He sits on the couch, my sweet teenage son, his eyes squinting while his hands move rapidly, and his brain lights up like a Christmas tree.
“Please go walk the dog,” I ask.
He doesn’t respond.
“Please go walk the dog,” I say louder.
No response. Why would he? While he toggles back and forth from Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, my words are mere wind passing by unnoticed.
This has been the environment in our home for too long. With three boys and three little machines attached to them like the nuks they held so tightly as babies, I can no longer reach them. Their attention has been stolen by these screens. Their minds so needing the quick fix of their phones, a simple dinner conversation without a flashing screen has become torture.
“No screens at the dinner table!” We scold.
And over over again we see the blinking light under a shirt or the buzzing in a pocket.
“No phones in your room.” We remind them.
And late at night I come downstairs to go to the bathroom and find a bright light shining under a cover.
We have had it. We are no longer willing to compete with the drug of the internet in our young developing boys brains.
Much of the issue lies with the fact that what makes tablets and iPhones so great—dozens of stimuli at your fingertips, and the ability to process multiple actions simultaneously—is exactly what young brains do not need. - Psychology Today
So we made a decision that rocked their world. (While I realize this is a first world problem, we can’t deny it IS a problem.)
We bought them flip phones. You know those slim little things we used to think were the next best thing after we ditched our pagers.
My husband and I realized the smart phones were a problem, but we had no idea how much until we took them away and presented them with their new shiny little flip phones.
Their worlds rocked. Their brains in detox. Watching our boys cut the umbilical cord of their phones was unlike anything I have seen in my 16 years of parenting. They cried and yelled and cried some more. This went on for days. Not just minutes or hours...DAYS!
“You are ruining our lives! You are the worst parents ever! How can you do this to us!” They yelled and cried over and over.
What has happened to this world?
“Teenagers today have never known a world without the internet, which may be why half of all adolescents say they’re addicted to their digital devices.” - From the documentary, “Screenagers”
My own children cannot survive without a screen in their hand! I knew the phones had a hold on them, but I had no idea how much until we took them away.
Then there was another problem. They wouldn’t carry the flip phones.
I feel their pain and honestly I almost cave. I remember when every other girl had a pair of Guess jeans, or a Limited sweater and I was wearing no-name jeans and a white shirt with a Peter Pan collar. I felt like an outcast. I wanted to fit in.
But I don’t care. These precious little brains in these growing boys’ heads are something to protect. These relationships they have with us and others are something that needs to happen face to face, not on a screen.
So we had to write up a contract to force them to carry the flip phones.
A contract that required them to answer the flip phones when we call.
You would have thought we asked them to run through the school naked.
But, then something quite beautiful happened, after the crying and gnashing of teeth...they began to talk to us! More than they ever had! One of the boys went outside to play basketball because he had nothing else to do, they walked the dog, and they slept better. Their eyes are no longer swollen from hours upon hours of staring at a screen.
I am not sure we will actually EVER give them their smart phones back. I feel like we cleaned our home of drugs or toxic chemicals. I feel like my boys returned from a long vacation.
So we might be the worst parents ever. And we are OK with that. Want to join us?