Screening Screen Screentime
Animal Crossing, Nintendo, 2001
From The Smart Set:
Up until COVID-19 changed everything, I’d been pretty strict in regards to screen time for my sons. They earned video game time (up to two hours on weekends) for doing well in school, exercising, cleaning up dog poop, taking out the compost and other chores; we occasionally allowed them to watch sports and movies with us. But despite the fact that all of our 12-year old son’s friends had one, under no circumstances were we ready to give in to his demands and get him a smartphone.
To say having a phone will eat him alive might seem dramatic in 2020, but what terrifies me more than the zits and the braces (more even than the fact that he will likely kiss someone, on the lips, who is not family, in the next couple years) is how that small rectangle of thingamabobs and doohickeys will feast on my son’s innocence.
Over the years, I’ve watched the young people I know lose the ability to carry a conversation at a dinner table. They’ve completely lost interest in playing tag, or swimming, or shooting hoops. When we hang with other kids in person, I feel lucky if one of them looks up from their phones when someone in the room farts.
The mom-patrol might moralize about enforcing parental controls and becoming the ultimate snooper: decoding kids’ veiled text messages, lurking on their social media accounts and tracing their online interactions. However, when I asked my mama friends how much they monitor their kids’ online lives, every one of them admitted they were doing a terrible job. Most confessed that while they have access to their screenager’s YouTube histories, they rarely, if ever, explore the paths paved by their kids’ curious brains. And now, with so many parents, like me, trying to balance working from home, parenting, their kids’ schoolwork, and their own mental health, at the end of the day, few of us have the energy (or time) to mine through our kids’ online lives.
Surely, the majority of grown-up smartphone users aren’t much more evolved than their kids. Whether it’s being plugged into our work email 24/7, playing Fantasy Football, constantly checking the news, or posting our workouts and too-big hats onto Instagram, the roaring in our pockets proves impossible to ignore.