I saw a girl in my office recently who demonstrated a new phenomenon. During our hour-long counseling session, we discussed issues she was struggling with related to friendship dramas.
But what struck me was how, throughout the entire session, she had her iphone in her hands. She kept putting into and taking it out of her pocket. But mostly she clutched it, turning it over and over in her palm. It was like the loveys and blankets that toddlers drag around with them all day long for security.
Oh, and did I say that this girl was in the 3rd grade?
That’s right, the 3rd grade! Her infatuation with the phone seemed more like the behavior of a teenager, not an 8 year old. And it saddened me.
We are allowing kids to grow up way too fast, and technologies are one of the biggest culprits. Why does an 8 year old need an iphone? Or an ipad? Or access to social networking sites like Facebook or Instagram? The truth is that they do NOT need these things. They are a tremendous distraction to all the things children need to be focusing on at this stage in their development; playing outside, using their imaginations in their play, exercising, having face-to-face interactions with peers, learning real social skills, time with their families.
I think maybe families should go old-school about the use of such technologies. In the old days, there was one phone in the house that everybody shared, in a central place that made it easy to monitor. Perhaps parents should adopt the same principal with their pads and the internet.
Have one ipad or it’s equivalent that everyone can use, so no one gets behind on the latest technology(God forbid!). And there would of course be agreements about what is appropriate usage. There are some age-appropriate games and educational aps that would be fun for kids. But, in my opinion, kids in grade school and middle school are just not ready for social networking sites and other higher levels of technology; I am referring to their emotional, social, and psychological readiness, not their technology skills.
Some teens in high school don’t show appropriate readiness either, so they need to earn the next levels of usage. And parents need to be the judge of that, not their friends or what “everybody else is doing”.
Make these technologies a family affair, and my guess would be that kids would use them less and more appropriately.