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How to avoid child smartphone dependency
It is free to visit the National Zoo in Washington, DC. But if you visit since the pandemic, the zoo has demanded you have an entry pass which you order online, and which you display with your smartphone. Likewise, to get into the championship games of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, consisting of high schools in DC, Maryland and Virginia, fans needed tickets, but there were no paper tickets at all. Nobody could get into these games without a smartphone.
And the same is true for Nationals Park, where the Washington Nationals play their home games. These institutions, and thousands like them, are making the world unnavigable for anyone without a smartphone. This is annoying for the elderly or the tech resistant. It is downright harmful for children, because smartphones and social media are harmful for children.
Smartphones and social media draw kids away from their families, neighborhoods and real-life friends. They cause addiction, anxiety and depression. They expose kids to pornography and extremism. We shouldn’t be pushing smartphones on kids; we should be doing the opposite.
Some parents want their children to have smartphones for one reason or another. Many parents and many kids can probably manage the dangers of these devices. But countless parents get their kids Androids or iPhones only because they believe they have to. A dozen parents have told me they didn’t want to give little Lisa an iPhone. But Instagram messenger is the only way her friends communicate. And parents don’t want their kids becoming social outcasts.
Our culture makes parenting harder in a million ways, imposing all sorts of pressures that make it more difficult for parents to raise their kids how they want. [The] peer pressure to give your kids the latest addictive technology is one such difficulty. Parents need support in resisting this pressure. Schools, sports leagues, and other institutions should be fortifying parents who want their kids to live app-free lives.
Step one is for institutions to never demand e-tickets, and never use apps as a main form of communication with children.
Step two is to ban phones in more places. Schools should ban cell phones inside the building. Set up some landlines at the front desk for kids who need to call mom or dad. This culture should trickle out into the rest of school life and youth sports culture. Adults then should model this same behavior.
And step three is to educate parents on the dangers of smartphones and social media, how they can become addictive and fuel anxiety and sadness.
These days, we look back and shake our heads at all sorts of reckless behaviors, such as chain smoking or throwing kids in the back of a station wagon without seatbelts. One day, I believe our children will say: “Can you believe parents in the 2020s let their kids use TikTok and smartphones?” We should begin today the process of liberating our children and ourselves from these apps and devices.
How to avoid child smartphone dependency
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