At What Age Should Children Get iPhones?

 

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This is what our kitchen phone looked like.

When I was young, we had a party line. It was a black telephone attached to the kitchen wall in our tiny house on Emerson Street in Snohomish, Washington. When you picked up the receiver to make a call, someone might be on the phone in another house, so you’d have to wait for the line to be clear before you could dial out.

Sometimes you could hear someone breathing lightly while you were talking. There were some nosy neighbors who listened in on calls, which was really bad manners. Trust me, my mom never did that and wouldn’t allow us to eavesdrop, either.

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This is a view from outside my hometown.

Long distance was a big deal. I’d hear my mom say, “You’re calling long distance?” when a family member or friend would call from across the state. Those calls would be super short. You wouldn’t waste a minute of that expensive time.

The idea of a cell phone that was a personal computer, camera, game center and internet was unthinkable back then. Oh, that’s right. We didn’t know what personal computers were. There was no internet. No digital cameras, either.

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An early car phone.

My kids didn’t grow up with cell phones and I’m glad. They missed out on the era of smartphones owned by young kids by just a few years. Their first phones were given to them before they went to Swim Camp at USC. They must have been 11 and 14 at the time and they were so excited to get their little pre-paid flip phones. We were at a meet at FAST the day we took them to camp and gave them the phones. My son used up his minutes texting to all his friends who owned phones before him. The silly thing is that he was texting to kids who were at the meet! And of course, the phone was meant to be used in case of emergency to reach mom and dad.

That’s what bugs me about phones. Kids would rather text each other than talk face to face. I’ve watched kids sitting under the tent at meets, looking down at their phones and not playing cards or games together. They are communicating with each other but through their devices. It’s just weird, don’t you think?

I wonder what impact it will have on the kids who are growing up with smartphones as young as first and second grades? Will it impede their ability to communicate in person? Is it changing how their brains work? I can’t wait for the studies to come out years from now about the generation raised with their phones attached like an extra appendage.

It reminds me of a Dean Koontz novel I read years ago where people were physically melding into their computers. Their fingers would melt into the keyboard and become permanently attached and cords would hook up to their bodies. I think the novel was called MIDNIGHT.

 

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My kids and teammates hanging out together at a meet–before iPhones.

There are a few good reasons to give your young children smartphones. But, I think there are more reasons against kids under 13 or 14 getting one. I heard a physician in Colorado has proposed a law banning children from having smartphones under age 13. But, how would you enforce that? I think it should be a parent’s decision and not up to the government.

 

Here are a few links to articles that discuss the pros and cons of kids and smartphones:

From the New York Times July 20, 2016:

“Common Sense Media polled 1,240 parents and children and found 50 percent of the children admitted that they were addicted to their smartphones. It also found that 66 percent of parents felt their children used mobile devices too much, and 52 percent of children agreed. About 36 percent of parents said they argued with their children daily about device use.”

10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Hand a Smartphone to Your Children

When Should You Get Your Kid A Phone
When did you give your children a smartphone? What are your thoughts about children and phones?

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What Matters Most: Times Together

18920581_10213697294890444_4649514921325596156_nThis past weekend, I was in mom heaven. My daughter was at a swim meet an hour away from where my son now lives. We didn’t do anything that special, we got to hang out together. It was one of my favorite weekends in recent memory.

At first, I was worried about how my daughter was going to do at the meet. She had already told us that due to other things going on in her life, her last few weeks of practice were not consistent at all.

I told her, “You can still get a best time and swim well.” 

She thought I was delirious. She was very realistic about what she could do at that point in time. I have to admit that after her first race, I got it. I relaxed about the times and understood that this meet was about being together as a family. It was a small slice of time where we could hang out and enjoy each other’s company. If I had been focused on her times and upset that she wasn’t at her peak fitness, I’d have been so disappointed. Instead, I reflected on being the mom of two almost grown kids that I’m so proud of. And, the fact that they enjoy being with me and each other.18920513_10213697294250428_7072346138704993087_n

While we were driving around town, the kids were in the back seat pretending to be little kids elbowing each other. I turned around from the front passenger seat and said, “Children, there’s an imaginary line going down the middle of the car. You can’t cross that line!”

My daughter immediately yelled out, “Mom, Robert crossed the line!”

Later, after fits of laughter, we hung out together in a park, lying on the grass and staring at the green leaves and blue sky.18835878_10213697294490434_3338216834463049598_n

We shared books, ideas and meals. My son’s vocabulary had us looking up new words and trying to memorize and pronounce them, like “primogeniture.” One of my kids favorite things to do was to copy our faces. My son does an imitation of me, while Kat has perfected her dad’s scowl. It always ended in a burst of laughter and fits of giggles.

The swim meet was exciting with a who’s who in the swimming world in the final heats. I witnessed amazing races and the international flavor was so hopeful and invigorating with countries in attendance including Argentina, Mexico, Japan and China.

It may be the last time we’ll be staying in a hotel with our daughter at a meet. Ever. Her final college season is ahead this fall and she’ll be with her team, not us. I was a little teary-eyed when the weekend flew by and it was time for me to return again to my empty nest.IMG_7880

Are Parents to Blame for Millennials Unhappiness and Angst?

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When the kids were young and I hadn’t messed up parenting too badly, yet.

I watched a video posted on Facebook by one of my children’s former swim coaches about millennials in the workforce and the problems they face. It really made me reflect about my own parenting and kids. There’s an increased number of kids in this age group with depression, committing suicide and overdosing. That’s terrifying, don’t you agree? What can be done about it? And why is it happening?

You can watch the aforementioned video here

Here are the four main points of the video:

ONE
Bad Parenting

I hate that bullet point and know I’m guilty of some bad parenting myself. The main idea is that our kids were told they are special at every turn, whether it’s deserved or not. Consequently, millennials often suffer from low self esteem. While we’re trying to make our kids strong, mentally and physically, we’re doing something very wrong. We have highly educated, competent kids who don’t believe in themselves. Maybe everyone shouldn’t get a participation trophy in tee ball. It’s one of the reasons why I like swimming. Every mili-second dropped and ribbon received is truly earned. The clock doesn’t lie.

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Before the computer and cell phone I thought the The IBM Selectric II was the greatest invention ever.

TWO
Technology

Checking our number of likes, texts, etc. give us a jolt of dopamine. That’s why we get addicted to our phones. Social media and cell phones are not much different than other highly addictive substances like tobacco or alcohol. When teenage brains are exposed to dopamine, they get hooked and their brains get hardwired. Hearing this part of the video makes me want to look at my own cell phone usage and make some changes—a good thing to think about for New Year’s Resolutions (I’ll write more about this later). Social media is preventing our kids from developing personal relationships and may lead to depression and being unable to handle stress.

THREE
Instant Gratification

Our kids have grown up in the world of instant gratification. If they want to watch a movie, they turn on Netflix. If they want to buy something, they click on Amazon and it’s delivered the next day. I interviewed a psychologist and wrote about instant gratification here. Job satisfaction and relationships aren’t a click away. Instead they are messy and time consuming, but our kids aren’t learning these skills of waiting and working for things.

FOUR
Environment

Maybe our corporate environments aren’t a good fit for young people. Our kids blame themselves when it could partially be the fault of the company they work for. Companies need to work extra hard to build the children’s social skills and work on their lack of confidence. We need to work on interpersonal relationships and one good way to start is to put the phone down.

What are your thoughts about millennials and their angst? Do you think it’s our fault they are suffering from depression and anxiety? Or, does the environment and technology play a bigger role?

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Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO. She is the best mom and my role model.

Inspiration Can Be a Daily Thing

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Back in the day: summer vacation in Laguna Beach.

When my college roommate was visiting after Thanksgiving, I would hear her phone ping every morning with texts.

Her mom, who is in her 80s, lives alone and asks that my college roommate and her two brothers make some contact via text every morning. That way, they know that she’s okay.

I’d hear the familiar ping of my friend’s phone. She’d say, “That’s from mom. Listen to what she has to say today….”

Then she’d read an inspirational quote that her mom sent. Her brothers would chime in and my friend would respond as well.

I thought, what a great idea. I’m a terrible worrier, and if I don’t hear from my kids for a few days or weeks, I get more worried. With one child in the Bay area and the other in Utah, I feel like they’re both too far away. I sent my kids a group text and explained how it would work. We would send an inspiring note to each other by noon each day. It only takes a moment, we’d check in and pass along some inspiration. Also, I’d know that they were okay.

“Put your heart, mind and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” —Swami Sivananda

That was my first text. I told them, “Now you guys need to respond by noon with a quote or a ok thanks,” I texted.

“Would that be ‘an’ okay, thanks. Not a,” my daughter texted back.

She then responded with a meme with the following words:

“What are a few things that have inspired you lately?

To be better than everyone. Cause I hate everyone.”

I take it she wasn’t enjoying my inspirational quote thing so much.

My son responded with “I don’t like inspirational quotes, so here is a good painting.”

A Vase of Roses–Van Gogh, 1890

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The next day, I sent a quote and my daughter responded with “Eew that’s so and so’s bio on Twitter. New quote please.”

I sent “Winners never quit. Quitters never win.” It was a quote we had on the back of our swim club’s shirts a few years ago.

“Except Michael Phelps quit and he’s a winner,” she pointed out. Yes, she’s right about that, too.

My son sent a painting by Henri Matisse.img_2866

“I like it. It reminds me of spongebob,” my daughter said.

“Fun fact: the spongebob art was inspired by his cut-outs,” he answered.

My daughter texted this:img_9775

It’s been interesting to see what they come up with on a daily basis. It adds a little joy to my day like we’re sharing special secrets.

And then my son called, “Thank you, Mom, for starting the inspiration thing. I really love it.”

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Me and my college roommate.

 

Kids Say the Funniest Things

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Do you remember the TV shows, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” or Art Linkletter in “House Party?” I forgot about these shows for decades until this past Thanksgiving weekend.

I had a great four days. Both kids were home for Thanksgiving. They haven’t had a chance to hang out together for several years because their Christmas holidays and spring breaks were at different times. Thankfully, this Thanksgiving we were all together—which is a rarity.

Whether it was sitting together as a family in our backyard talking or watching my children sit together in the sun playing with the new puppy, I was in Mom heaven.

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Spending time together and with the pup.

Besides Thanksgiving dinner with my dad, college roommate, her mom and brother, and a close friend, one moment that I’ll remember was dinner Friday night. The four of us–me, hubby and two kids–sat together in a booth at a local restaurant and reminisced about the funny things they said as little kids. We laughed so hard we were literally crying and in convulsions.

Here are three funny things my kids said (at least I think they’re funny and hope you do too!)

ONE

When my daughter was born, my son, who was age three talked with Grandpa on the phone. “What do you think of your little sister?” Grandpa asked.

After a few moments, deep in thought, my son answered, “Well she’s got no hair, no teeth and no penis!”

TWO

When my daughter was four or five, she wanted to go over to her best friend’s house to play during the holidays. Her best friend was Orthodox Jewish, so she asked if it was okay to come over or “were they still celebrating the Holocaust?”

Yikes. I think she meant Hanukkah.

THREE

When my daughter was an infant and my son three years old, we had a 16-year-old babysitter join us for a week at the beach. I remember getting the baby out of the car at the park and watching my son with two hands on the babysitter’s bikini-clad boobs. I said something like “What are you doing?” or “That’s not acceptable.” He turned to me and said, “I just want to watch them bounce. Yours don’t do that.”

Out of the mouth of babes. Yes, he was right.…

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At the beach.

Sitting in the restaurant wiping tears from my eyes over the funny things our kids said, my son buried his head in his scarf, unbelievably embarrassed. To me, however, it was a night to remember.

What funny things did your kids say when they were toddlers?

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Wow. I’m missing these guys.

He’s Going to Be Okay

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Sunset in Berkeley during our weekend visit.

 

My son officially finished his undergrad degree in August. It was a long haul and never as easy as I had imagined for him. I looked at college as some of the best years of my life. I imagined my son would love college, too. But it wasn’t all great. In fact, some of it was downright ugly. But, the good news is he made it. He officially has his undergrad degree.

Now what? We visited him in his new home in Norcal and I can say, although I think he’s way too far from home, it was a perfect weekend. The weather, the food, the girlfriend, the apartment—everything was perfect. I say that with pride and relief. After this weekend, I know my son is going to make it as an adult. As a mom, I’ve done my job. I’m proud and happy.

Is my job done? I’m not sure. Is a parent’s job ever done?

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When my son rode the “Snow White Pony” Thursday nights at Street Fair.

My son’s degree and career choices have been hotly debated between my husband and me. I have total confidence that my son will find his way, and I agree with my husband that he hasn’t made all the exact choices that we would have in his place. In the end, It’s his life and it’s up to him to live it—not us.

We can’t tell him what to do, what jobs or careers to follow. We can encourage and express our pride in what a great person he’s become. I am truly proud of my son.

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Father and son at Crissy Field during our perfect weekend.

 

Is Losing Control the Same as Letting Go?

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Swim buddies.

As an empty nester, there are times I wish I had more control over my kids’ lives. I don’t have much anymore. I remember the days when they’d actually do what I asked them. They believed the same way I did about everything including religion, politics and what books to read.

They watched the movies I’d check out from the library, and because I picked them out, they loved them. One day my son asked, “Mom, do they make movies without singing and dancing?” Yikes. I guess I was a little too into the classic musicals. I am happy, though, that my kids got to share that part of Americana. Many millennials never learned the words to On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe from “The Harvey Girls.” My aunt was surprised while visiting us when my son invited her to watch a movie. She was expecting Disney or Barney. She was thrilled to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” with him.

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Back when I got to pick out the movies.

Somewhere along the line of those perfect days, I lost control. Today, my kids have their own opinions about religion, politics, and life in general that aren’t exactly the same as mine. For example, I want to tell my son to pursue a career in business or law. My husband and I send him job openings in the Bay area, where he’s currently living. (FYI, We don’t want him to live that far away. We don’t like how expensive it is. It’s all wrong to us.)

Does he listen? He’s polite. Every time I text an employment opportunity, he thanks me and says, “that’s a good idea.” Then he goes and applies to one of the worst school districts where the standardized test scores are 2 in math and 7 in English. He decides to teach instead of what I want him to do—and in one of the most difficult situations possible. He thinks it will be a challenge.

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High school graduation speech.

I can’t stop him. He’ll have to live his own life and learn his own life lessons. There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. So, I guess I need to learn to let go since I’ve lost control anyway. I am proud that he’s an adult with his own dreams and goals.

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The gang.