KRISTINA BEERS: Sticking to your limits when it comes to electronics

We have a constant argument theme at our house. Both sides talk about it, hash the details out, argue each point, experience desperation and anguish and each retreats to a relative “corner” of the house for a few days (all the while thinking of new ways to argue a point to benefit his side) and then we start the whole mess over again.

The topic? Electronics. The whole shebang: phones, tablets, family laptop, iPods, GoPro,

The position of my husband and I is: No phone is necessary until you are driving on your own — this means while you may be 16 years old, you don’t necessarily get a phone until you are the oldest in the house and responsible for others in your car. The laptop is in a common, family room, is the only device children are allowed be on, and it is not to be moved. Knowing the Internet password is restricted to parents only. Period.

Also, at this time, all miscellaneous electronics are locked up in our safe. Luckily, my husband and I have been able to agree on this point, making it much easier to withstand a targeted assault from the children. We are also lucky it’s Lent, making the austere conditions a minor cog in the wheel of family practices. The kids won’t argue. Yet.

We’ve been down this road before with the older boys. Kids are clever: A winning smile and well-timed chore can soften my resolve. And he knows it. The iPod leads to games leads to Internet, leads to self-relegated solitary confinement, leads to shiftlessness, leads to arguing with parents and brothers, leads to grounding of electronics. It’s a pattern of “Pete and Repeat are on a boat. Pete fell off. Who was left?”

Every time. Every. Single. Time. There is a period of resetting attitude. It’s almost as if they have been drugged and need to re-learn how to interact with people in real life.

Our two, who do not live at home, found it tortuous to not only have poor cell service at home, but to not be given the Internet password over Christmas break. Oh the horror! To be a know-it-all fresh adult and have to speak to the underlings!

Our personal practice also is backed up by solid research, which includes the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kids don’t need phones. If they have one, they should be turned in at night. (Do you have any idea how many text messages are sent in the wee hours of the morning, interrupting sleep patterns? It’s mind-boggling!) 

Devices are interfering with meal times, with car time — think of how many conversations were born in the car for you with siblings or parents simply because there was no one else? Or the chance to learn to be in companionable silence with someone?

So now, based on both our experience and research, “No” is a complete sentence and I am perfectly fine with that. While we endure arguments, slammed doors and relentless begging, our poor children act as if they are deprived. 

We are the parents who force them, among other things, to read books, play outside (yes, teenagers can and must play), suffer through a family meal, work together and to *gasp* talk to their parents! Each of these is a brick in the foundation for a life full of joy.

Kristina Beers lives in the Remus area with her husband and five sons. She shares her thoughts on parenting teenagers and young adults.