Safety vs. privacy. Communication vs. distraction. Society vs. age appropriateness. These are just a few of the lines parents walk when it comes to their children and their electronic devices.
There's no manual, and it can feel like the Wild West, so we gathered three families to talk about the roles their phones play in their lives.
Our subjects are:
- Stacey Buck and daughter Karo, a freshman, from Canton,
- Jaqulin McCoy and daughter Naomi, who is an 8th grader in Arlington, and
- Sarah Nicholson and daughter Anna, a 6th grader from Dallas
We invited them to our studios, and started with a few pointed questions to learn what messages these moms are sending, and what their kids are seeing.
They answered individually, and then shared their responses "Newlywed Game"-style.
First, we asked which of them is on their phone the most. Then we asked how much time a day does the other person spend on their phone. Finally, we asked the parents and kids at what age they think it's OK for a child to get a phone.
The answers surprised both us, and the mothers and daughters. It's not just the kids who are on their phones a lot...and they're always watching. What we learned from all their answers are that families' rules for their kids and their phones differ depending on family, their age and their situation.
What the generations share is a fear of internet weirdos.
"I’m not as concerned about them looking for yucky content as I am them stumbling across something I really don’t want them to see," Nicholson said.
"Right," Buck said.
"And there’s a lot of pop ups," McCoy said.
They have right to be concerned.
"My friend was on live, and I was with her and this guy came on and the name looked familiar so I thought it was some guy from our school," Naomi said. "And then out of nowhere, just private parts started flashing! I was like 'OK… Oh my gosh! It’s time to leave!'"
That’s the dicey part. You can’t control other people. And even good kids get older. There will be new apps, new temptations, and eventually, they won’t want to share what they’re up to.
So as 12-year-old Anna, 14-year-old Naomi and 15-year-old Karo grow, so will the issues tied to their phones.
"I just feel like there's no finish line!" Nicholson said.
There's no finish line and no manual — just parents and kids navigating it all the best they can.