Sunday, February 19th, 2017
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Columns: February 2017

John Rosemond January 2017 Columns

Copyright 2017, John K. Rosemond

Remove the Smartphone, Regain the Child

As regular readers of this column already know, I am completely, one hundred percent opposed to children, including teenagers still living at home, being in possession of smart phones. No parent has ever been able to give me a logical reason why a minor should enjoy such a privilege, if enjoy is even the proper word.

The most common rationale given is “I want my child to be able to get in touch with me and vice versa.” If that is your best defense, purchase a basic cell phone from a box store and give it to your child on selective occasions. I’m referring to the sort of cell phone you possessed, as an adult, ten years ago; to wit, one that will not connect to the Internet, does not have a built-in camera, and is not text-friendly.

The evidence is mounting that for whatever reasons most likely having to do with brain development during said years, smart phones are literally addictive to children and teenagers. Adults are able to keep their smart phones in their pockets unless some necessity arises. Human beings who are not yet adults seem unable, by and large, to do so. The exception to the child/teen whose attention is disproportionately captured by a smart phone’s screen is rare.

“But John, that is how teenagers communicate with one another” is a common parental defense to which I respond, “Yes, and that is why their face-to-face communication skills are generally poor to awful.” Their eye contact is notoriously bad and when, in a face-to-face encounter, they begin feeling uncomfortable (which is often), what do they do? Right! They pull out their smart phone and begin looking at it while you are talking to them! I conclude that these devices interfere with the development of proper social skills. There is a reason why employers are increasingly identifying the social and conversational skills of job applicants as more important than college grades.

I recently spent some time with two parents and their teenage child who had a habit of taking out his cell phone and looking at it while conversation was taking place. His parents told him to put the cell phone away at least five times in fifteen minutes. They were obviously exasperated. They are intelligent people but living proof that common sense and intelligence do not go hand-in-hand.

On the positive side, I’ve recently spoken with a handful of parents who have taken their kids’ smart phones away for good. They have all testified to the sort of reaction typical of withdrawal from an addiction: tantrums, even rages, mood swings, and near-manic obsession. It takes two weeks, at least, for the addiction to run its course at which time, according to said parents, their children’s moods greatly improve (“He’s actually begun to seem like a happy kid again!”), they begin engaging in family conversation and family activities, demonstrate renewed sensitivity to other people’s feelings, and seem generally more relaxed. As yet, no parent has reported a downside.

One teenage boy eventually thanked his parents, telling them he felt a whole lot better without a smart phone. Yes, a normal childhood is a wonderful thing. Every child’s right, in fact.

Where’s your common sense these days?

Success is a Matter of Character, Not Grades

There must be some relationship between aging and the “You’ve got to be kidding me!” response, if I am any indication, that is. What was once occasional has become almost daily.

My latest “YGTBKM!” was in response to a Wall Street Journal article (“New Instructions at High Schools: Take a Nap,” February 9, 2017) on high school nap clubs. Yep, high schools are now providing safe spaces where sleep-deprived teens whose milquetoast parents will not insist that they turn off their connections, turn out their lights, and turn in to bed at a decent hour can take a 20- to 30- minute nap during school hours.

The high school nap club, proponents say, helps teens deal with the pressures of getting into college. Allow me to put this into proper perspective. First, the “right” college, whatever that is, does not guarantee success, however that is measured. Not for the student, that is. Parents and high school administrators want students to get into the “right” colleges so that they can brag. A kid who gets into a “right” college is a trophy for both groups.

I was admitted to both Yale and Western Illinois University. I decided to attend the latter because a good number of my friends were going to Western and none were going to Yale. My parents, both PhDs, had not helped me fill out college admission forms and only shook their heads in dismay when I informed them of my decision. Western was not the “right” college then, nor is it now (U.S. News and World Report Rank of 49 among Regional Universities in the Midwest). Nonetheless, it was good enough and I managed to parlay my WIU education into a reasonably good standard of living.

My daughter attended a “right” college. She later reported that to make good grades in her major subject all she had to do was participate in professor-led class exercises in bashing politically-incorrect things that her parents stand for. The quality of her work counted less than the correctness of her positions on a diversity of social issues. So much for the “right” college. I received a far better education.

Second, success is a matter of character, not grades, scholarships, IQ, or the “right” college. It is a matter of perseverance, a proper work ethic, personal responsibility, and respect for others—all of which are in short supply among today’s youth. It’s not their fault, by the way. It’s the fault of parents who abdicate their authority because they are afraid that if they draw lines their kids don’t like, said kids won’t like them (can’t have that). And it’s the fault of school administrators who think the solution to teen sleep deprivation is a nap club featuring $13,000 napping pods purchased with monies contributed by hard-working taxpayers.

Not all teens are sleep-deprived, by the way. I occasionally run into parents who report that their teens do not have smart phones, tablets, video games, or computers in their rooms. The parents in question tell of respectful, responsible teens who voluntarily turn their lights out and go to sleep by ten o’clock. Or, if need be, said parents tell their kids to turn out their lights and go to sleep no later than ten o’clock and their kids obey. These parents love their children but do not give a hoot whether their children like them on any given day or not. Such is the stuff of parental leadership, also in short supply these days.

Some of these kids will get into “right” college, others won’t. Some may not even go to college (Have you heard? It’s not an essential prerequisite to success either!). In any case, they will have learned, as children, the value of a good night’s sleep.

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