It’s often said that babies don’t come with instruction manuals. I tend to disagree after being issued a self-published handbook by the doctor who was covering rounds at the hospital on the morning Ava was born. I read it front page to back cover during my 48-hour stay in the mother-baby unit, deciding that infants weren’t hard. They were impossible.
Boy (or girl), was I wrong. Early childhood was a piece of cake. The tween-and-teenage phase is the real challenge. Moms and dads don’t need a manual. They need a computer science degree.
March Madness took on a different meaning in our house this year. My basketball bracket blew apart after Harvard lost (Go, Smart Boys!), and I really didn’t care who went on to the Final Four after that. So, we replaced athletics with adolescence, and my predictions fell apart there, too. Just when I thought we had discussed every potential pitfall of online activity, we tumbled into one anyway.
My husband and I were of the belief that our daughter didn’t need a cell phone until high school. Yes, ninth grade. That’s when other parents laughed and told us the days of going into the office to borrow the school secretary’s telephone were things of the past. Between evening events and practices, kids need a way to stay in touch with parents in case plans change or they need a ride home. A cell, despite its ugly side, does offer an added layer of protection for kids when they’re away from home. Oh, and most families have done away with a house phone. So if your child is visiting a friend, forget borrowing the cordless.
Ok, ok, so we’re 40-something dinosaurs. We’ll buy a cell phone for her, but it won’t be a smart one. It’ll be a dumb one. No texting (for now), no Facebook, no FaceTime, and now… no games.
Why? Because some of those games have back door texting features. Instant messaging without phone service? Yep. There’s an app for that.
Last week, we deleted it.
Without revealing too much about a private matter, let’s just say that I thought I was on top of this stuff. It turns out that we’re as green as grass when it comes to technology. Kids can play hide and sneak better than anyone who has come before them, and it’s easy for parents (and childcare providers) to fall a few steps behind. When we said “no texting”, we weren’t aware that most games, such as Words with Friends, have built-in social networks. Not only can strangers request a match, but they can attempt to chat between plays.
I flipped through the Total Transformation Program Workbook to see how the therapist suggested working out these new obstacles in parenting. The author’s advice was clear and concise:
Discontinue pop culture as soon as school ends.
The minute the dismissal bell rings, the social life ends, too. Unless there’s a reason to get in touch with friends or classmates — such as homework or group assignments — there’s no reason to keep the campus wide open at home. Kids are with their buddies and BFFs for nine hours or more a day. That’s plenty, Dr. Lehman writes. Family time begins when the school day wraps up.
No texting. No Skyping. No gaming. No emailing. No calling. Shut the world out of the house and regain (some) control of your time together. Studies show that turning off gadgets also turns off opportunities for hostile environments, bullying, and a host of other destructive influences that keep kids hard wired into negative thinking.
Taking the Total Transformation creator’s recommendation, we pulled our daughter off the grid at night. She may reach out to friends for homework help, and she may use the computer for academic purposes and even a few fun sites that we’ve researched and approved. The rest had to go. Our girls won’t live in a cage, but they’re not going to live online, either.
We’re also abiding by the same practice. If we’re going to be a family in the evening, then we have to sign off or log off of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. We can’t teach or lead by example if we ignore our own imposed rules. We’re in a type of cyber rehabilitation program, closing doors to the world and closing Windows on the laptop. But will it work during the summer? Time will tell. But if our girls want to play games, they can do so in the front yard.
. . .
What are some other types of apps that offer texting games? Here’s a short list:
Kiss, Marry, Kill
Would You Rather
Never Have I Ever
Where Am I?
(Compiled from various websites and blogs)