“Dear Children: It’s time to have the talk.”
Not that talk. The other one: The Great Tech Talk.
With school in earnest this week, so begins begins conversation about technology use in our home.
As a preamble, I’d like to say this: I love the internet.
As a follow-up: I despise the internet.
It’s complicated, this love-hate relationship.
The love is THIS BLOG. I get to write and publish, and meet other bloggers and writers and commenters from all over the world – Amazing! Wonderful. The love is connecting on Facebook and Instagram and sharing pictures immediately. It’s Google calendar, email, and Lindsey Stirling Youtube videos. It’s recipes and Shutterfly and Airbnb and GPS directions (because otherwise I’m not getting there.) It’s newsletters and research and googling Donald Trump’s hair. Yes, the World Wide Web is simply awesome.
I’m inspired daily and believe there is no greater and faster tool to spread goodness and light than the internet.
I also believe there’s no greater or faster tool to spread evil and destruction than the internet.
Like the despicable Ashley Madison Website whose tag line is: “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” Which boasts 40 MILLION users. I mean, what the heck is going on?
News like this makes me want to crawl in a bunker with my children.
Alas, we cannot hide. There is a battle going on, and we, my friends are the resilient foot soldiers.
Did you know? 11.7 is the average age a child encounters pornography on the web. Some researchers say it’s now closer to age 8. It’s one of the reasons I’m very wary of sleepovers. It’s not that I don’t trust my kids. I just don’t trust your kids – kidding!
There’s a slew of research on the effects of technology on the teenage brain. It’s not their fault they’re more impulsive, easily swayed by their peers, and feel more invincible – it’s the physiology of their brain!
It’s not just pornography. Frequent Facebook use makes many kids and adults unhappy. Tech addiction thwarts time well spent, relationships, an explored earth. I don’t want my children’s lives waylaid by virtual interaction. I want them to live in the real world, man!
Technology addiction is a thing. Google it. You’ll get 15,300,000 hits.
The videos are wonderful. They’re brutally honest. But I’d really love to avoid the “recovery” part and start with prevention. I want to protect myself and my children from the great pain of needing a 12-step program.
Just this week I’ve had two older gentlemen shake their heads at me and say, “I’m glad we’re not raising our kids today. I’m glad it’s you and not me.”
Well, we are raising our kids in this generation, and far from being pessimistic about all the crap they navigate on a daily basis, I’m confident about their future. Because our children possess great light. They know the difference between right and wrong. But it’s hard to stand alone. They need to see their parents modeling good and intentional online habits.
So this is where we try.
As an adult, I have to be careful. I adore my iPhone. Its my precious. I’m too often drawn in, checking email too often, feeling a writer’s “high” when one of my posts receives a “like,” as if my worth is measured by comments and likes. I’m not always a great example.
The Professor is my accountability partner. I tell him my goals: No phone checking upon wake up. Early morning is for quiet meditation, scripture reading, and running on real roads. With school starting, I resist the urge to reach for the phone until the kids have left for school. And every single day I fight that urge. The brain likes what it likes.
Seen on Instagram: “Technoference.” New research out of BYU’s College of Family Life and Social Sciences shows that technoference is statistically linked to lower relationship quality AND life satisfaction.
Brilliant Sue, science teacher has written much about How Kids Learn. She’s helped me see the wisdom in kids “buying in” instead of adults being too militant and having all the control. We can’t stem the tech tide – nor should we! Kids will find a way to Google. Paraphrasing Joseph Smith, “we teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” (and monitor and pray a whole heck of a lot!)
In 2012, Janell Burley Hoffman wrote the iPhone contract heard round the world for her 13-year-old son. I loved it. Not everyone did. Based on some of the comments, you’d think she was the world’s worst home dictator. In my opinion, Janell is a resilient foot soldier. She’s fighting a good fight.
My take is this: we cannot be too careful. The dangers are real. Our family has not been immune. And it breaks my heart that there are images and words that can never be erased.
As our children grow older, there are more tech users in the home. We now iPads, iPods, and phones (but not iPhones. I refuse.) It’s becoming more common to have all homework assignments, textbooks, and reference materials on-line. As such, our kids are on-line a lot. We’ve all become foot soldiers, trying to find the balance between good, better, and best.
As school — and therefore technology use — begins for real this coming week, we will revisit “the great tech talk” as a family. As part of the talk, we sign a contract. Is a contract really necessary? I believe it’s essential.
Do our children have input? Absolutely! To avoid power struggles, I highly suggest it. Tech power struggles have been hard on my relationship with my children. I become the nag. They can’t stand me. So. We continue to discuss and (mostly) agree. We all know the rules. They help shape the consequences.
Our Tech Contract goes something like this (adapted from Hurley):
Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology. Aren’t you the luckiest? With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.
As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:
1. Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Before using your device, you must ask permission.
2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen. Devices are not to be used in bedrooms, behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place for homework, we will discuss.
3. All apps must be approved.
4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. Learn to love it.
5. We will be able to read your texts and KIK conversations at any time.
6. Technology is put away at all meal times.
7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. (See A Deadly Wandering!)
8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.
9. Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or bishop or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! No pornography. If someone shows you pornography, FLEE. Come talk to us. It’s destructive. It ruins lives.
10. When you enter the home, put your technology on the black shelf by the front door.
11. At night, after homework is done, turn in your technology to the black shelf or hutch.
12. On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!
13. When riding in a car with us, ask permission before using your device. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations. It’s polite. It’s important to learn how to communicate — even when it’s awkward.
14. When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).
15. When we call or text, answer immediately.
16. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. With any website or song, ask yourself: How does this make me feel?
17. If you break your device (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.
18. If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time. They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.
Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you. You will make mistakes. We will still love you. We are a forever family. We want you to be happy.
Love, Mom and Dad