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I’m one of these parents! I decided years ago, based on everything I’ve read (including books by Jonathan Haidt) to take a hard stance against smart phones for my kids. People told me I would never make it, it’s impossible, it’s unrealistic, etc. Well, my older two kids are 16 and 13 and we’re still going strong. They have Gabb phones so they can be in touch with their friends, but even that is limited. I’ve told them their phones are for staying in touch with me (we live in Manhattan and they get around independently) and for setting up in-person hangouts with their friends. Period. They’ve grumbled at times, but they don’t even ask for smart phones. They’re old enough that I can share with them the articles and research that informs my position, so they understand. They get it. Does my 16yo feel left out sometimes? Yes. She’s kind of in the dark about the social media trends her friends talk about. But she’s also missing out on the drama, the cyber bullying, the self-obsession, and the constant feeling of living your life to display it for others. I want my kids to live their lives for THEMSELVES and the people they actually care about, in their actual orbit.

People often say they give their kids phones and social media at young ages so they can teach them how to use them responsibly, and that it all comes down to trust and communication. Give me a break. How did the rest of us learn to navigate social media and the internet? Here’s how: we were adults with fully developed brains before we got on it. The adolescent brain simply isn’t a good match for social media. All the handholding and trust and open communication in the world won’t make the brain grow faster.

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Our stance on smartphones for our children was largely based on the fact that my husband and I did not have smartphones ourselves at the time. In fact, we only got smartphones a few years ago, when our provider (Verizon) stopped supporting 3G phones and flip phones became more expensive than smartphones.

When our oldest son was in high school, payphones still existed, so we equipped him with a phone card for school trips. Our next son got a prepaid "burn phone" for school trips. Our youngest daughter got a "burn phone" for general use (usually for calling us from school), with the understanding that if she blew through a set monthly amount, we would not replenish it.

But the rule for smartphones was this: once you can afford to buy and pay for the service for a smartphone, you can have one.

Our middle son son got an afterschool job at 16, largely to pay for his coveted smartphone. His older brother followed shortly thereafter, and finally, our youngest daughter. None of them were scarred for life by not having smartphones at an early age.

I cringe every time I see a child under the age of 13 with a smartphone.

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The shear cost of a phone + associated plan is what astounds me. I see kids regularly receiving $500-1000 "gifts" of phones, tablets, and other electronics. Growing up in the '80s/90s, the single most expensive gift I ever received was around $100.

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I know what you mean! I wouldn't spend that much on a phone/tablet for myself, so the idea of spending that much on one for a child--who is likely to break the dang thing in a fairly short period of time--seems like an appalling idea.

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I've seen toddlers in strollers holding and staring at phones! Plainly, the parent has handed the child the phone in order to pacify it. I guess that means that parent is taking a break from their phone. Toddlers will always try to imitate what a parent or caregiver does. This is a very frightening trend.

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I will become a grandmother in 5 weeks. I have just got out the old digital camera to take photos when the little man arrives. I have promised my son and DIL that the phone will go on silent in the presence of the baby.

I agree that modelling the behaviour you wish to see is vital.

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It’s so, so sad. For a baby, everything in the world is new and interesting. They can be plenty engaged on a walk just because there’s so much to see…unless their brain wiring has been discombobulated by screen exposure since birth.

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There were no smartphones when our kids were teens but we refused them cell phones until they started going out on their own at age 15. It was much easier for parents then to limit devices but even in those days kids in our community were being given phones at 10 - 12 which was much too young and unnecessary in my. mind.

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And yes to Gabb Wireless! (Fellow iphone free fam here in Brooklyn)

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You are such a good Mom.

Our kids are now in their 30's - our challenges as parents was video games and R-rated movies. It wasn't easy to restrict access to both but my husband's and my efforts were well worth it.

I often reflect on how much more difficult it is for parents today! Cudos to you for taking a stand for what you know is best for your kids - it takes true grit!

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Exactly my thoughts. But thinking back, even in those days it wasn’t easy to say, “no, we will not have a game system in this house,” and, “no, you will not have a computer in your room.” Luckily my husband and I were on the same page. The potential harm of the complete saturation of on line comms and social media in the lives of young people today is incredible. The lack of parental willingness to do the hard work of parenting is just crazy, and the rationalizations are incredible. Just say no! That is not unrealistic. Protect your children. I’m excited to hear about Gabb. That’s a great option. And I’m thrilled to read so many comments here from parents who are standing strong for the sake of their kids’ long term well being. I can testify that you will look back in the years to come and be thankful you did.

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Yes STL Mama! It was HARD to say no! Hard to listen to the complaining of "But so-and-so can!" and "We're the only ones who can't!". It was enlightening to talk with other parents who shared that their kids were expressing the same indignation lol. And then there were the parents who allowed almost everything. I advise parents of kids today that it's as important to know the values/behaviors of their friends' parents. And to stand tall and be strong - and to pick the most important battles. My kids, as adults, have thanked my husband and I for sticking to our principles.

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"Does my 16yo feel left out sometimes? Yes. She’s kind of in the dark about the social media trends her friends talk about."

"Only once, when on the same day I read that beer was a preservative of heart muscle and also a carcinogen, did I begin to realize the bind that I was in.

But Chernobyl started me on a new path. When I began to research these old fears to find out what had been said in the past, I discovered several important things. The first is that there’s nothing more sobering than a 30-year-old newspaper. You can’t figure out what the headlines mean, you don’t know who the people are. Theodore Green, John Sparkman, George Reedy, Jack Watson. Who were they? You thumb through page after page of vanished concerns, issues that apparently were important at the time and now don’t matter at all. It’s amazing how many pressing concerns are literally of the moment. They won’t matter in six months, and certainly not in six years, and if they won’t matter then, are they really worth our attention now?

But as David Brinkley once said, the one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news, we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.

We miss him."

An Evening with Michael Crichton

November 15, 2005

https://www.independent.org/events/transcript.asp?id=111#2

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You’re doing it the right way and I’m doing the same thing as a mom. I’m a pediatrician & I see the immense harm that social media and smart phones cause to teens. Cyber bullying, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, self harm.

People who say they are giving the kid a phone to “teach them to use it responsibly” are lying to themselves. This is a little white lie they tell themselves to make themselves feel better about making a bad decision.

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What is the BOOK thing you speak of? :-)

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Did you see the surgeon gen’l has issued a warning? If I remember correctly, this was the beginning of the end of thinking smoking cigarettes was cool! Progress!

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Excellent commentary. Way back in 2000 I was told that I would CERTAINLY give my kids cell phones once they started driving. My oldest got a flip phone just before he graduated high school - for his 18th birthday. Second got a texting phone at the mid-point of his senior year. Daughter got a Tracfone on her 17th birthday - because she was the captain of a team and needed a way to communicate to the group (she hated her limited phone, but it's what we thought was best and could afford). Smartphones didn't happen until college for the younger two. The oldest didn't go to a smartphone until about four years ago - when he was ~30 and had two children (camera phone was the attraction).

My kids grew up during a time when "everyone" had a phone of some kind. The iPhone came out in 2007 - the year my oldest graduated high school - so the challenge was REAL for us as parents. Maybe it helped that we honestly couldn't afford all those phone plans (at least, we weren't willing to sacrifice for them), but all of them are super techie today - as well as balanced people.

I only write this as an example to others who might need to hear success stories. It was painful as a parent, but parenting is not easy.

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Count me among this group. I have told my friends that I would prefer my kids start smoking than get a smartphone at their ages. They think I’m nuts, but I know cigarettes won’t drive them to suicide and self harm as teenagers. The same certainly can’t be said for smartphones.

I have made abundantly clear that there will be no phones of any kind until they drive, and even then it will be something like the Gab phone. Once they get to college they can get a smartphone which they pay for...I will never pay for it under any circumstances.

I am not an overly strict parent, but this is a hill I will die on. It maybe because I’m not strict that they accept this strict rule about smart phones.

Check out my latest article about corporate cancellation...https://www.sub-verses.com/p/barstool-sports-and-the-name-of-the

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Respect for being a good parent, Gordon. It's time for all of us to step up for our kids. As the parent of a one year old, I am shocked by how many parents use screens to pacify their toddlers. Their generation is going to be a fascinating bifurcation between children whose parents taught them discipline, freedom, and principles, compared with those whose parents isolated them, masked them, and subjected them to "family friendly" drag queen story hours and "gender affirming care"...

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We have friends with older kids who, when we went out to dinner with them, would just let their kids put their faces into their iPads and never interact with humans during the entire meal.

That was the moment we said, fuck that.

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founding

It’s nuts! See it all the time. Our 3 kids have a screen free childhood (oldest is 5, so it’s still early), and the very rare occasions where they do get screen exposure - dentist office, getting a haircut - they just turn into staring zombies. I don’t understand how people deliberately do that to their own children for hours a day

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Our kids are 7, 4 and newborn and we are screen free

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not just kids. I hardly ever dine with friends that they aren't texting or staring at a phone on their lap some even text to the other people AT THE TABLE. yikes. I suggested we all leave our phones outside save on to take pictures. you would have thought I asked them to take a high dive into a shallow pond.. oh the horror..

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I went to a family dinner the other night and left my phone at home. After dinner the women sat at a table together and they were all on their phones. I just sat there like a lump, went home early.

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In 2018 I ran a small social experiment in New York. I came for Esther Perel conference and was staying at a hotel. I ended up sharing a big table with five other women for breakfast. We were all solo travelers, minding our stuff while having morning coffee. Everyone was on their phones. Then I decided to do my little thing. I put my phone away and was just having coffee staring at the NY Public Library building in the window. I was curious how long it would take before anyone else reciprocated. It did take long. May be 7 or 8 or even 10 minutes. When you are singled out by being phone-free in a circle of fully phone-immersed people it does feel awkward and very long.. But I was on a mission.

Eventually one lady put the phone down and we had a brief exchange. After that things unfolded much faster; one by one every lady put her phone down and we ended up telling where we are from and why we came to NY. Several ladies exchanged numbers. When I was leaving, they were still talking..

What I m trying to say is that going phone free takes patience and determination. And a lot of self-confidence. But each of us can be the change. Now my 12 year daughter is acting the same in the circles of other teens. Next time you are in a group of fully phoned people, just try to sit there phone free for 10-15 minutes. See what happens.

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Thank you.

Thankfully my group of girlfriends (all old enough to be pre-social) only get out their phones for a photograph, but I will try this with my nieces/nephews.

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Another contributor to distraction while eating together is the open floor plan kitchen/dining/living room. We have a kitchen that separates the dining area and the living room by 2 walk-through arches to the living room. No cellphones are allowed at the dining table.

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I remember dinners with my family in the days of the single landline. The TV was turned off. The dinner hour was sacrosanct. We gathered and ate together at the same time every evening -- we were expected to be there -- and each person recounted the day's experiences. Those are the happiest memories.

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My father insisted the phone be "off the hook" during dinner. And it was.

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founding
May 25, 2023·edited May 25, 2023

I find it entertaining all this blame going to technology. First they blamed the TV, then the gaming consoles, now the smart phone. And the psychological studies (poorly constructed) which point to technology (I'm sure the pandemic mitigation had nothing to do with it, LOL). Our son has a smart phone. He had a gaming console, and an iPod.

But, he also played soccer on a team, was a competitive swimmer and skied a lot during the winter months (among other activities). And we had dinners at home as a family most nights. Also birthday parties, sleep overs, school dances, playing outside unsupervised. Plus a start of school party where all the kids from the class would be invited along with their parents to a cook out and party where the kids would run around and play outside into the evening. Christmas parties, other holiday parties, etc. with groups of parents/kids. Went to the fair every year, first with parents, then with one parent/driver where they were dropped off, then with themselves.

My point? If the smart phone takes the place of all of the above, then it is a problem. If it is just an adjunct to all the above, then it is a tool. Now that my son lives on his own, my wife gets upset when he doesn't respond to her texts right away. But I know he turns his phone off while he works, or goes to school, or just doesn't look at it for hours. And some times he just doesn't want to respond to his parents.

If you need to put off your children from that phone until 8th grade, that might make sense, but if your child is busy with learning about the world by being in it, it will inoculate them from the fake social world they will see in their phone eventually.

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We did that with our children - and continue to do so.

They would NEVER bring a phone to the table. Even their friends/spouses invited to the table wouldn't.

(ages 22 - 28)

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Yes! Our now grown son has commented on seeing families out to dinner with no interaction - just faces glued to phones, both kids and parents. So sad.

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Yeah I’ve seen that too and it is messed up! My kids are 7, 4, newborn and my 7 and 4 yo are well behaved at restaurants! Yes they talk and interact but they are normal kids and we would never give them a device to have them become a zombie with no interaction.

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I am also a parent of a one year old and have another one on the way. My husband and I refuse to let our toddler touch or play with our phones. She received a toy with a fake cellphone and we removed it. We also try to be conscious of not looking too much at screens when our daughter is around. I've even started to read actual books instead of the kindle for that reason.

When I express our strong feelings around no screens for our kids as they grow up, I get so discouraged by the amount of other parents who tell me "you say that now.." or the sarcastic "good luck with that" like we as parents have no choice but to give in to the bad habits. I like to believe that we have a choice in how we raise our kids even if it's against cultural norms and current trends.

I hope I'm not naive for thinking this, and reading this article and the comments of other parents here just goes to show that we're not alone. I know it'll get harder as they get older but these are the hard battles that will be worth fighting.

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You are not naive, and you are not alone.

All the little demoralizing, undercutting comments people direct at new parents - consider them nothing more than a huge “mea culpa” from those that sling them at you. They are trying to normalize lazy, detached half-assed parenting.

Those kind of comments are just another social contagion - if they can convince you not to expect much of yourself as a parent, you won’t be in any position to judge them.

My kids are grown - they’re between 24 and 30 now. We had kids relatively late, and after a great deal of consideration. We took the harder road every time, and it has been incredibly worth it.

There will always be voices telling you to do less - having done this for a few decades, I’m here to tell you there is an incredible price to be paid for that.

It *will* get harder as they get older, but you will also get stronger and more competent. You will grow with your kids, I promise. ***But only if you actively parent them along the way.*** If the iPhone parents them, the issues will still grow with them, but your abilities will not.

Trust your instincts - they are good ones.

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Ditto and well said! Remind yourself EVERY day that only YOU know what is right for your kids. Resist the peer pressure - because it really doesn't every stop no matter how old you are. Get good at it.

Our kids are also in their 20s...and at the risk of bragging, doing really well. We were definitely the strictest parents in the group, but in my opinion, not hard-asses. Example: at 16, my son demonstrated one area of irresponsibility ....so, why would we let him get his driver's license? We didn't. We made him wait until he showed us he could be trusted behind the wheel. ALL of his friends were driving (making it even more annoying for him as the youngest of his friends). Yes, it would have been easier to let him get it asap, but in the long run, NOT. He eventually changed his ways, and today is 23, with a engineering degree and Master's in Finance and started a great job before graduating. It is NOT easy, but it is 1000% worth it.

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Yes, Yes, Yes.

All of this wisdom is worth sharing.

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Thank you so much

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Completely agree, my boys know they won't be getting a phone until they drive, and it will not be internet enabled. I think we still have no real idea what the effects of growing up on the internet will be, and I for one am not signing my kids up for that social experiment because I know it's not going to end well.

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Could not agree more, on both the phone and the smoking... and I've never smoked a cigarette in my life and never intend too.

In the name of "safety" we've told our kids it's too dangerous to ride their bike in traffic, to dangerous to walk home from school, that no way we'd let them fly alone, or take public transportation somewhere, or swim without fifty seven lifeguards, and yet we let them ruin their brain for the benefit of... well... if we're being honest, it's for the benefit of the parent not wanting to deal with them.

When my parents didn't want to deal with me they told me to go outside and figure out something to do. I turned out relatively okay. I'd MUCH rather my kids break their arm on our trampoline then watch Mr. Beast for 3 straight hours, and I don't even understand how it's a debate.

We're Gab phones in our house, and maybe we even did that too young, but I want my kids to have freedom to test boundaries and explore limits and learn personal responsibility and because we don't have a home phone they need a way to reach out in case of emergency so this was our solution.

There's no perfect way, but it's amazing to see how many people are realizing that having the world in the palm of the hand of someone who can't make their own mac and cheese and clean a pan afterward may not be the best idea for their long term development.

Also, get them pets they have to take care of and force them to serve others (force them once or twice and you'll never have to force them again). That's my version of "wait till 8th" :)

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To be fair, I really wouldn't be so sure that early exposure to nicotine is so innocuous for the adolescent brain:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543069/

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Pretty sure that's hyperbole 😉

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Good! Keep kids off these damn phones. I think in 30 years we'll look back at 9 year olds on smartphones the way we would look at kids in the 1920s smoking cigarettes.

I've lived in South East Asia for the last few years (I wrote about some of the pitfalls and benefits here https://theunhedgedcapitalist.substack.com/p/the-nomads-escape-life-in-south-east) and there is lots of fucked up shit there. Poverty, corruption, etc.

But the best thing in the world is that I always see gangs of kids running around outside, having fun, no phones in sight. It's kids doing what kids are supposed to do! And it's incredible. It never fails to cheer me up.

Then I come back to America for a visit and I never see any kids outside. Bloody depressing.

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I've been in Bangkok for four years. Every time I go back to America, it's the isolation in general that jumps out to me. In Bangkok, people are always out and about, and although there's traffic everywhere, people are almost always walking at least part of the way to where they're going, ducking in and out of 7-11s, eating at road-side pop-up food vendors, etc. There's just a lot of human activity everywhere. In America, people move between work, bars, and their home in their cars. Streets have no foot traffic and, you're right, there are no kids anywhere.

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So many places in the U.S. are DESIGNED with isolation in mind. Busy arterial roads, neighborhoods with no sidewalks or front-facing porches where you can see your neighbors, etc.

What you're talking about still exists in cities and in some of the older, original suburbs. When I got tired of city life, I specifically looked for a walkable suburb where there are things to do vs. one where people just drive from strip mall to strip mall.

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on the flip side governments are taking away the rural life or the right to have a private life. cities are beig formed where your every movement is watched. it is sold as "neighborhoods" where you will want for noting since everything you "need" ( or what they think you need) is within walking distance. you travel is monitored and controlled.. nope. no thanks

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15 minutes cities....

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Ooooo that sounds like heaven. I've always wanted the government/big corporation to provide absolutely everything for me

/s

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That reminds me of my first time in Hanoi. I couldn't believe I was on the sidewalk walking ~8 feet away from people in their open air living/dining rooms having dinner. So open it kind of blew my mind.

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I ran into a couple in San Diego, who moved south of the border, to Ensenada. Since I am in constant search for the environment for my kids that you’ve just described in your comment, I asked the gentleman “can you see kids on the streets in Encenada?” I meant if kids walk to school? Can they play freely. Do you know what he answered? He said “well, there is poverty in the US too..” So, our language has changed to the point that being out in the street basically means “poor” for a typical American. There isn’t even such a concept any more as being out on the street for fun and life experiences. Phones are really just the messengers of the enormous social disaster that has been building up for decades and is the last of our concerns.

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Good God... Poverty equates to kids being on the street? That's so twisted. The kids I see playing outside in Asia are having a blast! They're so happy and forming all the skills they need. While obese American children sit inside and get depressed staring at their phones 10 hours a day. It's ridiculous

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In not seeing kids anywhere, when we move into our neighborhood 20 some years ago, when my boys were young, there were children everywhere. Today one would never know there are children around except when the school bus come through and then lots of kids coming out to get on. One can guess where the kids are all the rest of the time when not in school. It is actually quite sad not to see young people out and about.

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For about a decade or so, parents have been under a lot of social pressure to pretty much be watching their children all the time, even if they’re in their front yard or in the neighborhood. Children have been taken from their yards and children have been molested at neighborhood houses, so parents are supposed to be watching them. This generation of parents has had more pressure put on them to neither be a helicopter parent nor to ever not be completely responsible for where their child is and what they are doing. In the past kids would play Rec sports, and the coaches would be community volunteers (Lions, Rotary, etc…), but now sports are after parents finish work, and parents are usually present unless they are on a travel team with a paid coach. Phones are part, but not all of the problem. There are also not many pay phones, and most people have cut the expensive land line which basically exists for telemarketers to leave a message on the answer machine. The Gabb phone info is helpful because by middle school kids really do need a way to communicate and to call for help. Video games on the phone make many phones for young boys a Game Boy more than a phone. The school not cracking down on phone use is a problem, though. Parents have to organize kids play more and more. You’re right. Seeing kids play and just be kids is a beautiful thing!

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My daughters' biggest concern is for the safety of their kids, especially the older ones who walk home from school. Seems like the Gabb option is the best of both worlds. Keeping kids away from internet dangers while assuaging parental need to protect. Although when I was a kid (a long time ago) we roamed free on our bikes and enjoyed all the freedom we could with only comic books and the ice cream truck as distractions.

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kids are safer now than ever. no matter what is said. no need the "protect" them all of the time

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This. Statistically your kids is more likely to die when you are driving them back from school, than get kidnapped. We just think kidnapping is more common because we hear about it nationally and even globally. But our dumb monkey brains don't take scale in mind. Most Kidnappings are done by the parents (like 90+%).

Not saying you shouldn't arm your kids with tools to protect themselves (Stranger danger, code words trusted adults can use, etc). Just that many modern parents are taking national info and their brains treat it as local.

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I often wonder if it's just the overload of information and lurid news that seems to make the '50s and '60s seem as if they were safer. I remember my little brothers and sisters jumping around, unrestrained, on the back seat of a 2 ton hunk of metal hurtling down a highway. Talk about unsafe at any speed.....

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I think it's absolutely the internet... It makes it seem like bad things are always happening to everyone everywhere. It's a reality distortion field

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I agree. I think kids are probably quite safe now, but the internet and news blows things out of proportion.

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From everything I've read on the subject, crime is actually much *lower* than when I was kid in the 70s. And yet we wandered everywhere without parental supervision, a cell phone in our pocket, or often even a dime for a payphone. We were taught situational awareness, warned about strangers, and turned loose.

I tried very hard not to be a helicopter parent, but with all the media attention devoted to "OMG, KIDS ARE IN DANGER!" it was difficult not to worry. And when I told my youngest daughter--age 6 at the time--that she could not go to the park alone, odds were even that she would sneak out and go anyway.

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I grew up in the 80s/90s, and we roamed free, too. We were gone all day in the summer. I slept over at friend's houses and had no need to talk to my parents until I returned home.

Today, people don't trust their kids to be able to navigate basic situations and circumstances.

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We got rid of our landline specifically for that reason: all the calls were from telemarketers.

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Exactly. It was like paying $50 a month to be harassed endlessly!

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I have a celI but subscribed to an answering service years ago. I have my landline on call forwarding to the service 24/7. This gives me three numbers I can use to buffer access to my life by the world at large. Some people can reach me directly, some never. Time has passed and I receive next to no unwanted calls. There are times a land line with a headset can be useful.

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Indeed.. Think about all the experiences they're missing out on. None of that can be duplicated by a stupid phone

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Totally agree but I think the focus on kids is off. This problem spans all ages. My parents are 79 and 84, staring at their phone. My peers, in their 40s and 50s, are the same. 75% of the people I see on the subway or with a moment of idle time waiting in a line, from all walks of life and income levels, are scrolling social media feeds.

I switched to a dumb phone one year ago and I feel certain that I'll never go back. What a difference mentally. I personally wouldn't feel right telling anyone else, even a 7th grader, that maybe they ought to use their phone less, if I still had that smart phone calling to me from my own pocket.

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May 22, 2023·edited May 22, 2023

100%

How can you tell kids to be off of their devices when the entire adult world is on their screens?

“Do as I say not as I do”

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🌟 Be the change, right? One by one we can set the example. Eek! You go first. I am making a exit plan after reading this. I hope to set a better example for my grand kids. ✌️💜🙏🇺🇲

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Yeah.

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Its seems like they are as addicting as crack or oxy. Maybe more so.

Call me cynical but hard to believe this isn't intentional.

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The subway part I understand. It's not like subways were a great conversational space before smart phones existed. I remember in the late 80s and even into the 90 people would sit on train with their faces buried in the newspaper.

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Yes and that's often what I'm doing -- with either the newspaper or a book. But it seems to me there's a difference between people reading a book, word search, crossword (which is what I see plenty of, whether on paper or a device), and the state of mind when compulsively scrolling a social media feed.

The same way there's a difference between scrolling social media and reading a book when you go to bed.

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People didn't walk transfixed with a book or newspaper. Walking into people and things and being oblivious of the surrounding world. I think that's the essential difference between then and now.

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I might have to lock mine up. The problem is that I have next to no adult conversation all day.

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My son is now 27. When he was in middle school, many of his friends had cell phones. His mother and I had resisted giving his older sister a flip phone until she was 14, and we stood our ground with our son and gave him a flip phone when he turned 14. By this time some of his friends already had smart phones. When he turned 18 we gave him an iPhone and one of his friends said, "Now you can finally get rid of the Invisible Phone!" He said, "No way, I'm keeping the Invisible Phone forever!" I asked him about the Invisible Phone, and he explained that when his friends made fun of him in middle school when he had no phone, he invented the Invisible Phone that could "do it all." It could shrink and expand. It had better signal, a clearer screen, better audio, and best of all it was 100% unbreakable. To demonstrate he would throw the imaginary phone on the ground, stomp on it, then pick it up and make an imaginary call.

Our daughter and son both thank their mother and me for standing firm. They are both independent adults and we have dinner together as a family 3 or 4 times a month. I encourage the parents in the comments here to stay strong. Short term pain leads to long term gain.

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We did the same. I have a 22 year old and an 18 year old and they had flip phones which were very embarrassing but they had no choice. They know that my husband and I love them and only want the best for them which is not always the case with their friends. So they trusted us. They both have Smartphones now and use them more than I would like (they are in college so I can't stop them from doing anything but hopefully we equipped them with good habits and values). But I just got off a Skype call with my son and he was reading a book in his apartment. Last night my daughter was writing a letter to a friend, on a stationary. So I know they both have lives outside of the internet. I do not have a Smartphone and I never will.

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My youngest son is a decade older. He regales me with the freedom he had to live an idyllic life in, what seems now like a Tom Sawyer fashion. They built rafts, explored, cooked out, went to the skate park, surfed and laughed. And got into mischief. Much like my childhood. I can't even imagine what's been lost.

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founding

Very similar experience for my kids, same age. They weren't addicted to social media like kids are today...they were just at the beginning edge of it. They still aren't. They only use texting, and extremely limited social media to stay in touch with friends from time to time. Their brains didn't evolve worrying about what others were thinking about them all the time. If we allow kids to be on screens for hours a day beginning at toddlerhood, we are in big trouble. I'm really hoping the pendulum swings the other way. I love the idea of the Gab phone.

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We like to think that we know what makes people tick, but we really don’t.

It’s abundantly obvious that human beings are not made to operate in a digital sphere. What this means for culture and society is beyond me, but I think it’ll all get a whole lot worse before it even has the semblance of getting better.

The future will be unrecognizable to us.

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Indeed. I think the problem is that we don't have societal norms to deal with this rapid advance of technology. For example, people say horrible things to each other on the internet, stuff they would never say to each other face to face. How can we fix that?

We need to develop new norms and it takes a lot of time. There will be a lot of pain first, no doubt, before we figure it out.

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The reason we generally are more polite in person is that physical proximity carries with it the possibility of physical altercation. Our gene's know it.

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I think it's more than that. You realize that this is another person with feelings and you can see if they are who they say they are vs. some anonymous person on the internet who perhaps might even be a bot or just a troll.

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I think you can also gauge the effect your words have had on someone and people's natural capacity for empathy can kick in when they realize they've overstepped or said something inappropriate. That process is completely missing in a digital interaction.

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That, and a lot of communication doesn’t even involve words.

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Not unlike the reaction in traffic where you say and do things you'd never do to a real person?

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The most effective way of fixing it is for the algorithms to stop driving those type of posts to the top. But of course that won't happen because the whole point of the algorithm IS to drive those types of posts to the top, to incite people to click and click and click some more. Then they'll stay on the platform and now the machine can gather ever more info about you, and show you ever more ads tailored to what incites you most to click and buy.

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Algorithms are a way to make being on the internet a tailored to you drug. Television at some points goes into background noise, but the internet has the ability to keep one chained into the interaction.

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“The future will be unrecognizable to us.”

It already is. TikTok and Snapchat have warped the minds and mental faculties of GenZ to the point of pathology. Groupthink and massive intellectual opportunity cost are the least of it. Awful, narcissistic behaviors are rewarded with social prominence on one hand, while individual idiosyncrasies fall victim to the team “sport” of group cancellation and bullying.

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For sure. All these highly addictive apps are just the tip of the iceberg.

What really gets me is that I’ll tell my friends (the few I have) that TikTok analyzes your face for attention features, passively records you, and data harvests your info, and the most I’ll get is, “oh that’s interesting”.

It depresses me that no one cares.

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These are tools for emotional and intellectual control that Big Brother could only have dreamed of. Mainlining indoctrination directly into the limbic brain. These young people have zero perspective & even less wisdom. God help us.

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True, but I think there’s some reasons not to be as pessimistic (believe me, I can jump on that train, too).

For starters, I don’t think that the government is organized enough to be able to implement mass control to that scale. They can... but they also can’t, if that makes any sense. Even the Chinese need to expend significant resources to ensure their police state stays intact, and even then there are still sources for dissidents.

Plus, if there’s anything the democratization of information has made apparent, there’s always a counter-narrative to any given narrative. That, in and of itself, is a double edged sword.

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I'm not even necessarily worried about government control. If anything, government simply picks up on the existing (mostly leftist) indoctrination and leverages it for its own craven ends, without even attempting total control - which I'm sure it would fail at if it tried. I'm more concerned about the steady destruction of western values - and in particular the value of personal responsibility.

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Too true, man.

I'm of the opinion that what we consider "Western Civilization" ended in the 20th century. What we live in now is post-Western Civ.

I realize there's a lot to unpack there, though, and entire volumes can be expended trying to flesh that out (and probably will be by historians of the future).

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Yes! I have spent quite some time trying to explain to my 22yo daughter that there a massive "intellectual opportunity cost" with social media use.

If she can think independently, and spend time expanding her mind off the internet (rather than hours a day rotting her brain) she will become an outstanding and successful adult.

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I applaud these brave parents and their ability to say no to peer pressure. I live in a typical suburban school district and have seen firsthand how shallow most parents are. It’s like the parents are still teens and are more concerned with their perceived popularity than with raising children to functional adulthood. One of the worst inventions in the last 20 years has been the concept of the “cool parent”. As others have pointed out social media /smart phones can be as harmful as smoking, teen sex, drinking and drugs. Yet there have always been parents who provide liquor cabinet access, smoke pot at home and shrug at the effect on their kids. On the positive side, social skill incompetence among teens has become so prevalent that if you can protect your child from this scourge they will have a low bar and an easier path to success in an adult, competitive society. Ooops. I forgot. We also seem to be dismantling our adult competitive society. Oh well. No worries. Like Lake Woebegone all of our children will now be above average.

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The reallly best are the mothers who must have their daughters have boyfriends at such a young ages. I’ve never seen anything so disturbing in my life. Your comment is spot on.

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Can I also toss in how I can't believe how parents let their daughters dress like $20 hookers with their shorts that go up to you know where? I've read that girls are reduced to dressing like this to get any notice from the boys... who are desensitized from all the porn. Everything is awful anymore.

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I see this frequently from a certain mom of 3 daughters and I just, don't, understand. Once they are 18 and they want to post pics of themselves in skimpy bikinis...whatever, but why would a mom do that?

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My 11 old son asked me on Friday if I can give him a break with his daily chores. After going back and forth for a little bit I said no, I can’t. I m really sorry, i d love to be a good mom and meet your wishes, but I can’t. And then he responded: “mom, granting me all my wishes,

doesn’t mean you are a good mom, it only means I m spoiled. Almost all of my friends’ moms, except for NN allow them to do all they want and they are just spoiled.” My jaw literally dropped. This level of conscience from an 11 year old!

And yes it’s so tough to be a good, not a “cool” parent in the modern, permissive world. I m trying my best.

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Those are the moments that make the hard work of parenting worth it. It's the awe and joy of seeing the depth of your child's character. Obviously, you are a "good mom"!

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I love this! You know, I think kids want to be challenged. They want to be told to do something , even when it’s hard and they don’t want to. There are a great many lessons to be learned in completing a task as simple as chores when you don’t feel like it (self confidence! Perseverance! Coping skills!).

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Equity breeds incompetence.

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I’m very proud to be the strict mom with rules. I’m not “the cool mom” and I’m proud of it. Kids will be grateful later on when they grow up to be functional, well adjusted adults.

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"If it were up to me, I’d flush it down the toilet.”

She's 13 years old...it IS up to you! Do your job and flush the damn thing down the toilet! She will survive. Indeed, she will improve and be better.

Until parents stand up do their job as parents, this phenomenon will get worse. No amount of national psychoanalysis and legislation will fix this problem. The solution starts at home with parents doing their job.

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This is a highly addictive device that is designed to be addictive as possible. It literally changes the way your brain/neurons are wired. It is clearly a net negative for our society/culture.

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founding

Oh, and to watch every single thing you read, look at, and do, and then feed you ads based on it. I am quite sure they listen to us much of the time as well.

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Doubt the rewiring, but that’s not necessary for addiction. My suspicion is that you get a little jolt of something like oxytocin with a screen connection.

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There is some evidence now for the rewiring. Good summary in the book "The Shallows", by Nicholas Carr.

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That was an excellent book.

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Killing Time by Caleb Carr

Written in 2000 it now seems prescient.

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I think that is the book I saw it in. Especially malleable/young minds

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founding

Thanks for the tip!

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This is encouraging. It’s parents being parents instead of rich friends to their kids.

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May 22, 2023·edited May 22, 2023

Seriously. I’m floored by the number of parents who act like they have no choice by or power in this matter. They’re always complaining about how much their kids are on their phones and I’m just like, “Gee, who is giving all these kids phones that their parents hate and wish they didn’t have? Who’s paying their phone bills? Phone fairies??? It’s not like they’re dropping from the sky, against our will!”

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founding

“Phone fairies.” Love it!

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My 11, 13, and 15 year old daughters do not own phones and have a set time for allowed screen time. They’ve asked for them, and we said…No. They we upset. Their friends have them. But we are the parents and know what is good and bad for them. We let them pitch a fit. That’s what children do. And they haven’t died yet. In fact, they are thriving.

Now, these young ladies have no anxiety, depression, or loneliness. They can hold a conversation with adults and kids alike. They are funny and engaging and curious about the world. Someday they can buy one themselves, but in the meantime, they can use the office lady’s phone to call home (press the button and wait for the dial tone, Honey.)

Psst, if you give them actual tools and some live chickens, it’s just like playing Minecraft, only they accomplish something tangible and earn self esteem.

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I’m a pediatrician with 3 daughters too. Our family is doing the same thing as you.

You are saving your kids from so many problems and destruction that stems from these devices. I see it everyday in the office. Social media and smartphones are destroying kids lives. Anxiety, depression, cyber bullying, eating disorders, self harm, insomnia, suicide. It’s unbelievable. Kudos to you on a job well done!

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We waited until twelve. I remember my oldest telling me once that she was once sitting at a table of four, and her other three friends were on their phones texting. Only she was left out, with her only real option engaging in conversation with the people right in front of her. I told her she was the smart one, and even once she did get the inevitable phone, she eventually agreed with me. Both my kids have already said they will wait until at least 12 before giving their kids phones.

Phones turn people--not just kids--into zombies. I work out quite a bit, and am always struck, looking around my gym, how many dull faces are lost in a trance, looking at the soft glow of their handheld addictions. They bring them into the sauna and even the steam room. Many can't bear to be parted even for a moment.

And what is there on the internet? Anything truly satisfying? Not that I know of. Dopamine is simply a reward hormone. It's not a pleasure hormone. It just says "keep doing what you are doing", but it does absolutely nothing to make you happier, and if happiness is a rare property in the addiction you are feeding with regular reinforcing hits of dopamine, then you are training yourself to spend most of the day in an activity that ultimately will make you sad, since we all need to feel happy sometimes.

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"I work out quite a bit, and am always struck, looking around my gym, how many dull faces are lost in a trance, looking at the soft glow of their handheld addictions."

Same. Their workouts seem nothing more than desultory.

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I feel zero pressure from other parents or kids to get my son a phone. He’s seven now and I don’t intend to get him a smartphone at all. He can get his own when he can afford to pay for it. Probably soon enough we’ll get him one of the fake ones or a jitterbug. I don’t care if he’s embarrassed to pull it out in public. It’s only for emergencies anyway. But I’m not going to have a zombie kid. And I don’t care if he hates me for it. Every single kid I knew growing up who was ‘friends’ with their parents or had parents who were ‘cool’ ended up in a bad situation. I parent my son now so he can be my friend when he’s older. And parenting means being often unpopular with your kid.

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Same here! My kids aged 7, 4 and newborn. We are not getting smartphones or any smart devices until at least junior high. In 3rd grade, school gives them an iPad but I’m going to limit that to school work. When she is a lot older, I may get her a no data/no internet phone.

Your son will thank you later!! Kids never respect “the cool mom”. they end up resenting those parents (who have no rules) & blaming their parents for their problems when they are older. The parents with rules and boundaries, their kids grow up to love and respect their parents. They appreciate what their parents did.

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Absolutely! My parents had strict rules and it’s why I’m a successful adult. My values, happiness and self-worth tie directly to having amazing parents who did what was right and not what was easy. I will not allow my son to follow the failed paths of his peers. I’m lucky because my parents were a perfect example so I don’t even have to work that hard to figure out what to do.

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Hoping that in 5 to 10 years, there will be a better technology and controls for your son and others to use.

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May 22, 2023·edited May 22, 2023

To me, this reflects our society's collective confusion about the ultimate aim of a parent in today's world. I have come to prefer the term "raising children" to "parenting" because it helps me remember to always look through the lens of - "Will XYZ help/hurt the process of my child's development into a stable, functional, contributing adult?" I do not think all parents are operating with this distilled mission in mind, and it can lead to major confusion and distress. They seem to be reacting to everything the modern world is throwing their way, rather than having a North Star guiding them. Parents do not want to "be the bad guy", even though that is often precisely what their kids need.

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We have Bark installed on the phones. It’s a little bit of a pain to set up but you can block sites like TikTok and it alerts you to all their text messages that might have suspect content. It alerted me when a boy one of my kids went to camp with texted porn.

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My nieces (8 & 11) are friends with Riley Nicholson, quoted in the article. They don’t have phones at all. They spend all of their free time outside and they so much better for it. All of the neighborhood kids play together after school and on weekends. My nieces are growing up like I did in the 80’s. I just hope my brother and sister-in-law hold strong for a few more years!

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Riley and your nieces can safely play outside at Camp Lejeune. I am happy for them and sad for other kids who don’t have that security.

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Agreed!! I also grew up on a military base and it’s a very different experience. None of my friends, non-military, would dream of letting their kids run wild through the neighborhood.

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Sadly those kids of non-military families you describe are missing out. Statistically kids are far safer than they were when their parents were growing up, and this perception that kids can't be allowed outside unsupervised is robbing so many of opportunities to explore, learn, play, and cause trouble. The kind of activities their parents did as a kid, and that's a tragic loss.

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