Parents, Children, Smartphones (Turkle)

 Smartphones have helped us communicate and keep in touch better than ever before.  There is upside to this.  I can text my wife and tell her I’ll grab a pizza for supper.  She can respond and remind me to get milk.  The list goes on.  There are also downsides to smartphones and keeping in touch.  One downside, in my opinion, is that smartphones make helicopter parenting even worse and they also hinder teens from becoming more independent by learning how to navigate issues on their own.  Smartphones make it hard to “cut the cord” so to speak.  I like how Sherry Turkle explains this as she talks about parents and children being “tethered” by smartphones:

“…The tethered child does not have the experience of being alone with only him- or herself to count on.  For example, there used to be a point for an urban child, an important moment, when there was a first time to navigate the city alone.  It was a rite of passage that communicated to children that they were on their own and responsible.  If they were frightened, they had to experience those feelings.  The cell phone buffers this moment.”

I can identify with this.  When I was in my teens, I was not tethered to my parents.  They loved me and provided well for me, but when I was out and about I had to figure things out on my own (sometimes by trial and error).  I believe it would’ve been detrimental for me to be in constant contact with my parents to ask them about every situation, or if I could’ve googled everything and not had to think it through on my own.  I’m thankful that in all those various situations I had to just figure things out on my own.  It helped me mature and grow for sure!

There’s one other detrimental aspect of parents, children, and their smartphones, but I’ll wait to post it until later this week.  Until then, here’s the book I quoted above, one that I very much recommend: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle (revised/updated 2017).  It’s not a Christian book, but it’s a good resource for Christians to study when thinking about technology, relationships, and even parenting!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015