The following was presented last week as part of my book event series
A year after publishing my best-selling book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, the most popular question I’m asked is, “How do I get my kids off their phone?” After speaking with many psychologists, researchers, parents, and tech experts, in addition to testing said advice on my own household, I’ve found five convincing answers to this timely and challenging question.
But why are so many people asking this question? The short answer is parents love their kids and know first-hand how addictive said devices can be, especially for developing minds. The long answer involves stark evidence that smartphones: a) complicate childhood, b) increase exposure to bullying and sexual content, c) impair sleep, and d) increase both anxiety and depression.
Because of this, most psychologists, medical experts, and even tech executives recommend delaying or waiting until age 14 for basic voice and texting phones, and then up to 16 for smartphones and/or data plans. “There is no reason that a teenager really needs a smartphone,” says one Silicon Valley psychologist. “They are not taking care of a family, nor are they running a business. Therefore, a basic cellphone should be adequate for their needs.”
When you consider that these devices can be just as powerful as (or more so than) driving a car, it’s no coincidence that the ideal age falls within legal driving range of 14-16 (depending on the state). Nevertheless, the responsibility lies upon parents, guardians, teachers, and our collective villages to teach and instruct children on how to use and get the most from this powerful tools while avoiding the negative heads-down behavior they often cause.
If you’re hoping for a silver bullet to rid your children of their bad phone habits, I cannot help you. But if you looking for proven advice that’s easy to understand but often difficult to master, consider these five effective ways, according to the latest research: Continue reading…
I have a confession to make—when it comes to raising a family, I don’t believe in “quality time,” a phrase you’ll often hear in America as justification for earmarking or designating an especially important encounter with children.
In truth, I just believe in time. And sometimes that time is nothing more than quantity. In other words, I try to be accessible and available to my children, even if I don’t have something particularly profound to say or a bond-worthy experience worth sharing. For example… Continue reading…
I was interviewed recently by The Atlantic about traveling with children, as an enthusiast of both endeavors. This is what I said:
Should parents forgo enrolling their children in summer school in favor of travel?
“While classwork is important, I haven’t encountered any evidence suggesting it’s more educational than actual travel,” says Blake Snow, a father of five, avid traveler, and author of Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting. “In fact, the opposite is true; travel is a wonderful mechanism for educating kids both big and small.” (NOTE: My politically incorrect answer would be an enthusiastic, “Hell yes, you should, and maybe don’t ever send them to summer school unless they’re really behind!)
Do you worry about your children’s safety while traveling?
“I do, but not to the point of preventing us from visiting places that the State Department deems safe,” says Snow. “We’ve even gone to places with special advisories, such as Mexico and South Africa, so long as the alerts are no worse than ‘be extra careful.’ The world really is a lot safer than our irrational fears make it out to be, but I do believe in taking precautions and trusting what the State Departments says when it comes to keeping American safe while abroad.” Continue reading…
My wife and I believe the world is inherently good and we want to indoctrinate our children to think the same. Not by ignoring society’s seedy underbelly. But with measurable evidence such as this that overwhelmingly proves the world is getting better and better.
To that end, my wife shared the following quote with our children and I over breakfast recently: “Feed your faith and your fear will starve.” In other words, people who are afraid are usually consumed by doubt.
But in my experience, we can replace that fear and doubt with hope and love by doing the following: Continue reading…
I wholeheartedly agree with Cal physicist Richard Muller’s optimistic and informed answer to this question.
“Global warming does not threaten humans with extermination,” he writes. “In the history of the world, I would say now is the best time to be born. The problem of global warming is minuscule to the dangers faced by my parents when then had me (i.e. world wars, more tyrants, worse civil rights for minorities and women, more violence, poorer health, less economic wealth). We will handle global warming through mitigation and adaptation. Don’t deny your future children their opportunity to enter this wonderful world.”
I don’t think Muller, I, or any other optimists are delusional in that outlook. After all, history is on our side—humans are survivors, tinkerers, and self-improvers.
Statistically we’re collectively better off now than ever before. Read and try to refute this if you don’t believe me. There’s no looming threat suggesting others—only unfounded human fear, old age, or alarmists rooted in emotion (or self interest) rather than fact.
Several years ago, I read a true Halloween story with a sad ending. Sadder still, I forgot to bookmark it and my Google skills have since failed me. I’ll do my best to recount it.
An English family of four had just relocated to America. Although Halloween is observed in other countries — Great Britain included — it’s no where near as big or as festive as in the United States. In anticipation of this, our immigrant friends decided to go “all out” for the occasion.
With a little help from her mother and I, our second child learned to ride a bike last week.
As she darted ahead of me into the horizon, I thought to myself, “She’s beautiful. The world is in good hands. This little gipper is gonna be alright.”
That all changes in teenage years, I’m told. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fight for her innocence as long as I can, then treat her like an adult as soon as she is mentally able. (I’ll be on my best guardian behavior, world—I swear it.)
But I digress. The experience reminded me of other sappy moments that have defined my short stint as a father. The first time your child smiles at you or says your name. Their first wobbly steps, subsequent hard fall, and immediate resolve in getting back up. The first time they excitedly greet you at the door. The first time you read a book in their class or celebrate an award they won on their own merit without any prodding or helicoptering by you.
Their first dance recital. The look on their face when they solve basic math. The first time they read a book, let loose on the dance floor, or help a younger sibling or child without being asked. The time my toddler son grabbed a twig to mimic my fishing the Provo River.
The list goes on. And I don’t even have a child older than eight, or a boy older than two. I can only imagine what wonderful things they’ll do as the years go on. I can only imagine how young at heart they’ll keep me.
For any parents in the room, what are your favorite childhood milestones?
My dad won’t like me for repeating this on the intertubes, but it’s too good not to.
Growing up, my old man would regularly sneak off to his tiny toilet room to get away from his loud wife and six, know-it-all children. It was one of those “bathroom within a bathroom” type deals where the toilet had its own lockable door—you know, for added privacy and to keep the fumes from offending a significant other using the sinks, bath, or shower.
Funny thing is, that toilet room would have been claustrophobic for an undersized gnome. While sitting on the toilet, small children could have (and regularly did) touch opposing side walls with ease. It couldn’t have been longer than six feet.
Nevertheless, my dad would retreat there for what seemed like hours, reading Rand-McNally maps or whatever almanac or resource books he left in there. It was his sole sanctuary, that is until he took over the entire second floor after the kids left home.
As a stunning teenager, I remember thinking something like this: “Dude bought this big ole house and everything in it, and yet the only space he has to himself is a 6×3′ toilet room.”
Now, as the children have begun overrunning my own house, I have found myself in similar situations. Granted, I have it better than he did. I enjoy a private home office that is only occasionally open to the kids for impromptu dance sessions (since my desktop doubles as the house’s best hi-fi). And my “toilet room” is much larger than his.
But I still stay in the bathroom longer than I should. The only difference is instead of Rand-McNallys, an iPad comes with me.
The May issue of Wired Magazine has a fascinated piece on injectable vasectomies that can be reversed with a follow-up shot. The procedure, dubbed by Wired as “the biggest advance in male birth control since the condom,” is flawless so far in clinical trials and dirt cheap to administer. Cool.
But I resent the article’s assertion that if successful, the procedure would “increase the chance” of humanity escaping poverty (p. 171). People aren’t poor because they have a lot of kids. They’re poor because they’re oppressed, complacent, or both. Offspring have nothing to do with personal wealth. (At least mine don’t, and I’m a freakin’ thousandaire!)
Of course, if you’re an absent parent and express your “love” in the form of material gifts, than yes—parenting children can be expensive. But otherwise, children have less impact than you think when it comes to a sinking or swimming family.
I’m a volunteer youth leader, which means I chaperon on Tuesday nights and teach Sunday School once a month.
Two weeks ago, a couple of leaders and I took the lads to the rec center to play racquetball. Afterwards, one of the freshman boys riding in my car rolled down the shotgun window to cat call a girl he knew.
“You realize you’re riding in a station wagon,” I told him. “Yeah, that might not be a good idea,” his passenger friend added.
My first two kids are Mama’s Girls. They regularly lunge for their mother whenever shy or after being apart for a time.
And although the pictured cutie still reaches for her mother, it’s fun to see her get anxious with outstretched arms, ready for hold, upon seeing me. Especially since my other two just looked at me funny as babies.
I don’t confuse either behavior with love. But I’d be lying if I said it isn’t nice to be liked.
I was in the living room. My five year old was sitting beside her mother on the sofa. All of the sudden, I hear the former speaking in this foreign language. Not an idiom. Music notation! She was reading aloud music! Passing off her piano homework to her mother!
“My kid knows how to read music!!” I thought to myself. “Even I don’t know how to do that!!” (Yes, there were exclamation points after all of these sentences.)
I can only imagine what other things she’ll learn as she grows older — things I never did.
You have no idea how proud this makes me as a father. It makes me want to sing “We are the world” or something. What an awesome feeling.
The rascal you see pictured above is my 1 and a half year old, Maddie. Lindsey and I often call her “The Destructor,” because she’s so rambunctious.
She also teases her elder sister Sadie—quite frequently.
I first noticed Maddie’s habit several months ago. If the girls are ever meant to share something, Maddie will usually dangle it in front of her sister, then rip it away at the last minute with a cute little chuckle grunt. Like her mother, Sadie would never do something like this, nor does she find pleasure in doing so.