I’m not sure who I was lamenting our social media age parenting to, but in response I was asked if I wished I lived a long time ago, when things were simple. I said no, because I most likely wouldn’t exist as I’m biracial, and polio.You get the gist of it. I wasn’t really lamenting the time we live in, as it’s the safest time ever to be alive. With all the scary stats and headlines floating around, you wouldn’t know the tremendous progress that’s been made in the fields of food safety, disease prevention, auto safety, violent crimes (yes, even those are down). But with humans and our short term memory, it’s like, well if I wasn’t alive then, I don’t know much about it. And who really thinks about the differences modern conveniences have made in our daily lives when we can’t personally compare it to anything else? Microwaves have always been in my life, as have electric washing machines, televisions, etc. It can be hard to imagine that 150 years ago life was drastically harder for most people.
Now there are tons of articles dedicated to life hacks and shortcuts. Walk into any supermarket and you could pick up a pack of pre-chopped vegetables (because chopping up those 2 carrots and 2 green peppers on a Wednesday night to add to the stir fry is just too much), which you surely couldn’t get when I was a kid. It’s all to makes your life simpler and less taxing and to create an abundance of leisure time. So fine, let’s say you can afford to buy into today’s luxurious modern convenience. This leaves you more time to spend with your kids, right? Right? I mean, how long are they awake when they’re under the age of eight that they need to be watching YouTube videos on a daily basis? I could link to a dozen articles, some interesting some boring that will give you a decent representation of how much time infants as young as six months and children currently spend watching YouTube videos but I won’t because if you care, it’s a Google search away. And maybe you won’t want to know after you read the one article I am linking to, on Gizmodo because it’s so disturbing: https://gizmodo.com/youtubes-creepy-kid-problem-was-worse-than-we-thought-1820763240 . In response to the complaints of parents and websites reporting, YouTube has begun to better police all the scary creepy content AIMED AT KIDS. Which is terrifying because for every parent that pays attention and then takes the time to complain (i.e. DO something about it), there are hundreds, maybe thousands who are not. Just hand them a tablet and eat your dinner in peace, right? How much actual parenting is going on in these homes? Remember when television was the ‘boob tube’ and parents who left their kids sitting in front of them for hours a day were remiss? Now relax Becky, I’m not suggesting your adorable progeny not have a tablet or be on the same level as their tech savvy toddler friends. I’m just saying, it’s too much. I’m not making generalizations, but I see a lot of lazy ass parents around me. Every time I sit down at a restaurant to eat with my kids I’m a little horrified and dismayed at the amount of people on phones and kids on tablets. Some restaurants even have them on the tables to keep toddlers busy. If you think the alternative is those horrible people whose children are running amok through the restaurant, allow me to lay out an even better scenario for you.
I hate saying I’m old school, because I’m really not. I just use common sense which I’ve learned isn’t that common. That and energy. It takes a SHIT LOAD of energy to parent kids, especially those little ones. I remember trying brunch when my now 12 year old was 18 months. I spent all my energy saying, no we don’t bang with the silverware on the table and wrestling his spoon away from him before it hit the floor, sliding him back into the highchair as he tried to get out, (listen, it had been a long time since I’d been out with a toddler, so cut me some slack. I had 3 kids I NEEDED that family brunch out of the house!) I talked to him lowly and engagingly. We all told little jokes and laughed and he sort of got with it for most of the meal. But near the end of it, he was starting to get into cranky mode and we all knew it was a matter of time before the crying began so we called for the check and some to-go boxes and got the hell out of there. Yes our fun meal was cut short, but we all realized we’d have to wait a few months before trying that with him again. That’s how people with manners used to do it. Or they paid for a babysitter.
I am not wealthy and when I spend money on a restaurant, I want to enjoy a meal with engaging conversation, no matter who that is. I’ve made it clear to my kids that I’m not taking them out so they can stare at their phones at the table and we shovel food silently into our mouths. We can do that at home. Why do we need to take videos with us everywhere we go now? How can we expect our kids to have any kind of attention span if at the first sign of discomfort we hand them a device so they can stare slack-jawed at videos? If talking to your kid for a couple of hours is that taxing, I guess I was a super mom since I was in that generation in between this one and my own mothers’. They sent us outside every afternoon and we weren’t expected back until dark and when we got home int was dinner and washing up and preparing for the next day and a tv show or two. I guess they didn’t parent us all that much either, but at least we were interacting with other humans and learning how to navigate our social groups. Trust me, I’ve definitely let my kids watch too much tv on a day when I just couldn’t do it. Nobody’s perfect. But that was not the norm. I mean, Nickelodeon Jr. has been around for a long time, but I didn’t sit my kids in front of it for long stretches of time to distract them. To this day, I believe that if we are going somewhere, there’s no need to bring a device. We are going to do something, not watch a video. The thought that an entire generation of kids who have been watching wacky YouTube videos from birth could be deficient in some critical social skill is frightening to me. Who knows what social ills will be created, with the new screen time run amok society we’re developing. I hope none. Hopefully I’ll be way off base. But something about it all makes my mom sense tingle, it just doesn’t feel right.