Addictions start young, how do we protect the young?
I feel the need to write about this because two articles this week have urged me to do so. One relating to cyber-bullying and the other relating to the harmful effects mobile phones can have on young children. In order of reference, cyber-bullying is on the increase. Sadly suicide in young people is also on the increase - are the two related? absolutely.
The heartbreaking story of 14 year old Megan Evans taking her own life because of cyber bullying, is one of many tragic tales of young suffering that is undetected (and too often, way too late). What struck me about Megan's story was that no one was aware of her suffering. On the outside she was a fun loving teenager, a good role model to her piers, yet there was this other side to her life that no one knew of until she died. Her mother explains that she was addicted to her phone. If her phone was taken away from her she would close down all her accounts - concealing and preventing it's escape. I wept when I watched the Good Morning interview. (you can view it here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2017/02/23/philip-schofield-driven-tears-morning-suicide-bullied-teen/). Stories like these put the fear of god in me. I am a parent of two girls (soon to be 10 and soon to be 8). They keep probing us about when they can have their own phone. They currently have our old phones but are limited to what it can do. We struggle every day thinking have they spent too long on devices (laptop, iPad, mobile phones). I sometimes walk into our living room with three members of the family all on a device each, too often i'm about to make judgement but how can I when I have walked in with my phone glued in my hand.
When I think about secondary school I instantly think - they aren't having phones. They are having the oldest Nokia I can get my hands on and they will know our numbers off by heart and contact us that way.. but then what happens if they get side-lined or bullied because they aren't in text/selfie snap world... I honestly don't know what the answer is.
My biggest question is why do children need phones in school? I don't want my child worrying about the status update their phone is prompting them to respond to - I want my children to be prompted by the curriculum. Could schools do more so that children were sanctioned heavier if they used their phone in school time? I won't even go there about primary school and why children would need a phone at this age (I am not judging anyone that does, I am merely stating I have no idea why..) Our oldest daughter experienced bullying at school which is again another reason prompting me to write this and my concerns about bullying triggers..
One of my biggest concerns is the introduction of pokemon Go. I don't get it. Believe me, when I was between the ages of 11 and 12, I used to spend days and days indoors on my sega (I was one of the few and very privileged children to have one) and I was addicted to sonic the hedgehog. I wasn't encouraged to excersise or do anything but sit and try and master each round. Which is totally where my worry comes from. I was addicted to it. I see so many children walking like drunk zombies in quests to find bright coloured treats... yet everything around them is pretty incredible too. I really feel fortunate that my sega could only do three things really well, swallow a game cartridge, keep me in and swallow huge chunks of my time.
But phones are a different game all together. They are THE most amazing thing we all have access to. What can't you do on a phone these days?? Very little. And what we are doing is encouraging our children to be addicted to a tool that does have harmful and unprotected content on it, no matter how we try and protect them. Sadly it makes no difference if they are looking for it or not - in Megan's case, a tragic victim of it.
My week of intel on technology and our young is to limit my time and their time of visual aids.