For those of you who read my column regularly, you know I often get ideas from social media. My sister has two children: a daughter, age 10, and a son who is four. Of course, my niece, Riley, wants a cell phone. And her argument is “Mom, everyone has one except for me.” I truly admire my sister for standing up for her decision to not purchase a cell phone for her daughter and I hope she sticks to her guns. She has joined an online group called “Wait Until 8th.” This group of parents have agreed to wait until eighth grade to purchase phones for their children.
The data about children and cell phones is staggering. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are spending an average of seven hours a day in front of some media-related screen. It also states that 69% of children ages two to five can use a computer mouse but only 11% can tie their shoes!
I have some personal data: I have been teaching for over 20 years and the way students behave has changed dramatically. I see it in the classroom and with the teens I work with outside of the classroom. In the beginning of my career, students would say, “Oh Mrs. Hanning, I was nervous about the grade I was going to receive.” Now they say, “Mrs. Hanning I cannot take that exam. I have anxiety.” Or, they cannot give an oral presentation, because of their anxiety which is also documented in their records. I truly believe I did not know what the word, anxiety, was when I was in high school. And I believe that this said anxiety is from them Googling things and from spending too much time in front of their computers.
Another thing I have noticed is that students’ background knowledge has all but diminished. During literature lessons, I often like to show clips of films or television shows to illustrate a point or teach a certain element we are working on that day. Ninety-nine percent of all things I show are from popular culture that is pretty recent. And 99% of my students do not know the popular culture reference. It has become so bizarre to me I have started a Google Doc titled: Stuff Kids Don’t Know. Again, this is not just in my classroom but also with kids outside of my school building. This data is from all across cultures and economic demographics.
I know we are all addicted to our phones, but parents, please, take the phones away from the kids for a few hours a day. Make a set time for all phones to be in a drawer and under no circumstances should smaller children (who have to have a phone for safety purposes, another column) have cell phones in their bedrooms overnight! Do not tell me they need it for their alarm. One, you can wake them for school and two, they still make alarm clocks! When I typed in alarm clocks on Amazon they actually have a search for “Alarm clocks for kids.” The prices start as reasonable as $9.99. Buy one. P.S.: Some of my students prompted a new entry on the Google Doc and this was that kids do not know why 12:00 would blink on an alarm clock…. It was actually part of an SAT reading comprehension passage.
By Beth Hanning