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‘We do not interact as a family’: readers on how phones changed their children

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Madonna said giving her children mobile phones ‘ended their relationship’. We asked parents to share their own experiences

‘It’s meant fewer dinners together’

Has giving my child a phone changed my relationship with them?

It’s meant fewer dinners together, and less inclination to share in conversation; greater irritability and less ability to self-regulate or find meaningful non-phone related activities to participate in.

Many activities are done with the phone as meditating entity and spatial registry. The phone enhances the need for immediate mediation or gratification. Daniel.

It’s exasperating and annoying’

There is less talking now, and I have to go to greater lengths to have a normal conversation and any possible eye contact.

Even then, the attention span is short and the eyes go back to the phone. It’s exasperating and annoying and sometimes I feel it pointless to even start a conversation, as it has become a futile exercise. Anonymous.

‘We do not interact’

We do not interact as a family. Kevin.

‘I maintain strict control over the apps’

I gave my child a phone when she was 10, but maintain strict control over the apps on it – no YouTube, no social networking of any kind, and web browser limited to a small set of sites.

She gets text messages, games, and a camera, which allows her to have fun, stay connected with her friends, and learn responsible use (no nude photos, ever).

Notifications and the ringer automatically deactivate between bedtime and the end of school, so she gets to sleep without her phone going off all night like a Christmas tree.

Back in the day, I remember my big brother spending hours on our landline as a teenager. Some amount of that is healthy, in my honest opinion. Elizabeth.

‘My son is fairly addicted … it’s a shame’

When my older son turned 12, he was given a phone because he started having more autonomy.

However, my ex, from whom I am happily divorced, gave our 10-year-old a phone at what I thought was far too young an age.

I had to parent quite heavily around my 10-year-old’s phone usage – no data, only wifi, block many things/numbers.

My younger son is fairly addicted to it now at this point. It’s a shame. Carmen.

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‘We now communicate through text messages’

We stopped talking two weeks after my daughter got her phone. We now communicate through text messages and the odd Instagram post – even when we sit opposite each other at breakfast. John Sproule.

‘My daughter’s priorities have shifted’

My daughter’s priorities and allegiances have shifted from family to pretty much everything not family since getting a phone.

But then again, she’s 14 and that is what’s supposed to happen at that age.

But it may not have happened to the same extent if not for the overwhelming presence of the smartphone. Pascal.

‘It has made things better’

Giving my child a phone has made things better – we text and email one another all day and we remain close.

For us, the written word is an easier way to communicate than verbally. Laura Euler.

‘She has lost the ability to be present with us’

My relationship with my daughter has all but disappeared over the course of the last year as she increasingly engages in social interaction through her smartphone.

She is 13, and like her friends, almost every contact, dialogue, and interaction is through the smartphone.

She has lost the ability to be present with us.

She is always distracted, and looking for the next opportunity to see what is sitting out in the digital ephemera – possibly validating her, or perhaps making her feel more salient.

It seems at times that she has lost the art of in-person conversation – the “Hello, how are you?” kind of thing.

She’s furtive, quiet and awkward when we have guests over. Mind you, she is a straight-A student. But I worry. John P.

‘Text gives you another way to communicate’

My child having phone is helpful. It is a tool that helps us communicate more often. For example, my teen can text me photos of their homework when it’s done.

They text me funny videos, quotes they like, photos. And I can do the same.

Your voice can sound redundant as a parent, but text gives you another way to communicate. Cynthia.

‘We’ve managed to keep the phone problem small’

I gave my son a really cheap phone that won’t do much.

It looks like a smartphone but works really slowly, so he’s not tempted to play on it or use it.

We got away with this because right now, nobody at his school is too fussed about what kind of phone anyone has.

As there’s no peer pressure, we’ve managed to keep the phone problem very small.

He does ask for an iPhone from time to time, but we’re brushing it away successfully at the moment (he’s 12). Nicola.

‘No phones until age 16’

If I could do it over again, I would not give them phones until age 16. Pablo.

‘Her phone has brought us closer’

Some of our interactions can be more mutual – she has access to all sorts of interesting information which we process and explore together.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a big fan of technology; I’d much rather she was accessing this information through books.

But for my daughter, it has been one way in which she belongs with her peer group, among many ways in which she clearly does not.

She is on it more than I would prefer, but she shows maturity and restraint a great deal of the time.

She does not usually use social media apps, noting that they make her feel bad.

I feel very lucky. We talk frequently when she is away from home and stay in regular touch through text.

In fact, and in spite of my concerns that it would be otherwise, her phone has brought us closer together and given her a chance to make her own decisions about how she wants to apportion her time and attention. Elizabeth West.

‘Ultimately, it’s for the better’

I’m sure there used to be rows about phones at the dinner table when my kids were younger.

Now that one of them works in San Francisco and the other periodically works or studies abroad, smartphones keep the daily conversation going – queries, comments, links, photos, recipes, music recommendations.

There’s also the occasional challenge, like my second son sending me six seconds of him singing a line and demanding I identify the song!

So it’s for the better, ultimately. Karen.

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Source theguardian.com
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