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Why My Kids Didn’t Get iPads for Their Birthdays (Again)

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My name is Rachel, and I’m addicted to my phone.

Here are my justifications as to why it’s ok for me to never let my phone out of my sight.

1: We don’t have a home phone. If there’s an emergency, my cell is the only way to call 911.

2: I’m a WAHM (Work at Home Mom). I write for websites and magazines, I have two books out (working on a third), and I do media appearances. I need to be available and connected at all times to my e-mail, my blog, Facebook, and Twitter in case someone is trying to get in touch with me. Plus, as a writer, I’m always hustling. I have to keep up with other writers, stay on top of trending topics, and be ready to get connected to the right people at the right times, all the time.

3: Most of my social interaction comes from social media. I have the absolute right to have a life outside of my raising my three children and writing. I need to know what’s going on with my friends and family members.

Now, as you read through these, you are likely scoffing or rolling your eyes a bit. First, do I really need to be connected and available at ALL times? No. (Voicemail, texting, e-mail, and social media messaging exist in order to leave a message which I can respond to later.) Do I really NEED to watch my friend’s son sing a song in the school play? No. Is it necessary to “like” the photo my sister posted of her new wall color? Probably not. Yet as you are judging the validity of my justifications, maybe you see a bit of yourself (or a lot of yourself) in my words. You may even be reading this article from your smart phone.

The truth is, I know that while my eyes are glued to my screen, I’m missing precious moments with my kids who just may be reaching a milestone just a few feet in front of me. My husband often hears me mumble in reply (if I even reply) to his questions, all without making any eye contact. I might not be making a new friend at the park because I’m too busy posting twenty-two photos of my son going down the slide.

I know that busyness isn’t the same as productiveness. I know that sharing a status on social media isn’t the same as having dinner with a friend. I know that my husband walking in the door from work should be met with a smile and kiss, not a “hang on sec” while I skim just one more alluring blog post.

This past birthday season, the time when we celebrate all the kids’ birthdays within a two month period, my husband and I contemplated getting our two older children, ages four and six, some sort of personal tablet. They certainly would enjoy them immensely. Almost all of their young friends own one. When we visit one set of grandparents, the kids’ first request is to play on their grandparents’ iPads.

I know all the reasons why it’s good for kids to have a personal device. They need to keep up with technology. They will learn so many fantastic things, like reading and addition, from clever apps. They can be entertained and educated at the same time. The tablets are great for long car trips, standing in lines, on sick days, when traveling to Grandma’s house.

But I’ve resisted.

Because having a personal electronic device is like a drug: you just simply cannot get enough. Ever. There’s always something else to check, buy, consider, read, look at, or play.

My friends have tried all sorts of clever things to limit their children’s “technology time.” There’s a daily tech time limit. Kids can earn coupons (for good behavior or good grades) to use their device. They only get to use it on weekends, or sick days, or when traveling in the car. No tech devices at the dinner table, or after 8 p.m., or when friends are over.

But I’ve never met a parent who is able to enforce the reasonable rules long-term. And the parents certainly don’t follow their own rules. They bark at their kids to “go play outside” while not looking up from their phone. So parents slowly give in, give up, and the kid is following in mom and dad’s shoes: addicted to a glowing, warm device that endlessly-tempts and encourages disengagement, distraction, and apathy.

I want for my kids something that I do not personally have: freedom from a device that simply doesn’t love me back. My phone doesn’t offer me peace (more like additional stress and anxiousness), joy (more like disappointment; I just cannot get that Pinterest dessert to look pretty), or wisdom (more like polarized opinions of others who, like me, are reading too much biased media stories).

I do not anticipate or wish to keep my children from owning a technological device for their entire childhoods. But if, for just a few more months, or another year, allow them to enjoy gazing at the clouds (rather than checking a weather app), playing Duck Duck Goose with one another (rather than Angry Birds or Mine Craft), and make a new friend at the park (rather than simply “like” a status of a photo of a friend at a park), I’m going to try.

In essence, I want them to store their childhoods in their hearts, not on Instagram.

 

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