This is Amplify’s weekly newsletter, where the voices, opinions, and insights of the women at The Globe and Mail can inspire you.
Lara Bing is the National Editor’s Assistant at the Globe and Mail
If you want to spark an animated discussion among mothers of preteens, try this: Tell them you’re buying a smartphone for your child.
Smartphones have become, I’m learning, the ultimate test of your moral standing as a parent. And as with all stages of child rearing – from breastfeeding and sleep training to screen time and extracurricular exercises – you will definitely encounter Some strong opinions on this topic.
My own thoughts on the smartphone issue are very skewed towards that I don’t want to have an opinion now, thank you. I prefer to bury my head in the sand and pretend that no decision is necessary. (See also: Ask 47 other parents what they plan to do and then disagree with all of them.)
But it turns out I can’t avoid the topic any longer. My kids are approaching the age when phones are slowly becoming part of their social structure. So when I read a piece in The Cut by Kathryn Geiser Morton In her smartphone dilemma, she felt deeply appreciated. Here’s a parent who felt there were no good options when it came to giving her son a phone, and so she did what she had to do – that is, she made a choice (she gave him a phone) and then became focused on whether it was right or not. Is there a more perfect paternity packaging?
What makes smartphones – and technology in general – seem particularly charged? I ask myself that every time I close the conversation with my nine-year-old, who knows he has no reasonable chance of getting his hands on one of them now Yet he is still constantly asking but when?
I guess the reason I want to run for the hills every time he talks is that smartphone use isn’t just a phase; Rather, it represents the entry point into a part of our children’s lives from which they cannot return. Unlike toilet training accidents or tantrums at the most inopportune moment, this isn’t something that will eventually become a funny anecdote at dinner parties. It is permanent, and my child is not ready for it – or more accurately, I I’m not ready for that. Why would I willingly give my child a device that I struggle with every day?
As Geezer Morton put it, it feels like a trap: “I hate my phone, and I use it constantly. Unless my son turns out to be an extraordinary person, he’ll probably grow up to do the same. That’s probably fine—most people will insist that it’s all normal, and that I I need to relax. But I’m not comfortable. My phone has increased my worst qualities and diminished my best qualities.”
In 2022, we know that a smartphone is not just a phone. It’s a wide open door in the world of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and all the sticky problems they invite into our lives. As I write this, a book called Chaos Machine Sitting at my desk. The book, written by New York Times reporter Max Fischer, details all the ways social media companies have disrupted the world in a daring race for profits, often with disastrous consequences. (I had hardly started reading it, but it is already clear that I have to delete my social media apps and throw my smartphone in the river.)
Yes, I know how dramatic it is, and no, of course I wouldn’t throw my beloved phone in the river. When I think about it logically, I know this is the perfect opportunity to talk to my kids about social media pitfalls, about privacy and misinformation, about responsibility and self-image. All these conversations are worthwhile and necessary.
But I am upset with the way smartphones forced my hand and made all these conversations so urgent. I hate that my kids want to be tied up with a little machine that tells them what to think, how to dress and who they like. I hate that I’ve already lost that battle myself and trying to protect my children from it seems futile. And so I stopped it and put it back, hopefully one day I’ll wake up with the perfect solution.
Parents of teens tell me, “Just wait.” They say I’ll give in to the smartphone, it’s inevitable. Some have found a comfortable arrangement with their children, sharing passwords, setting screen limits and putting parental controls on their gadgets that give them a sense of control. I know they’re right, and I’ll be where they are sooner rather than later. Not today, tomorrow, or the next day.
What else are we thinking:
I love food, and am lucky enough to live in a big, vibrant city with lots of adventurous options. So I read with great interest This is the story of Bon Appetit About the unbridled world of restaurant reservations and the shady lengths some diners will go to for a seat at some of the best restaurants around. Toronto recently entered the big food league with the arrival of the Michelin Guide (although I’d argue the city has a long reputation for being a great place to eat, Michelin or not), and the reservation wars will surely reach new heights in our fair city. It’s a reminder that some of the best meals I’ve ever had were by happy coincidence, surrounded by my close friends and family, eating meals that were far from perfect but prepared with love. You cannot make a reservation for that.
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