I am writing this letter not to society as a whole, but to each individual, and yes primarily YOU.
Imagine the scene: a couple is out on a date night and one of them is on his/her laptop. A mother is putting her kid to bed with the TV screen on for her in the room. Two friends are chatting, but one is just as much in Thailand as on the bench with her friend.
That’s extreme, right? Who would do that? Not me! Not in our community!
But that’s literally what a phone is. A mini laptop and TV screen. Which means it takes away just as much of your attention. My heart breaks when I pass the playground and see a parent pushing their child on the swing with eyes on the phone. This all also applies even if the phone is not a smart phone. Children are the greatest blessing, so why ignore them??
\Look, I’m still a teen. I don’t know anything yet, especially not about world problems. Only the adults are wise, only they do everything right. Nevertheless, I want to share something, something that was realized mostly by young minds. Yes, by me and my immature friends.
When our parents were growing up, they had their parents at their side. When their parents were home, they were available to their children. That was life and it was taken for granted. Fast forward 40 years. Our world was granted a gift. A large gift, with so many benefits. Yet, we live in a world that’s a mix of good and bad. And so the gift of technology has its downsides as well.
The younger children around me were born with their parents’ devices in the room. It’s the only life they know. A life of trying to get their parents’ attention and love as their parents’ eyes are glued to a screen. In the best of families as well. I feel so lucky to have been born before that age, to have a clearer perspective on this matter.
I for one cannot converse or connect with someone who is clearly showing me that there is something they find more important than me. The little lit up thing in in front of their face.
I don’t blame parents for not realizing the damage; after all they weren’t damaged by technology in their youth. But in truth the damage is happening to them now, and will forever haunt them, because all parents love their children and damaging your children and your relationship with them is damaging yourself. And that’s besides the damage from spending too much time on technology, which they may or may not realize.
If a parent is wondering why their child is acting up and what to do about it, ask me. I have advice: get off your phone. Acting up can be in many ways, I’ll list a few. A parent may be wondering why their kid is always on his/her device, or the opposite, doesn’t want to even look at a screen. Maybe their child doesn’t want to open up to a parent, is clingy, spends so much time out of the house, or simply complains about everything. These are normal difficulties kids face, you might say. I beg to differ.
Children want attention from their parents so badly and won’t necessarily act out of hand to show that. But all the issues I just mentioned, if you look at their core, can all be treated with some more love and attention given by their parents. Love is spelled T-I-M-E, and that’s what children want from their parents, their undivided attention. This applies from the youngest age and on. It never stops.
The experts say, if you want your kid to daven, you gotta daven. If you want your kids to learn you have to do so yourslef, and the same with tznius, tzedakah and so much more. I’m going to add, if you want your kids to be on devices all day, then you go on your phone. That’s life – embrace it or deal with the consequences.
Yes, your children look up to you and will follow your example, sometimes even subconsciously. Although I Baruch Hashem have my priorities straight, it’s still confusing when the adults around me aren’t acting according to halacha and hashkafah. When a child sees that his/her parent is on their phone from the minute they wake up till their falling asleep-with just some breaks when the parent had to do something with two hands- what kind of relationship is that?? That really doesn’t leave much time to spend eye to eye with their children.
I want to clarify that I too unfortunately have a foolish smart phone. I got it a couple of months ago and have done great things on it. And yet I’m also wasting more time than I have in a long time. And that doesn’t make me happy, so I work on it. Day by day, step by step, I push myself to power my phone off a little earlier than the night before and wait longer before opening it the next day. If something is urgent, the message will get to you some other way.
Going on your phone for whatever reason is harmful for your children, even if it’s all kosher, like, I don’t know, WhatsApp. WhatsApp brings families and friends together. yet when people get addicted to it -how is that even a thing?!- it breaks families and friends apart. If you acknowledged this issue and took steps forward to be more present for your family, good for you! And don’t be offended if you think I’m putting people down, because that’s not on my agenda.
Now, why on earth should you take my words to heart and action? We all already know that technology mushes brains. We know that being on devices for long stretches of time is far from ideal. We’ve all read about it, heard lectures, and know the Torah’s perspective on wasting time, being on social media, and responsiblity as parents and adults in general.
Here’s why you should heed my cry: because I’m a kid. From the grammar and word usage it’s obvious that I’m not a writer, psychologist, educator or the like. I’m a mere teenager with a broken heart, worried for the children of today, and the children of tomorrow. So please do me a favor and think about the following.
Check the daily screen time on your phone and ask yourself: How much time am I spending with my family? Is it enough time to give them the emotional, physical and spiritual strength they need to go through their day in this confusing world? Is it enough time to show then how much I love them, care for them and that they are my greatest sense of joy? Do I want to look back in 20 years and only have vauge memories of the time spent raising my children? Am I being an example to my children in this area? Do I have a filter that is one I’d want my child to have, one that fits with my communities’ standards? What will I say to Hashem after 120 when I’m asked, what did you spend most of your time doing?
So now, do something big. As soon as you finish reading this, close your phone for the next hour. Like power it off and put it away. Take this time to do two things. Firstly, think about when tomorrow you will shut your phone again for an hour. And if you already do that, great you can add another hour or two. Get a landline if you don’t have one yet so you can still be reached for urgent matters by phone.
Secondly, take this time to be present for your family, friends or whomever you are currently with. And if your alone, don’t worry. Being present for yourself is beautiful too. Good luck with taking these steps. May it only bring you joy and blessings. Be empowered by knowing that you are doing the best thing for yourself and your loved ones.
You should all know that this was written with love and that I truly respect the parents today. You are all heroes.
All the best,
A worried teenager who has society’s best interest in mind
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
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Well written, but I’m calling bs, this is an adult who wrote it,not a teenager perhaps even a rebbe. But it’s still well written and true!
I 100% agree with this letter writer. Ever since I got a smartphone I have been so distracted with it. The best advice I can give is to try to view your phone more of as a tool than entertainment. You may need it for emails, important messages, to look up directions etc. But to just sit and mindlessly scroll through nonsense or to be part of many useless chats (very few are actually important) on WhatsApp is just killing your time and life.
I’m doubly impressed that this is coming from a teenager who is introspective enough to realize that the insane amount of smartphone usage in society today is deeply problematic.
thank you for such an important article. first thing i have done is i forwarded this to all my 13 children .
Great letter, but cut out the disclaimers and apologies every other sentence.
Thank you for your eloquent letter. This really touched me. Maturity such as this is unfortunately sorely lacking amongst teenagers of today, your parents should be proud of you.
Dear AP, it is akin to telling someone addicted to meth to stop. they need therapy
Apple invented a device that is addictive, and the ppl you are addressing are addicted to, telling them to stop will not work
As a parent I want to fully agree with everything in this article and commend the fact that you recognize such a important topic at such a young age. This young teen just proved he’s more mature than some people in their 50s and I 100% accept his mussar and so should you.
FINNALY!!!! Something on YWN that I am proud to show around to my whole family.
Mi K’amcha Yisroel!
Not me! I need my phone for work! I cant be away from it because people rely on me and if I am not available somethiong terrible will happen. And what about my older kids who might need to reach me? Or my parents who live far away…? I must be accesible and lets be honest I am gioving my kids my attention anyway! I am not shopping on the phone I am using it for a good purpose.
Why is this any worse then LEARNING A SEFER WHILE I PUSH MY KID ON THE SWING?? is that asur and damaging also? Causing the kids to act up later in life? I wanted to learn! Its Bittul zman!
Whats the difference? Ahhh, you’ll tell me that this might be different because then he’ll see my learning, not wasting time on the phone…ok. What about saying tehillim on my phone with my kids? Is that okay? Next thing you know I cant read the paper during dinner anymore…sheeeesh cant do anything
At the end of the dauy no one wants someone else telling them what to do-you just dont understand me or my situation.
Brilliant article! Very well written and halevei people would take note! What scares me is while your 5 year old is watching you now absorbed in your phone goodness knows what sort of technology he’ll be looking at in 13 years time, thinking that’s what my parents did/do, so nothing wrong! Think of the example your setting! Whilst our mother’s said tehillim and sang yiddishe songs with us, what yiddishkeit are you conveying to the next generation!!!