Originally published April 2015
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to … text during sex.
Given my proclivity to being a bit overbearing with my kids and their phones (“Who are you texting? Who? WHO?”), I’m drawn to articles about kids and technology and social media. There were two quotes from two different stories in just the last day or so that wigged me out:
From a Yahoo story about the appropriate age which to give a kid a phone:
“You don’t want your child to be the only one without a phone so he feels different from his peers.” -Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent”
And from a Chicago Tribune wire story about people trying out the Apple Watch today:
“I’m looking forward to just having it there on my wrist, so I can be on my phone all the time.” -Jay Carroll, 15, whose mother has already pre-ordered it for him.
Because while there’s no scientific basis behind the connection I am about to make, I am guessing the earlier kids get that plugged into technology, the more likely they’ll think this is normal—7.4 percent of respondents in a recent Penn State survey admit to texting during sex.
I remember a time when it was thought to be tacky to watch Letterman during sex. Yikes.
I’m not bringing this up to pass judgement on any parent’s decision about when to buy a kid a phone. My three got theirs upon entrance to sixth grade, and with my oldest, I admit falling into that trap of “Mine will be the only one without one.” And now, with my youngest headed off to a middle school French immersion weekend soon, during which phones will be banned, I’m already breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of not being able to reach her instantaneously.
I just think sometimes, stats like these can jar a parent loose from our own addictions to technology to notice how our attitudes and actions inform those of our kids. I noticed it today when my middle texted his way through waiting for the doctor to come check out a sprained ankle, and it was annoying. But can I blame him when he watches me play word games and go into a Facebook coma on my phone when we’re all hanging out watching TV?
The latest Pew Research Center study, out this week, says “24% of teens go online “almost constantly,” facilitated by the widespread availability of smartphones.”
Sounds about right, seeing as the Penn State study also said almost 79 percent of those surveyed said they texted on the job and close to 80 percent text on the toilet. Ugh.
So, to my original point—kids and phones. When 94 percent of those in the Pew survey admit to online/social media use daily, 24 percent admit to that kind of connectivity constantly, and just 12 percent of those 13 to 17 surveyed admitting they don’t have a phone, it’s not that unrealistic to see a shift in the new normal for phone etiquette as evidenced by the Penn State survey.
The Yahoo story cites a survey of almost 2,300 parents that says 53 percent—more than HALF—of the 6-year-olds included, already have cell phones. Yes, we’re talking kindergarteners and first graders. With cell phones.
Sadly, I don’t think this is a trend we can turn the clock back on—so my suggestion would be this: If you are at all concerned about the downward trend in phone/technology etiquette, set some ground rules. Plug the phones in at night. Keep ’em off the table at dinner. That kind of thing. Then watch your own behavior. Are you on your phone all the time? Is that really the message you want to send your kids? Teens are still impressionable. Make one while it still counts.