Unplugging from social media

Mark Austin: My daughter has got rid of her smartphone and it’s one of the best decisions she has made. The Mirror, November 29 2014.

A savvy article written by a journalist whose daughter has decided, seemingly on her own, to set aside her smart phone and live without it. She reports feeling happier and less stressed. An experiment of one, to be sure, but still an idea and an action that many parents wish their kids would replicate.

In my office where I work with children and their parents, the dynamic usually goes like this: The parents are exasperated with the kid always being on the phone playing video games or instagramming with friends, and the parents finding themselves playing moral policemen with their child. Are they doing their homework or just goofing off? Are they cussing or making sexual innuendos online? Are the parents willing to upgrade the phone system or offer a newfangled smartphone as a birthday present because all the other kids in the school already have it? Does the kid take the phone to bed and text friends well into the night instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour on school nights? In short, control battle after control battle with the parents seeming to lack much perspective on the matter. After all, they’re paying the bill every month on the phone, not their child.

So the parent could pull the plug at any moment, but they don’t want their poor little children to be mad at them or feel uncool with their peers.

What a refreshing idea that a child decides on her own to end this madness, but how very rare this would be.

Though the scientific literature remains in a debate stage on the pros and cons of the media in a child’s life, the fact is that media devices are more and more eating into children’s times, and taking away time with family and friends, for school work and for face to face play time and just simple sleep. So setting limits seems imperative and downright obvious. Yet in a profit-driven society, we can’t expect the media industry to set the limits, only humans. There are only two possibilities here: parents or the children themselves. Someone needs to make the choice. Someone needs to be the grown-up.