6 in 10 parents text kids when dinner is ready
I was recently reading a new study on modern families from StudyFinds.org. I was surprised and yet not shocked at the report.
It’s probably just a sign of the times, but 6 in 10 (59%) parents say they often text their kids to come downstairs for dinner instead of actually talking to them.
The survey of 2,000 parents of school-age children found the average kid will receive his or her first smartphone at 10 years old.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Cricket Wireless, the survey also reported that:
70% of parents say they trust their kids with tech, even though 66% have put parental controls on all their children’s devices for security.
67% of parents think their kids will have access to tech no matter how strict they are. (So even the strict give their kids phones.)
As to the reasons they allow their kids to own a smartphone, parents mention use for emergency purposes (55%), to help them gain tech skills for their future work (47%), and because they showed the maturity to own one (46%). Sixty-two percent of parents also believe tech is beneficial for kids’ social skills.
Beneficial for kids’ social skills? That’s the one that got to me.
If that’s the case, parents should remember, in 2019, NPR reported that “more than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship,” according to a national survey.
NPR reported that, “Social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users.”
“But feelings of isolation were prevalent across generations. Gen Z – people who were 18 to 22 years old when surveyed – had the highest average loneliness …” despite being proliferated by technology and every social media platform known to man.
And what about all the dangers of smartphones and social media? Have parents forgotten these?
Several months back I revealed in a similar column how “73% of children exposed to online pornography by age 12.”
I’m not just talking about unprotected smartphones and computers without anti-porn defenses. Often overlooked today are social media platforms where predators prey the most, and they’re finding more and easier ways to penetrate and violate online platforms.
Even more difficult to monitor is when children are allowed to use their friends’ electronic gadgets. Unbeknown to most, new methods of assault such as drive-by cyber shootings through unencrypted wireless access points (known as war-spamming) are being used to bombard you and your child’s email and social media with pornographic advertisement.
The FBI gave these “signs your child is at risk” of online predators. (Are any of these characteristics of your child’s conduct or behavior?):
Your child spends large amounts of time online or on their smartphone, especially at night.
Your child turns the phone or computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen when you come into the room.
Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
You find pornography on your child’s computer.
Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.
Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
Your child receives postal mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
In another column, I wrote, “Defending parents who refuse or restrict smartphones for children,” I cite Tony Reinke’s book, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You,” which “makes explicit what many of us feel bubbling under the surface: Quietly, subtly, our phones are changing us. He catalogues the quiet catastrophe he believes our phones are causing. For instance:
We’re distracted and ignore others, especially those closest to us. We check our smartphone 85,000 times a year, or once every 4.3 minutes.
We’re a hazard to others. Texting and driving make us 23 times more likely to get in a car accident.
We crave (are addicted to?) media approval. Each social media moment is another scene in our “incessant autobiography.”
We live our lives by headlines and popularity. Our attention drifts from things that matter most in this life toward the latest headlines and gossip.
We become lonely while we “believe we are connecting.” Technology is drawing us apart, by design. We feel the sting of loneliness in the middle of online connectedness.
We get lost in the digital noise. The average daily social media and email output is larger than the Library of Congress.
We lose track of and waste time and our lives. The wonder of people, plants, and nature – even God himself – gets lost in the whirl of “urgent” notifications.
As parents, I think one thing we all can agree on is this: Part of loving and raising our children is regulating their access to opportunities and situations until they are developmentally ready to show good judgment and self-control. But we also need to protect them from those who prey upon them, and too few parents realize just how proliferating the online predators have become.
As I explained in yet one more column, titled, “Teens buying fentanyl on social media, and the sales are soaring”: Tragically, most American parents are completely unaware covert dealers – including cartels – are using social media to entrap their kids by offering powerful drugs to them for cheap. Dealers are using innocent emojis to sell fentanyl doses (laced in other labeled pills) in literally seconds online to millions of teens. And then, they deliver the pills door-to-door by personal drug mules, dodging the postal service and, mostly, parents.”
All of the above online hazards are leading to a revolution of rebellion in which parents are refusing to bow to “the necessity” or “positives over the negatives” of their children owning a smartphone. They are even beginning to question their own “need” for them. Hence, the reason many are returning to cellphones that are “light or dumb,” merely functional to send and receive calls.
Bottom line, parents and guardians should not and must not stick their heads in the sands of denial of online dangers and merely “do what the Joneses do” even if the whole world says, “All kids need smartphones.”
As now retired FBI cyber expert Arnold Bell, who spent decades helping parents to protect kids from online predators, once said: “The internet is a great place, but there are certain parts of town you don’t want to be.”
It’s fascinating that the study that found 6 in 10 parents text kids when dinner is ready also found that most kids, ages 6 to 18, couldn’t identify older tech devices. When shown images of old gadgets, almost half were unable to identify a land line. Only 28% knew what a floppy disk was, and just 26% were able to name and explain how to use an answering machine.
I think another thing kids today would be hard pressed to identify is a family sitting down to dinner without electronics.
Yet, a survey commissioned by The Honey Baked Ham Company and conducted by OnePoll found that for nearly half (49%) polled, having a family dinner together is an “important way to connect” over a meal. Shared dinners were also good for “making memories (46%), learning more about their family in general (46%), and continuing family traditions (45%).”
Maybe what parents and kids need to do is together watch a pre-digital, age-old episode of “Leave It to Beaver,” where the family is sitting down to dinner every evening and talking about their day. My wife, Gena, and I believe that is the best training for social skills – it’s called parental modeling. Here’s a great old reel about the “Traditional Family Dinner.”
I may sound old fashioned, but I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.”
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