Mother's column – Kids, the phones will sleep in the living room!
We gave into the social pressure and the demands of online schoolwork: at the age of 12, our kids got their own phones. Well, not iPhones, nor smartphones... but "dumbphones". You know, the ones with buttons.
Of course, they could still watch movies on their laptops and chat with their friends until who-knows-how-long about anything they couldn't discuss properly at school. During the pandemic, they even did push-ups with their friends – online.
Is the age of twelve too late? Or was it too early? There is no rule. And why? Why does the online world seem to be so personal that parents feel like prying in their children's lives if they want to know what's going on? More and more studies show that screen time and some autism-related difficulties are linked.
Obviously, FOMO (fear of missing out) is addictive to our children. And to us, grown-ups as well, maybe to a lesser extent. Surveys also tell us that kids, on average, are exposed to internet porn around the age of 11. Shocking? Yes. And I'm not talking about Marilyn Monroe's flouncy skirt. Unwanted harmful content is flooding through the smart devices we put in our children's hands, and –honestly– we are neither prepared to talk about it nor face the consequences. The Internet and its influence on our everyday life are very new to our society.
Have you ever seen young people standing next to each other swiping their phones? Young couples holding (one) hand and looking at their phones in the other? Tell me, in which part of Europe is social media not an integral part of communication? Is there a way out? How does your teenage child manage to fit into a peer group without a smartphone? Kids hide their dumbphones at the bottom of their bags so that no one sees them, as they are so embarrassing...
Forced by social pressure our children must have the most essential gadget of our time. For some, the device is equipped with a well-functioning parental control app. At least to limit their screen time. And maybe some content, too.
But no parental control software is a substitute for quality time spent together, endless evening chats or a nice family walk in the nearby forest. Let's try to squeeze these into the week, keeping in mind that the screen does not produce oxytocin, the relationship hormone. And we all need that.
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