Lift Up Thine Eyes Rockwell

Lift Up Thine Eyes....From Thy Smartphone


"Lift Up Thine Eyes" Norman Rockwell, 1957

It’s tough to accept when you are wrong. 

For the past decade, Jason and I have gone round and round about solo screen time for our kids. I argue there is a time and place for it; he wants to banish their iPads to the dumpster. What about when we are trapped in an airport or car with them on long trips? Or when they’ve been playing outside all day and it starts raining and we all want a break? He shrugs and says a version of “it’s a slippery slope and I don’t like it.”

Truth is, I don’t like it either. I don’t like how my daughter complains about her friends being on their phones when she’s trying to talk to them (she has a phone but forgets it constantly, for now); how my middle son wakes up early to sneak in YouTube videos on his obsession of the week (baseball and basketball, for now); nor do I like how my youngest is talking with more violence and building a sniper’s nest out of blankets to watch inanely dumb cartoons (for now) with his iPad pressed to his nose. But most of all, I don’t like that, deep down, I know my husband is right. (Why yes, I am feeling a bit feverish, thank you.)

Here’s a phone for you, kids. First one who figures out how to dial 911 wins. 

It doesn’t matter that our kids are outside playing a ton or that for downtime we prescribe screen time that we view as interactive like a movie or video games on a shared console (how far we’ve deviated!). At the same time, we work hard to combat the safetyism AKA irrational fear-based overprotectiveness of children by society, allowing them to roam around the neighborhood on their own and climb as high as they want. And still, after reading more of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s findings on the detrimental effects of a phone-based childhood, I realize that we are going to lose that battle as things currently stand. It is a slippery slope or rather, a slippery rabbit hole that will eventually suck them in.

One of the more disturbing lines - and there are plenty - from Jonathan’s conversation with Ginny Yurich of 1000 Hours Outside is that schools that allow phones are “schools without laughter”. No laughter means no relief from all the stresses of adolescence, not to mention the academic and social pressures that come with it. But here is the good news: Haidt underscores that this is a collective problem we can fix. We can limit the age we allow smartphone and social media access to our children. We can advocate for phone-free schools. We can continue to foster independence by allowing our children to engage in age-appropriate risky play. I find this to be encouraging and hope others do too.

Speaking of laughter, we had the opportunity to see Ronny Chieng on The Love To Hate It tour. Turns out, Ronny is a self-proclaimed gear nerd and long-time GORUCK fan. He’s also a great human who happens to be scathingly funny and adept at pointing out the absurdities of human existence. He has one bit, that you’ll have to see for yourself when his Netflix special comes out, about how we as adults who grew up without phones can more or less manage all the insanity that spews from the internet. We can brush off the insults and go about our lives (as demonstrated hilariously in this reel by a Chilean actor.) Meanwhile Chieng contends, by screaming dramatically into the mic, that children and old people do not understand what is happening when internet trolls come after them while they are respectively looking for cartoons or photos of their grandkids. 

But we understand and it’s time to accept that challenge put forth to us: to join forces and work to end the phone-based childhood.

P.s. Don’t tell Jason I said he was right (this time).