This post may contain advertisements and/or links for products and services that I value. I offer recommendations to products and/or services that I find helpful in my own life as a mom. I may receive a commission based on viewer purchases or interactions with these ads. You will NOT be charged any extra money. All prices will stay the same for you whether your purchase items/services through links found on this site or not!
Trivia: How many children under the age of 6 have smart phones??
(Scroll to the bottom of the post for the answer)
I have heard that technology can cause problems for kids and parents. I kind of thought, “Yeah, well, anything can cause problems. You’ve just got to be in control of it, be smart.”
That is what I thought.
And then I watched this Ted Talk that changed my whole perspective on technology and social media for children.
Please, please take the time to watch this. It’s 17 minutes long, and life changing. I’m so happy I spent that 17 minutes to better understand this issue.
Let me repeat some of the most horrifying, intoxicating, depressing quotes from that video- Not to bring anyone down, but because I think they’re worth remembering. Even better yet, they’re worth changing ourselves!
There is a lot in this video that’s tough to hear, but it’s worth it to make ourselves, our homes, and our kids better!!
Here we go. Let’s do this.
(All quotes come from the Ted Talk listed above (see link)- unless otherwise specified.)
1) Social Media and Suicide
“What is one thing your parent does not know about social media? It nearly ended my life.”
“…In just the last 7 years our suicide rate among kids (ages 10-17) have jumped 141%.”
“Experts say that handing a smart phone with social media and untethered access to these apps with no training or guidance is like handing them a key to a car with no drivers’ ed.”
Suicide has been a problem in society for most of my life, but I never really thought about the realities of this mass epidemic.
Children are hurting themselves. Children. All the time! Children don’t just do that kind of crap. Children are loving, kind, gentle, forgiving, understanding. Children are my favorite people to be around because of their amazing qualities.
My eyes are opened that a sweet, innocent child who hurts themselves could be lost forever. Over something so insignificant as a phone. That’s insane! It just can’t go on. This has to stop.
2) Problems for Children’s Mental Health
“We are on the verge of the greatest public health crisis this generation has ever seen. That was two years ago. We are no verging. The verge is here.”
“Robs them of their resiliency…”
“Our kids’ entire self-worth at 13 is determined by virtual, unpredictable feedback. The validation that we all crave, to them, is only available in this synthetic way. Their social standing and their self-esteem is determined by a like on an Instagram photo.”
“When you’re 13 today, there’s no place to run. There’s no escape. And it is soul crushing.”
I’ve often wondered about the rising rates of depression and anxiety in particular, but other mental health issues as well, like bipolar disorder.
This video shared research linking depression and anxiety to cell phone use and/or social media addictions in children. This makes sense to me as a professional. I know that children’s brain development (particularly in complex social situations) takes years to properly form.
Neural connections that are actively used are maintained and even heightened by the brain, while neural connections that are not used weaken, wither, and eventually die if they are not used for a long period of time.
That means that our teens’ daily activities drastically affect their long-term development.
Lack of appropriate social and emotional experiences, learning, and growth will weaken or slow the social/emotional areas of the brain. Overexposure to particular experiences (like cell phone or social media use) heighten those areas of the brain.
It makes sense that the result would be an imbalance of development!
Other Great Reads:
3) Our Own Addictions
“The answer of ‘how do we save these kids’ is that we can’t… until we first save ourselves. We as adults and as parents, we have to break free from our screen dependency and our social media addiction. We have to start modeling healthy digital behavior for our kids who don’t hear us, they see us.”
“Now that I’m a teenager, I have never felt more distance, and it’s not because of me… It’s because I can’t get my mom and dad off their stupid phone… I’ve never felt more unloved and more uncared for all because of this stupid phone.”
“This little, precious human being looked at me and with tears in her eyes said, ‘Why do you love your phone more than you love me?’”
“When I had my phone out in front of my kids she didn’t know that I was answering emails to make money so she could go to dance… The only thing she saw when this was out in front of her was ‘that means more to dad that I do.’”
This broke my heart.
It is interesting to me that the presenter did not describe the intense, over the top parents. He described every day dads and moms. The ones who use their phone to check email, to enjoy a break by playing a quick game, to keep in touch with long lost friends, to see their sister’s cute baby on Facebook, to learn something new on YouTube.
It’s all good things- but an imbalance of anything is no longer a good thing.
The child doesn’t know the difference between a parent who is doing good things on their phone and a parent who isn’t. To the child, it’s the same result- a distracted, emotionally unavailable parent.
And I realized as I listened that I fell into that same category of “normal” disengaged parents. I remembered my child pushing her face in between me and my phone, or saying “mom, mom, mom, mom…” over and over because I didn’t respond the first time, or hitting my phone in my hands and saying “No!” And I thought she was the one who was out of line.
Absolutely not! It was me all along.
Not my child! She can NEVER feel this way again! I learned about this with plenty of time to adjust and I’m going to.
My baby will grow up knowing that she and her daddy and her siblings are the most important thing in my entire life! More important than stupid cell phones, more important than Facebook likes, more important than popularity.
She is the center of my universe, and she’s going to know it!
4) What Can We Do?
Throughout the Ted Talk, I noticed four ideas of what we can do to improve ourselves as parents to help this crisis. Here they are:
- “When I get home from work now… I put my phone in a drawer, I grab that little tiny human, I set her on my lap. I ask her about her day and as she’s telling me I try not to even blink. One thing amazing happened as I was doing this. All the defiance and anger stopped right then because she felt loved and connected.
This is obvious, but really hard to actually do.
The first step is to put the phone away. I never, ever thought I had a cell phone or a social media addiction. I never even had an Instagram or Twitter before I started blogging! I only had Facebook, and I spent less than 1 hour a day on Facebook.
But the cell phone… I actually struggle to be without my phone. I depend on it for my calendar, my alarms, my notes, my grocery list, my email, my games, my social media, my communication with my husband (and everyone else I know for that matter….), researching answers to questions, and basically everything else.
How am I supposed to put it down so that I can give my children all the attention they need?
I don’t really know, but I’m going to figure it out. Time to put it down, even when it’s inconvenient.
- “It’s ok to show the world that we’re not ok.”
Social media has created a world of perfection. A world where everyone compares their worst qualities to everyone else’s best qualities. A world where you hide your flaws and flaunt the things you’re good at, then beat yourself up quietly when others are good at something you’re not good at.
Why do we participate?? Let’s just not!
We can be imperfect, even in public. Even on the worldwide web- even in front of our friends, and our colleagues. And yes, even in front of our children!
- “What is the proper age to hand our children this technology and these devices… When are you ok with him to start looking at pornography? When are you ok with her to start feeling anxiety and question her self-worth? The minute we hand our kids these devices is the minute they stop being a kid.”
A third suggestion is to delay giving your children access to smart phones, especially because of the access to social media.
I know every parent has their own opinions on this, and I’m still forming my own opinion. But I think this point is very compelling and should at least be considered as parents make their own decisions.
- “It is never too late to step up and be a parent!”
I love this quote so much!
It’s absolutely right! We never have to get down on ourselves for our mistakes. We get infinity chances to try again, to fix our problems, to become who we want to be.
Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and give it another shot.
And when you fail again, just do that again. One more try, and another, and another, and another. Your kids will love you if you keep trying, even if you fail over and over. Trying shows that you love them. You would give up if you didn’t care, but you do care so you won’t ever give up on your kids.
I hope sharing this awesome information helps a parent and a child out there! Please share your experiences in the comments below to inspire other moms and dads just like you!