April 12, 2023

Kids and phones - some thoughts.

At some point, when Covid started to subside and parks began to fill up, I took Isaac to a park play and noticed almost every parent was on their phone.

There was a dude pushing a kid in a swing, while looking at his phone in his other hand.

There were two moms on park benches, texting on their phones.

There were teenage girls doing Tik-Tok (or whatever teenage girls do).

There was kid noise, and otherwise weird adult silence.

During Covid times I really missed people.  I like talking to people. I like community.  I like talking to parents at the park.  Life, for me, is vibrant when people are involved.

It looked like everyone else was getting their vibrant through their screens.

I only have young kids, but I have already been told "Oh, my ten year old just won't get off their phone/tablet!" or "I wish I could get my kids out to the park but they're just on screens all day".

If Isaac (4) or Lilah (2) get hands on a smartphone they will want to play with it.  It's amazing to me how little hands swipe so quickly.  They have seen me swipe through photos on the smart camera and they want to swipe through photos.  We don't let the kids have phones.  But we also don't let them watch us play on phones.  

I struggle to blame a ten year old for being on his phone when that's what he's seen the adults around him do.  I know that a ten year old is probably not doing a grocery app or headspace or responding to a work email... but I'm so painfully aware these little people are watching us.

Here's a diversion off topic. We always wear helmets when we ride bikes.  A friend of mine once told me he doesn't wear a helmet because he knows how to ride a bike, as he told his kids to put on their helmets.  A few years later, his kids were not wearing helmets.  I want to be a family of people who all wear helmets, I want my kids to wear helmets, I want them to see us wearing helmets, so we wear helmets.

I know the phones and kids thing gets harder when they get older, and everyone is navigating this as best they can, with the resources and time and knowledge they have.  But I'm hoping if we can keep using our basic phones, the kids will not feel persecuted when we say no to the smartphone (or chip, or google glass, or whatever the technology is in 10 years).  If we can get by without apps and mobile internet then they can get by without apps and mobile internet.

And even if they do feel persecuted by our luddite technology rules, I can take comfort in knowing parents are always lame and unreasonable, right?


  1. Such wise observations and so pertinent.

    For the most part, I'm not on my phone around my kids (aside from using it to take pictures + we do Wordle on it as a family), but my husband spends a lot of time both for work and leisure on his phone and it irks me...but he is very contented with his screen usage. But I know the kids see him reading the news or watching sports on his phone and at some point they will have a phone - that I can almost guarantee...though not for many, many years yet!...and I know the habits they see will impact their own decisions and usage.

    I love your parallel with bike helmets. We need to model the behaviours we want repeated back!

  2. Rachel, you may remember that when you were about six years old, and your brother was about four, Mom and I took both of you for a checkup at the pediatrician's office (Dr. Goldberg). After the exam, he asked you questions, as he often did. He asked you and your brother if you rode bicycles, and you both said yes. Then he asked if you always wore helmets, and you both said yes. Then he asked if you ever rode with Mommy or Daddy, and you both said yes. Then he asked you if Mommy and Daddy always wore helmets, and you both said no. At which point he looked at Mom and me and said simply "So what are you teaching them?" Shame is not an emotion I feel very often. That was one of the very few times, and I never again rode a bike without a helmet.

  3. Parents always set the example for their kids. Period.