SMART phones are pervading family homes but how do you limit your child’s access to the technology? Catholic dad Peter Pellicaan answers.
Research by Maidstone Consulting and Empowered Communications revealed that 10-year-olds in Australia spend an average of 14.7 hours a week on smartphones and for 17 year olds, the average increased to 26.3 hours.
So this issue is impacting many families – you’re not alone.
It might come as a surprise that an answer to this challenge is found in a most unlikely place – ancient Greek mythology.
So, what can a Greek myth tell us about smartphone use?
In Greek mythology there were beautiful creatures called the sirens who lived on an island and would sing as sailors passed their shores.
Sailors would be lured by the beautiful sound and crash on the reef near the island.
Such was the temptation of the sirens that in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus has his crew fill their ears with wax and then tie him to the mast so that he would be unable to respond to the beautiful sound of the Sirens.
In another myth, the Argonauts encountered the Sirens but tried another strategy; Orpheus who was on the ship began playing his lyre so beautifully that the sirens were drowned out by a more beautiful sound.
The modern day teenage equivalent of the Sirens is the smartphone.
The smartphone looks and sounds beautiful and offers endless fun without any effort.
Odysseus shows us one way to deal with the lure – have his men tie him up.
The equivalent of this approach for parents would be to place strict guidelines on our children and be sure to follow through on agreed penalties should the guidelines be broken.
The Argonauts however, show us a better way.
Rather than wrestling with the captain and tying him to the ship, they simply have Orpheus play a more beautiful song – no tying up is required.
For this strategy, parents must show their children something more beautiful, more enjoyable, more real, more life giving than the smartphone.
Of course the ensuing question is how?
Have a conversation with your child and encourage them to reflect on their experience of their smartphone.
The following questions might act as a guide:
l What brings the most happiness and joy to your life? Why?
l What do you prefer – to actually spend time with your friends in person, or to message them on Facebook or Snapchat?
l Do you feel social media is making you a better person? How so?
l How is the time spent on your smart phone improving your life?
l How is time spent on your smartphone impacting your relationship with your family?
l How is your smartphone contributing to your happiness?
For most teenagers, if they’re honest, their answer to the first question will not be – “when I’m on my phone”.
If we are to help our teenagers reduce their time on their smartphones, we must show them a better way – a more beautiful way, but in leading such a conversation, there is one last thing we must consider – what is our example?
Are you demonstrating that there is more beauty in real life than in the digital world or do you also spend every spare minute on your smartphone?
Have you learnt this lesson yourself?
If not, you might start by asking yourself the above questions.
Life is full of beauty and goodness.
We miss so much of life when we lose ourselves to our digital devices.
By Peter Pellicaan.
Peter Pellicaan is a former Protestant pastor who was received into the Catholic Church.