.
Social media is something I don’t want my son introduced to until he’s much older. Extensive social media leads to unrealistic comparisons and has been linked to depression and anxiety. Studies show it can also lead to poor vision, neck and spine problems, insomnia, and poor development in children. With all the risks involved, so many parents still take their chances.
I get it! We need to cook, clean, and do laundry. Sometimes, we need the help of a TV show to keep our kids from getting into trouble while we get things done. It’s sad, but it’s the truth. But I think we can do something about it.
I wish I could say I was perfect and never turn on the television for my son and read to him every night, but that’s not the reality of it. My son watches TV every single day and it’s too hard for him to sit still for a book. Some weekends, we literally don’t even step foot outside and just order takeout. I’m far from perfect. But I think for now, something that we can all do to try to combat the digital age is try to maintain a balance.
Digital media can be good in moderation, but try to take your little one to play outside at least once a day. Hold off on smartphones until your child is staying after school for activities and you need that added security. Only play YouTube videos at the restaurant after you’ve tried offering the crayons and coloring page. What I’ve found to be a good substitution for TV at home is the radio; my son loves music and will dance to literally any genre. Music is a great alternative because it has been linked to improved language development and isn’t a distraction from playing like the TV is.
So save the social media browsing for after your kids go to bed. Our days are so short, our kids need the best version of us and heck, they deserve it. These younger years of their lives are the memories they will take with them forever into adulthood. I don’t want my child’s only memory of me to be of me on my phone. So from now on, I am going to make a conscious effort to pay more attention to my son and less attention to my phone. He is way more interesting, anyway!