Ruth’s Truths – Ruth Morris

I was standing in line texting, waiting for a San Francisco restaurant to open at five o’clock. A woman stood in front of me, holding what looked to be a two- or three-year-old in her arms. We talked a little about the authenticity of the German food and the European ambiance of the restaurant. Then she asked me what time it was. Not sporting a watch anymore these days, I checked my iPhone for her and said, “4:59.” After thanking me, she explained, “I have my own iPhone, but, my daughter has it, and I just can’t take it away from her; it’s the only thing that calms her down.” That’s when I noticed that the toy the child was playing with was an iPhone.

Now, as an educator, let me say that a two-year-old cannot use an iPhone in any cognitively feasible manner, even if some kind of colorful game app had been downloaded for the child.

I was shocked, incredulous. I said under my breath, “When my kids were young, we didn’t have iPhones, and we found other ways to keep our children calm. The woman had already turned her back, and I didn’t want an altercation right there, on the streets of San Francisco. A woman behind me said, “What happened to books, toys?” and I nodded vigorously to her in agreement.

This encounter reminded me of another scene about a month ago: a four-year-old in a Korean restaurant with an iPad. The dad came in the room, and attempted to take away the iPad as the meal began, but when the child began to cry, the mother let her have it back. Excuse me?

When my kids were that age, a mere 15 years ago (they would have been 4 and 2 then), we brought out crayons, paper, books, trucks, action figures, Lego blocks and any number of amusements for car rides, waiting time at a restaurant, an airplane ride or, really, any “downtime,” anywhere. My kids were also allowed to watch television, videos, Laser discs (thanks to a relative in the business, we had many Disney and other classics on Laser disc), which were often educational and/or contributed to their cultural literacy. We started them early on The Wizard of Oz, they were Lion King babies, and they grew up surrounded by books and arts and crafts supplies. They had collections of cars, trucks, action figures and train sets; they put them together, took them apart, and made up stories surrounding these things.

My kids are not perfect because of this; they are perfect because they are my kids! They are not, however, addicted to devices, nor are they frozen into inactivity or boredom, like some of the young people I have encountered.

Has there been a generation yet, that has relied on electronics, instead of toys, to occupy a child’s time? The television generation that I grew up in was different. TV was only broadcast certain hours, with just a few channels, and consumption was usually restricted by parents. Author Ray Bradbury, who predicted many of current technological advances in his mid-century science fiction, worried about television becoming the opiate of the masses. He likened a neighborhood of tract homes with TV sets in the living rooms to fireflies in graveyards.

Bradbury’s predictions aside, TV grew into a media of varied educational and entertaining content, and certainly presaged the advent of portable types of television, like iPhones. TV was not and is not bad, nor are smart phones, although many people in my generation try to resist the tide, to my own consternation (and ridicule of them). The problem is the parenting.

What happened to the responsibility aspect of being a parent, the confidence of knowing what is best for the child? I recall a friend who wouldn’t bring her 3-year-old on a bike ride with us; we had a little ride-along cab for the kids attached behind the bicycles. She said she was “afraid he wouldn’t like it!” Three years old is too young to decide such a thing. Shouldn’t parents do their part in exposing their children to new experiences?

Since when do parents allow their children to decide what they want, when they want it? I was dragged along on my parents’ boring trips and outings, but it was family time, and some of my best memories come from car conversations. Since when do parents allow a child to say “no?”

On a recent family outing, one of my sons asked my nephew to switch seats at the table, because he had his own ice cream, while us bigger people were all sharing one dessert. My 8 year old nephew had the audacity to say “no” to my 16 year old son. This time, it was my son’s turn for disbelief, he picked up the child, and moved him over. Some people advocate for reasoning with such a child, but, in fact, “no” is not an acceptable answer in, as we used to say in the business world, a “top-down” relationship. The problem is, you can’t physically move a person when they are too big to move anymore, so you have to nip such behaviors in the bud. Otherwise, it won’t get any easier to reason with a person later, and you certainly won’t be able to get a 14-year-old to budge.

Then there’s my niece, on the other side of the family. At nine, she announced to her mother that she was not going to take the entrance exam for a “better” school in their neighborhood. My sister-in-law called, asking what she should do. The recipe is: have a facts of life discussion about the need to strive for excellence. After which, if the child still does not comply, remove all amusement activities, from video games to TV time, to play dates, or whatever needs to be withheld, until the parents’ will is accomplished. Why? Because WE know better.
I am not talking about cases of abusive parenting; those are hopefully rare instances where, indeed, children might have to advocate for themselves. What I am saying is that there are way too many scenarios of parents abdicating their rights to make decisions for their children. Also, many parents these days seem just too willing to pacify their sons and daughters by plugging them in to external devices instead of instilling internal values.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

19 Comments

  1. I have witnessed a lot of what you mentioned in this article. I often get frustrated when other kids (even teens) have a life that only consists of TV and video games. I feel that they should be doing something real for a change. They should go outside, play some sports, study for school, or read a book. When all we do is play with electronics, which will have very bad effects on you, both mentally and physically. The lady you encounterd said,“I have my own iPhone, but, my daughter has it, and I just can’t take it away from her; it’s the only thing that calms her down.” This proves how she got hooked on to the device, and couldn’t stop using it. I’d really like to see all kids change from being hooked on external devices, when we were made to have fun by using the values that should havebeen instilled inside of us.

  2. There are a whole bunch of ways to be a good parent. One way is taking away video games and giving external activities like playing outside or playing board games. The second way is let them color or write something on paper. The last thing is to never take no for an answer then they will think they have control over you. They will try to make you do what they want when they want it.

  3. Hi I think you are posatively correct and that we should not rely on electronics but to read a book of something other than that.

  4. There are lots and lots a of ways tot be a really good parent. Like making sure they have a good edacation. Also if you make sure they are active during the summer spring break winter break etc. and make sure there just not laying around doing nothing like texting or watching tv or sitting on the couch all day. Making sure they are active . This is what I think being a good parent is being about

  5. I understand where you are coming from in this article. Most kids these days are on the internet a lot. Now that you can access internet and games on your phone more and more time is spent on it. I think that kids should have a limit on the internet. We should be doing more stuff outside like playing sports, going on walks, and hanging out with friends. Also we should be studying and focusing on school more than the internet and video games. This one part you said in the article “I have my own iPhone, but my daughter has it,and I just can’t take it away from her; it’s the only thing that calms her down” shows that little kids in today’s world are getting hooked on to the internet and phone.

  6. I agree with you completely Ms.Morris. I have a 7 year old cousin that lives across from me. We cannot go outside to play because of the environment around us so I usually play inside with him. But the problem starts when we are running errands. In the car he is always on his DS and in the store is exactly the same. He especially doesn’t realize how dangerous it is not to be paying attention outside these days. Unlike all the other bloggers I think its fine to play video games because things like that are looking to be the next big thing in the world and they might be interested in having a job like that but when the woman said “Its the only thing that calms her down” that’s really troubling. But in conclusion, I think its fine to let kids play video games to expose them to new things and not be too controlling but I also believe that all kids need balance as well.

  7. You are so right kids these days always on the internet we’ll look I’m on it right now, I mean our parents survived without iPhones, iPads, and all those other electronics we should to. We should get off the internet and play outside for a change I mean my mom tells me get off your but go play outside get off the electronics but we kids now in days just don’t listen.

  8. I agree with you completely Ms.Morris. I have a 7 year old cousin that lives across from me. We cannot go outside to play because of the environment around us so I usually play inside with him. But the problem starts when we are running errands. In the car he is always on his DS and in the store is exactly the same. He especially doesn’t realize how dangerous it is not to be paying attention outside these days. Unlike all the other bloggers I think its fine to play video games because things like that are looking to be the next big thing in the world and they might be interested in having a job like that but when the woman said “Its the only thing that calms her down” that’s really troubling. But in conclusion, I think its fine to let kids play video games to expose them to new things and not be too controlling but I also believe that all kids need balance as well. Sometimes I feel as though this world might be too sensitive when it comes to whats good and whats not good.

  9. I agree with you completely. My little God-brother isn’t even 2 yet and he is always on his moms iPhone, watching shows, texting even. I have a feeling that it might just be this generation and the generation of new parents. Also, i do believe that the newer generation of parents are much younger than they should be or could be. My friend, god-sister, is the older sister to my god-brother, she tells me that he will actually find her iPod and play on it. I think that the new generation of parents think that books and non-digital toys are “old fashioned.” Finally, most parents don’t let their children have drawing materials because they will get it everywhere and they don’t want to clean it up, this is the main reason why many young children don’t develop very good hand-eye coordination.

  10. Hi Ms.Morris,
    I really liked reading your article. I observe that today’s kids are addicted to iPhones,iPads, and other electronic gadgets. Parents are very lenient when it comes to parenting their children. I endorse your view that children should be given books, toys, crayons, paper, Lego blocks, which will enhance and help their creativity. I totally agree with your comment that
    “two year old cannot use an iPhone in any cognitively feasible manner.” Parents should not give in to their children’s demands, but should exercise discretion in what is in the best interest of the child. Children do not know what is in their best interest, and it is the duty of the parents to instill lifelong values.

  11. I agree with every word in this article. It is true that in our generation, many of our teenagers and children are involving themselves in today’s technology like iPads, iPhones, and many more modern devices. I agree with Ms.Morris that parents let their child do whatever they want. Instead of kids handling modern technology, parents should bond with their children even if it is painting, going to the park, or even doing a fun, creative activity at home with their family. Like Ms.Morris said, ” Since when do parents allow their children to decide what they want, when they want it?”. I know so many people who spend all day on their phones and computers. Hopefully in the future, their parents will stop allowing their children to do whatever they want and start spending some quality, valuable time together.

  12. I do agree with certain aspects of this article like the dad taking the iPad away from the child but not because the kid had an iPad, it was because of the parents. The parenting in that situation was unbelievable because of the simple fact that the parents could not get any control over their child. But I do believe that you have not pointed out the good side of technology, for instance I believe that part of the reason that its so bad is that their doing it alone. If they were doing it with someone else then it would be a different story. Another reason I disagree with this article is that technology isn’t always a bad thing. Studies have shown that people who play video games have had better hand-eye coordination and better relationships.Also I think that you have not looked at the bad side of TV, when playing video games, unlike TV, you are aware of your actions. When watching TV all you are really doing is sitting there looking at a screen, and even now video game companies are trying to make games more active like talking into a headset ore having to move around with a kinect sensor which are being sold with the next-generation consoles.

  13. I can agree with everything you said in the article from how the mom was manipulated by her daughter crying when she did not get to use the phone. I think that not only little kids do it but teenagers as well, today as a matter of fact i was walking to my homeroom when a kid that was with his friend playing the DS saw me look at him and he said “we be playing 24/7 365 a year, we are what you would call true gamer”. I can also recall times in the store were I’ve seen what you stated about kid throwing some type of tantrum or throwing themselves on the floor at the store and the parents get them what they wanted. Every time we see that at the store my mom always would remind me of how i never did that and she said that if I had done it we would have had a big talk. Although my mom is the totally opposite from the parents you described on the article i always remind my self that the reason she does what she does is to show me discipline.I can also relate to what you said you did with your kids when they were little were they would play with toys, my mom would always bring toy if we went somewhere or even at home and once we were done without our mom telling us we would put the toys away. When you said that your son moved your nephew sometimes I like to get on my brothers nerves and say nnnnoooo sometimes he will take it in but if he is not in the mood hed push me over.

  14. I agree completely my four year old sister has a tablet of her own. Where ever we go to places she’s always on the phone or some electronic. Kids these day should go outside or a bit of homework. We should be playing sports and other fun activities like hang out with your friends,anything at least out side. When I was little I would play all day run around play in the garden or go to the park. I see my uncle always playing video games all day while I go ride my bike or play football. Saying “no” is important to kids because it starts setting boundaries for them

  15. I think you have a good point on how many kids these days are becoming hooked to their electronics and won’t interact with anybody. I think as this goes on, maybe peole will start to be on screens 24/7 and not even talk to each other. When it mentioned in the article “What happened to books,toys?”, I wasn’t surprised that kids say they HAVE to have their consoles or electronics, or it will give them a bad attitude. When I was 3 years old, I never even heard the word ‘electronic’ or ‘TV’ or ‘video games’.I would always play outside and have fun running in the fields of grass. Just go play outside; the world won’t be the same later, so just “live for the moment”. Of course, now companies that profit on video games make games where you “exercise” and use your body to play the game. But frankly, it doesn’t work and it’s definitely not the same as going outside and playing basketball. Sure, a little TV or video games won’t hurt anyone, but TV and video games it can’t be what your life revolves around. Try to read something or go play with your pet outside or take a walk, you’ll realize there are things better than sitting on the couch with an iPad all day. Enjoy the outdoors, books, all those other things now, it won’t be there later, but your electronics always will be there for your whole life. Think about it.I did.

  16. Dear Ms. Morris,
    When you said,”Now, as an educator, let me say that a two-year-old cannot use an iPhone in any cognitively feasible manner, even if some kind of colorful game app had been downloaded for the child”,
    I agree that now a days technology is becoming more of an excuse for kids to rupture their social lives. If babies years ago lived without these devices Why should they now. Plus there are so many other things you can do such as physical activities to spend your useful time for having fun!

  17. I agree with your article because I could relate to your story. I have a little sister that always wants to play with my mom or dads iPhone. Toddlers these days are allowed to do whatever they want. When my sister asks for the iPhone and she doesn’t get it she throws into a fit because she NEEDS what she wants. When I was a little boy I used to play with Legos and toy trains. It was so fun using my imagination to create my own little world of fun. Today though, kids like my sister are only interested in electronics and media. Sometimes I wish I could just snatch the iPhone away from her and give her a doll to play without her getting angry. TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY!

  18. I know how you feel one day i went to someones house and the three year old had her own Ipad and whe she stopped playing with it she wanted to open a door in stead of turning the knob she started touching it. When i was three the biggest game i had was a joystick with two buttens and i was so happy.

  19. You are absolutely right. My mom always limits my time on my iPad and iPhone, and usually takes it away if I (or my brother) tries to take it out in a restaurant, at the kitchen table, etc. I have witnessed a lot of my friends and/or people that I know say “no” to their parents, and it always confuses me. I’ve never been allowed to say no. I guess it’s just how. I was raised. Which is a good thing. I know my mom and dad have lived a lot longer than me, and while they raise me, I have to listen to them.

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