It’s 7AM on a Sunday morning. The girls come thudding down the stairs as I shuffle my way to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. Minutes later, before the Keurig is even “ready to brew” I hear, “Baby Shark do do do do, baby shark do do do do!” If your kids haven’t discovered this irritating song on YouTube, consider yourself lucky. The lovely hit by Pinkfong is accompanied by a video and a dance. Oh, joy! We listen to Baby Shark at least 10 times a day. But it’s better than some of the other things my kids have found on YouTube. “Real vs. Fake” anyone? How about endless hours of adults testing out and playing with the latest toys? Who are these people?
This is part of the reason why my kids don’t have their own devices. It’s an unpopular choice, and I am the worst mom ever! And as my 6-year-old puts it, “all my friends have an Ipad!” And while this may or may not be true, I have used the old, “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you want to do it too?” I’m not knocking parents who give their kids their own tablets. I know there are tons of educational games and apps out there. And let’s face it, they do the job when you need to get the laundry done. But we all make different parenting choices and this is mine. There is so much monitoring required when you allow your kids access to the internet. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
At ages four and six, my kids are more tech-savvy than the average adult, meaning, they are more tech-savvy than me. They find their way around the Roku, watching Netflix, Amazon, and yes, YouTube without any assistance. Thankfully, any annoying and possibly off-limits videos they come across are blasted on the big screen in our living room so we can clearly see and hear what they’re being exposed to. Take the “toy testing” and “doll” videos, for example. One afternoon while I was prepping dinner in the next room, the girls were watching a video of Anna and Elsa dolls having some fun in Arendale. All was fine until suddenly I realized Elsa was using her evil powers to drown Anna in the sink. Yes, DROWN HER. My kids didn’t bat an eye (another subject altogether), but I certainly did. And after doing some research, I found that seemingly “normal” videos geared toward kids can take a violent or even sexual turn before anyone is the wiser. Yes, I set the parental controls on YouTube, but it should be noted sometimes content like this can go unnoticed and therefore remain “unflagged.” Also, I’m not sure I trust the powers that be to determine what is and what is not appropriate for my child.
Another daily challenge we face is the constant request to use my phone or my iPad. My kids LOVE Snapchat and this one I find pretty harmless. The filters are hysterical! It’s a good time and occasionally we’ll send off some weird ones to friends and family. But lately, there has a been a lot of searching for JoJo Siwa on Instagram and Facebook. This is also fine, as long as I am looking over their shoulder. But when it comes time to quit, it almost always ends in a battle. Social media is addicting, didn’t you know?
I hear horror stories every day about adults using fake accounts to prey on children. Or even more common, kids being bullied online, sometimes with devastating consequences. I’m sure the parents of these children assume they are being safe. Assume they are monitoring them enough. But it still happens.
Maybe I am being naive in wondering why my kids want to do this stuff at such a young age. Maybe it’s naive of me to wish they didn’t. After all, this is partly my fault. I am the one with the Facebook and Instagram accounts. I am the one who showed them how to use Snapchat to swap their adorable little faces for a beard and horns. Regardless, I worry how long I can keep this up and how long can I fend off them off from wanting their own accounts. It seems like the earlier kids are exposed to social media, the sooner they find it a necessity. I’m already asked on a regular basis by my first grader when she can get her own phone. I hate to break it to her, but it’s going to be a long wait. For both of us.
I just got my first iPad last Christmas. And my first cell phone? I was 21 years old, it was a red Nokia, and all it did was call people. Imagine that? We didn’t have all of this stuff growing up. The internet is a creepy place. It’s uncharted waters for me and I fear the day I can no longer keep them from it. So for now, I’ll bide my time. No phones, no tablets. Just, NO.
“Now go play Barbies and be sure not to drown any of them.”