There’s no doubt that we are in a turbulent time in our country, politically and socially. After the Valentine’s Day massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and a breakup-gone-bad shooting in which a teen gunman killed his former girlfriend and then himself last week at a Maryland high school, the gun control battle rages fiercely.
(For what it’s worth, I do have opinions about the hotly-debated issue, but this article isn’t about what I believe, or even, as you will see, about guns.I am writing about another mom’s view and I am going to let her speak.)
One Maryland mom, Diane Krasznay, who lives in the school district where the murder-suicide took place last week took to Facebook over the weekend with an epiphany of sorts. The recent shootings combined with an epic temper tantrum had gotten her thinking about the question many adults are asking in the wake of these crimes committed by teens: “What IS wrong with kids today?”
Krasznay articulates an answer, and since it is something I write about frequently, and since her post has been shared over 45,000 times since Saturday (wow!!) I wanted to share it with you. One of the BIG problems with kids today, she says, is phone addiction and screen addiction. After her 10-year-old son threw the whopper of all tantrums over not being allowed to take his phone with them on an outing, Krasznay realized things HAD to change in her home.
She posted a picture of the destruction some of his phone addiction tantrum had caused, saying,
In light of the recent shootings in Florida and then recently at our local high school (GMHS) where a boy went into school last week and shot his ex-girlfriend (she died) and then himself (he died) we all ask what is wrong with our kids today?? I may not know all the answers but I think I know one!!
Here is a photo that I took this AM. It shows my broken sprayer bottle (that I use to spray the cat when she jumps on the table etc) along with water on the carpet. This came from my son’s temper tantrum this AM. He is 10. He is a wonderful, bright STEM student, a very sensitive but caring boy. He loves animals. He sleeps with our cat every night. He loves the puppies we have every year along with the 4 dogs in our household. He writes love notes and gives hugs abundently. So what is the problem?
This AM I took away his phone. We had an activity planned for him to go to and he wanted to take his phone. His friend was coming over and all I could think about was how bored his friend would be while they sat in the car for the long car ride with my son staring at his phone and playing his games while ignoring his friend. How did I know this would happen? Because it has happened every other time!
Which brings me back to this AM. When I told my son that he couldn’t take his phone, he had a major temper tantrum. He lay on the floor crying. He begged, he pleaded. Then when I repeatedly said no, he argued. He stomped off. He reluctantly got in the car with his Dad and his friend still crying and begging for his phone. I went back into the house and that is when I noticed that he left the front door open and the cat got out. The muddy shoe tracks throughout the house. The spilled water and my broken bottle. And I realized, in one sudden moment, the phone addiction IS a drug addiction!
I have never seen a drug addict that can’t get his/her drugs. Well, except on TV. I cannot imagine it could be much worse! I realize that, yes, life has changed a LOT from when I was a kid. A lot. There are more broken families. More drugs (opiates). There seems to be more mental illness, or maybe it is just diagnosed more frequently. There is violence on TV but there always has been. Same with video games. I remember seeing kids play horrible violent video games 20 yrs ago. But the one thing that is totally different from when I was a kid and even 20 years ago….are the cell phones!! How can something so seemingly innocent be such a profound influence on a kid?
My daughter is in high school. Yes, she has wasted a lot of time on social media. So have I. Let’s admit, it’s addictive. It’s convenient. It’s sometimes even helpful..I have to say, knowing some of the parents of the kids at GMHS, they were grateful that their kids had their phones with them in school that day. They got frequent texts and updates and they knew their kids were ok! It was a relief for those parents. So phones are not all bad! They can in fact be life savers.
The way Krasznay details the way phones and screens have changed our kids’ childhoods compared to our own is SPOT on. Now that studies are starting to show the addictive nature of screens – we have to act! As parents, we MUST come along side our kids and help them to use technology in a healthy way. No, we can’t just throw tech out the window, but we CAN keep it from taking over their lives. We CAN decide not to give them smart phones and social media too young. We CAN impose reasonable screen limits on iPads and smart phones. We CAN make them play outside for a set amount of time before they can have screen time. We CAN stop phone addiction and screen addiction. Krasznay goes on to say how she’s been inspired to change the way tech is used in her home:
But. This is where the parenting comes in. I realized this AM, after watching my son’s reaction, after seeing the results of his temper tantrum, that we as parents are allowing this to happen. I am allowing this to happen! It IS convenient to have kids quietly entertaining themselves for hours. Back in the old days, and yes, I am of the baby boomer generation, we managed to get though our days without phones or electronics. We had no laptops, no switches, no Wii’s, no Xbox, no PlayStation, no huge digital entertainment centers in our homes. We got home from school and we went outside and we played, yes PLAYED, with our friends. We rode bikes, we built forts in the woods, we fished , we played kickball, spotlight, freeze tag, climbed trees, rode skateboards, ran through the hose and sunbathed, and anything else we could think of. And yes, sometimes we were actually BORED. I read books in the Summer, lots of books. I went to the library. A LOT. I played tennis, I rode ponies with my friend bareback, I even rode my bike a couple miles to her house….. back in the day when we didn’t worry about getting abducted. So what has changed? Why are kids unable to cope? Unable to think of things to do? Why are they so bored? So detached from their friends? Their families? So detached from the physical world?
I know the answer. Maybe not the whole answer. But I have an addict in the house and it’s my fault. I gave him the phone because he has a long bus ride home from school and I want to be able to stay in touch with him. However, I have allowed him to have data to play games so he won’t be bored on the bus. And then I allow him to play games as a break between homework assignments. And this leeway, this reward I have given him, this phone, has grown into a monster of sorts. If I am working and not home, I trusted that he would stick to his limits. But that apparently isn’t working. I have to physically monitor him at home and how much time he is spending on the phone. I have to be more diligent. I have to make THE decisions. Do I take away his phone altogether? Can he handle his daily limits? Is it changing his personality, his brain? Is he well rounded? Is he getting along with people? Does he have other interests?
Based on what I have seen today, I am convinced this is more serious than I originally thought. I saw an addict today. I know I’m not the only parent that has noticed this. Change needs to happen. It starts at home. I am committed to do everything I can to have well rounded, functional children. Children that play. Children that go outside. Children that have interests. Children that can interact in person with others. My commitment starts today. Wish me luck and please give me strength in numbers. Feel free to share. Thank you.