By Sarah A.
Nechama, like many young teens, wanted a phone. Her parents, like many of their peers, demurred. So Nechama did the only sensible thing she could think of: she polled her friends and reported to her parents that every other girl in her class had a smartphone. Not wanting her to feel left out, they caved.
It’s a year later. Her grades have dropped. Her emotional health has dipped. Her smile has waned.
How do I know? Nechama is my oldest daughter.
It may be too late for Nechama and her ninth-grade class. It shouldn’t be too late for all our children.
Everyone is on a phone these days. Closing our eyes to the phenomenon doesn’t make these gadgets disappear. But what do I say when my son, next in line, asks for a device like his older sister?
Today, more than half of all children 11 and up own a smartphone. That number hits 85 percent once kids turn 13. And though that statistic isn’t entirely accurate for our community, more and more kids in our classrooms and on our blocks are being handed these technological bombs each day.
No one wants their child to be the lone neb standing. Especially when it means exclusion from social gatherings, school announcements, and class jokes. So, we, the parents, crumble. If everyone else is doing it, we reason, it can’t be that bad? Suddenly, peer pressure is making the decision not only for the impressionable teen, but for their parents.
I learned the hard way that this device is not quite so innocent. And, I realized, I am not alone.
“The single most important cause of the uptick in the anxiety epidemic amongst our youth today,” shares Dr. Eli Rosen “is the smartphone. In the past teenagers and especially our youth remained relatively protected from information overload, social pressures and conflicts of ideas. Sadly, this is no longer the case due to smartphones.”
Rosen is one of four featured speakers at the June 1st MUST rollout hosted at the Jewish Children’s Museum. MUST, or Mothers Unite to Stall Technology, is a grassroots effort designed to delay the age at which children own smart devices. Together, with positive peer pressure, we can postpone the danger. The system is simple and 20 local classes have already signed on.
Beginning in elementary school, before technology use has begun, parents sign a pact, agreeing to hold off on introducing devices to the class for that year. Older classes’ agreements would be more specific, such as a class-wide curfew, refraining from specific types of social media, or other measures the parents determine are appropriate.
We know how a small mark or blemish on a seed can affect the entire future of the plant. Every year of development unimpaired by age-inappropriate technology is a tremendous gain in solidifying our children’s emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing for their entire lives.
Technology has a place. But when it comes to young, sensitive children, there is a need for discretion.
To find out more about this exciting Crown Heights program, please join us on Tuesday, כא סיון- June 1 at 8:15pm at the JCM for an informative event. Opening remarks by Dr. Rosen, Rabbi Lipskier, a participating parent will share his experience, meet the founding MUST mom, Michal Klerer, and hear from some of our ambassadors who have already launched the program successfully in some Crown Heights classes.