At my house, we have a policy that, to my knowledge, none of my friends have. We don’t allow our kids to have electronic devices in their bedrooms. Period. No phones, no Kindle, no iPad, no FaceTime or laptop or TV or wii or any other thing with a screen and an on-button.
Since no one else I know has a rule this extreme, I have to question my sanity and strictness, right? As much as we talk at girls’ nights out about the Great iPhone Takeover of the generation we are raising, it doesn’t seem like the “No Electronics in Bedrooms” policy is the norm.
My theory is that among my friends- who all have an oldest child somewhere in the 7-10 year old range—this is uncharted territory. For one thing, our kids still think kitty makeovers and monster trucks are the best thing in a smart phone, which, to be fair, don’t seem like much of a threat to innocence. More than that, when we were kids, we didn’t have smart phones, so we have no frame of reference for how to parent in the Electronic Age. We don’t have teens yet who can help us find the darn buttons we need. And we have NO clue how to work the Snap Chat.
Electronics have snuck up on us.
When I was a teenager, I remember being thrilled to receive my very own TV for Christmas one year. And guess what? I watched stuff on it that my parents would not have wanted me to. (Here’s hoping my mom isn’t reading this!)
With that in mind, my husband and I agreed even before we had kids, that ours wouldn’t ever have TV’s in their bedrooms. That was 2004 before the iPhone was invented. Can you even remember a time?! It’s a whole new ballgame now, so our list of off-limits devices had to expand quite a bit!
Here are the Top 3 reasons that have made us want to keep the screens out from behind closed doors, even when our kids were toddlers.
1- When your child is alone with an electronic device, they are not alone.
Google estimates that over 3 billion people in the world have internet access, meaning that when your child goes into a room with an internet-enabled device, they go into a room with 3 billion other people.
You may think you’re safe if the device doesn’t have an internet browser, but that is unfortunately not the case. Social media apps like Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube give kids access to conversations and images with millions of other users. Even video game apps designed for and marketed to children often include a social component now, where players can form alliances and have conversations. A child can be exposed to unfair play, bullying, and foul language within even the most innocent-seeming games.
The bottom line is, when your child is alone with a device, they are not alone. You won’t be able to protect them from everything, because it’s not like you can watch every second of screen time. But if you are in the room, your chances are much higher of noticing if something is off.
2- Kids don’t have to search for harmful influences; Harmful influences are searching for them.
Once upon a time, kids had to work pretty hard to obtain pornography. Whether through a magazine or a VHS tape bought or procured through a friend, the industry was veiled to all but those who actively sought it out. Sadly, that is not at all the case in the internet age.
The other day, I was searching for a local reupholsterer online. Lest there be any confusion, that is a person who recovers furniture with new fabric. I clicked on the first link that came up, and I was taken directly to a pornographic website. HOW?!
If this can happen to me during the most innocent search of all time, it can happen to our kids. One misspelled word as they work on homework can bring a disturbing result. Again, you can’t prevent them all. But what if you weren’t even in the room?
3- Setting a precedent from a young age makes it seem like no big deal.
We started telling our kids “No electronics in bedrooms” from the very youngest age. I’m not saying that there haven’t been questions or protests along the way, but it’s never been a big deal. They’ve just always known it was off limits, and I know it’s saving me from major battles down the road. It’s much harder to impose rules like this on a teenager than a preschooler. But if you make something a routine starting at age 2 or 4 or 6, then by age 12 or 14 or 16 they won’t think anything of it.
A side note of encouragement on that topic? It’s never too late to go to bat for your kids. If you have a teenager and you want to change the rules, don’t back down because of the backlash. You’re the mom. And you love them. It’s ok for you to do the hard thing.
Everything I just said may make you feel like going to bed with a bag of potato chips. It’s hard to be a mom and it’s a crazy world we live in! I promise my intention is not to scare you—far from it. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and of love and of sound mind.
No, there is no way we can protect our kids from everything. All I’m saying is that we can rescue them quicker if we’re in the room—or at least listening from the kitchen.