Growing up my parents refused to buy us a video game system. Nor would they allow cable television in the house. Yes, kid, you read that right. Your dear old mom did not have cable. I had a handful of TV stations from which to choose (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 26, 32, 44, and 50). How about that – I can actually name them all.
Without video games or an endless array of Disney and Nickelodeon characters at which to mindlessly gaze (and long before the advent of the “phablet”), my sister and I filled our days by being kids. Playing with our toys. Riding our bikes. Playing at the park. Coloring. Reading. Making up dances.
Did I feel the absence of this technology? Sometimes. But back then, it meant I was only out of the loop on the newest music video or Super Mario Brothers game. I never felt like it hindered my ability to make friends. I never felt judged or ridiculed.
Why am I telling you all of this?
To prepare you for the fact that you will not have a smart phone or tablet…for a long time. I don’t know when I will let you have one of your own. Or how much I will even allow you to play on mine or your dad’s. I learned a long time ago to never say never, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve made up my mind on this matter.
This may not make sense to you in the moment. It may not make sense to you until you have children of your own. But my reasoning is simple: you deserve a childhood.
A real, honest-to-goodness childhood. Where the only thing you have to worry about is what’s for dinner…or how to keep your balance on your bike without training wheels…or how many more minutes we can play hide and seek before you have to go to bed…or how much money the tooth fairy will leave for that front tooth that you thought would never come out.
And in my book, that honest-to-goodness childhood does not include viewing Nicki Minaj’s underboob or reading about Justin Bieber making a complete horse’s ass of himself (again). That childhood does not include sitting on the sidelines and obsessively checking your Facebook or Instagram page to see how many likes your picture garnered from your “friends.”
I want you to have an imagination. I want you to be able to entertain yourself. I want you to be able to carry on an actual, real-life conversation with people. Real people.
I want you to play. I want you to be able to pick up a Barbie (or GI Joe) and come up with a story in your head. Some adventure on which your toys will embark.
Don’t press play on YouTube.
With actual toys. That you make talk…in funny voices…with crazy names and jobs and likes and dislikes. Come up with a story and act it out. Put on some music and choreograph a dance. Sit by the piano and make up a song. Paint pictures that I will hang all over the house.
I realize this is no easy feat nowadays. And my childhood experience without video games or cable may no longer be a fair comparison in today’s technologically-advanced world.
With that in mind, and technology changing at the speed of light, I promise to be flexible in my views on the subject. I understand I may need to make allowances as you grow up. Again…never say never. But in return, you need to understand that technology is a privilege, not a right. And whenever you are allowed access to a smartphone or tablet of your own – and all that comes along with those devices (Internet, YouTube, Facebook and the like) – I expect you to conduct yourself in a manner that will make me and your father proud. Sitting behind a keyboard does not make you anonymous.
And please, if you love me at all, use capitalization and punctuation in your text messages.