I’ve been seeing this article floating around on Facebook. It’s called 10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under 12. I read it. I didn’t feel moved or challenged by it at all. Do you want to know why? Because although my son uses a handheld device occasionally, I feel I’m a good parent and he won’t turn into one of those statistics. Here’s what I find most interesting. The people I’ve seen posting it are great parents, or will be great parents once they have kids. They read stuff like this and think about the one or two times they lost track of time and their kid spent more than an hour on a handheld device. Then they start to feel guilty. The thing is, I really doubt their kids are going to fall into any of those statistics. Because, as stated before, they are good parents. What’s really frustrating is that it’s the good parents who read stuff like this and feel bad. When in reality the parents who should read stuff like this and feel bad probably don’t, or don’t think it applies to their kids.
The problem I have with a ban is that frankly, it won’t do anything. Much like the prohibition of alcohol, people won’t stop giving their kids handheld devices simply because there is a ban, they’ll just close the curtains. How would you hold anyone up to this ban? Would you be able to call the police any time you suspect your neighbor of distracting their child with a handheld device? And why would you want to take such an excellent tool for travel away from parents? Download a couple movies on your iPad and that 8 hour flight goes by with much less stress to yourself and other passengers.
Putting a ban on handheld devices won’t stop reason number 8 (parental neglect leading to addictions) from happening. Parents do not need technology to neglect their children. Neglect has been happening as long as there has been children and parents. Banning handheld devices won’t stop that from happening. If a parent wants to ignore their kid they will find a way. Additionally a child won’t always become addicted to technology. Perhaps that child will turn to something else for comfort and develop an addiction. Maybe it will be some sort of handheld device. If it’s not a handheld device maybe it will be smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, rock n roll or even schoolwork. Why is an addiction to a handheld device any worse than next addiction?
The neglect/addiction cycle can happen with anything. We can’t ban all the things parents do that cause them to ignore their children. We’d have to start banning knitting, reading, movies, hot bubble baths. That may sound extreme, but that’s essentially what this reason says to me. You are distracted by something so you’re scarring your kids and making them turn to violent video games.
Which brings me to one tiny point, I wonder if the person who wrote this is aware that there are so many other video games out there besides the ultra violent ones. It’s true that violence permeates our society. We see it all over the news. I fail to see how a person can simply blame video games/handheld devices for our children’s aggression when we are constantly surrounded by violent news reports and movies (many of which are rated PG-13 because ya know there’s no sex so it’s ok to see your favorite character get blown up into a pile of blood and bone and brain). Again violence has been around since the dawn of time, it’s not video games making our children violent. I’m not going to pretend that I know what does. But it might have something to do with trying to work out and deal with feelings they’re not sure how to handle yet.
That brings me all the way back to reason number 1, which names all sorts of technologies as the reason our children have “increased impulsivity and decreased ability to self-regulate, e.g. tantrums (Small 2008, Pagini 2010).” I’m sorry but this is just stupid. You know why children are impulsive and can’t self-regulate? Because they’re CHILDREN. Even before Jack was watching TV and playing video games he had tantrums. I’ve taken a parenting class or two and in both classes I was told that tantrums happen. Most of the time they happen because the child is experiencing an intense emotion they don’t know how to deal with. Not because they played too many video games.
I’m not going to go through every reason they list because overall I believe they don’t apply to my situation. Because I believe I’m a good parent. It’s true sometimes I give my child my phone so he can play Angry Birds. Sometimes he watches some TV and some nights we even have a (gasp) family movie night.
I refuse to let this article, which seems to be feeding into this guilt parenting thing, make me feel bad about it. I will not be a guilt parent. I’m not going to force myself to spend time with my son when I really don’t have the energy because you know what? That forced time is not quality. I will not feel bad for letting him play video games or watch TV once in a while. And I’m not going to support some ridiculous ban that will not change a thing.
In short bad parents aren’t going to change their ways because of a ban. They’ll just find some other way to hurt their children. Instead of focusing on banning things why not focus on helping children in dire situations? Reach out to the abused, neglected and hungry. And while you’re at it bring your kids along and teach them a bit about love and kindness to others.
What do you think about banning certain technologies? Is there any merit to it?