As parents, we want to give our children everything we can. Things they want and things we never had. Is there such thing as too much? Of course. Are we beyond that point now? I think so, in a lot of cases. Everything in life is about finding balance. It’s sad to see that many have stopped trying to find it.
We live in a very electronic age. Cellphones and tablets are everywhere. They have become a “necessity”. In the beginning, it was “I need a cellphone, in case of an emergency”. Now the biggest emergency is just being without a cellphone. My daughter started lobbying for a cellphone in the 4th grade because other kids were getting them. It was ridiculous then and even now in 7th grade it’s still ridiculous. Every child and most of the adult population could be completely fine without a cellphone. It wasn’t that long ago that we were.
As a parent, I’d rather my daughter were growing up back in my generation without wifi and cellphones because times were simpler and not nearly as difficult. I remember looking at magazines in my bedroom and listening to music on my clock radio. I remember riding my horse and playing with the pigs on my grandfather’s farm. I loved drawing and watching shows like “Murder, She Wrote”. Things were easier. I struggled with feeling lonely and not having friends. I wasn’t popular and it wasn’t the best time of my life. Although, I would rather repeat it all again in the 1990’s than I would today.
Are we as parents failing our kids, by letting them have all access to the internet and buying them the latest devices? Are we afraid to say no to them? Are we giving them too much freedom? I think the answer is yes. What we are giving them is actually harming them and stealing their innocence. I remember the video games of my generation and parents saying they were turning their children’s brains into mush. The parents still let allowed them play because it was easier to just let them play then to actually enforce limits. We are doing the same thing now, but the stakes are much higher. At least with the old video games parents knew the content. Now our children can start off by watching My Little Ponies and end up watching explicit videos in seconds. They can connect with strangers online and share information and photos. Even if they are among friends on Snapchat, do you know what is being shared? They love Snapchat, not just for the funny filters, but because the photos and comments “self destruct” in 10 seconds and there is no accountability for inappropriate photos or words. That makes it all too tempting to behave badly. There is still that possibility the photo or comment gets screenshot in that 10 second window and suddenly it’s become permanent and it could come back to haunt them. You can all think, my child knows better and my child would never do that. They do, but they probably have. The choices your teenager makes today can affect so many aspects of his/her life as an adult.
So when we buy that new iPad as a birthday gift, what are we really giving our children? It’s an unlimited opportunity for learning. It will teach your child a lot. Things you may not want them to learn, but they are in the driver’s seat. They are choosing what they learn. Other kids are teaching them things. Those hours spent searching and sharing are lessons. The scary part is most parents have no idea. Parenting is hard. Harder than it was in previous generations. Ultimately, we are the parents and the first line of defense for our children. We need to be monitoring, blocking, and policing the content. We need to view the exposure to the internet as a real and present danger that can deeply scar and damage our children. We all want the best for our children. Our best is teaching them right from wrong and the lessons they will need later in life. We need to teach them those lessons, not leaving it up to the world. I don’t want the world teaching my daughter about life. I want to.