An Open Letter to My Son

Dear A. ,

Fourteen years ago today your father and I were married. Not much the sealer said before the ceremony has stuck with me. However one thing has stayed with me,  “Don’t fritter away your time.”

I’m proud of you. You worked really hard and saved to help buy your iPod. I notice you‘re pretty attached to it. Yesterday while inspecting it I noticed you recently added more games and other apps beyond Angry Birds.

Speaking of Angry Birds, Elder Ian S. Ardern  gave a really great talk at General Conference. Essentially, he said don’t fritter away your time. I’ve incorporated many of his words into this letter to you.

For example, it is wonderful to have the means of instant communication quite literally at our fingertips, but let us be sure that we do not become compulsive fingertip communicators. I sense that some are trapped in a new time-consuming addiction—one that enslaves us to be constantly checking and sending social messages and thus giving the false impression of being busy and productive.

There is much that is good with our easy access to communication and information. I have found it helpful to access research articles, conference talks, and ancestral records, and to receive e-mails, Facebook reminders, tweets, and texts. As good as these things are, we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text.

One of the things you and I both love most is the buttons we can push to communicate on our phones, iPods and computers. I am glad you can communicate with your friends on your iPod. I am happy you have music to listen to while you perform meaningful service like mowing the lawn of an elderly couple in our ward, or even our family lawn. I hope the technology you love so much never gets in the way of truly listening to your family, friends, or experiencing life to the fullest. I hope it never gets in the way of serving.

I know you are frustrated we don’t like you to walk around the house with ear buds in all the time. This is because we like to talk to you. We like you to talk to us. We don’t want our relationship with you lost to the latest from Weezer, no matter how great a band they are.

Electronic games and cyber acquaintances are no lasting substitute for real friends who can give an encouraging hug, who can pray for us and seek after our best interest.

You and I both know people in my family who have stopped progressing emotionally, spiritually and physically because they prefer chat rooms and online gaming to getting jobs, going to school or building lasting relationships. I’m sure they didn’t plan it that way. Time got away from them moment by moment, chat room to chat room and level to level. It’s not that they are doing something bad; it’s that they aren’t doing anything good.

I know our greatest happiness comes as we tune in to the Lord (see Alma 37:37) and to those things which bring a lasting reward, rather than mindlessly tuning in to countless hours of status updates, Internet farming, and catapulting angry birds at concrete walls. I urge each of us to take those things which rob us of precious time and determine to be their master, rather than allowing them through their addictive nature to be the master of us.

You’re doing well in school. School isn’t difficult for you. Sometimes when things come easy, it’s easy to procrastinate and put things off until the last moment. Sometimes this means your iPod disappears for a day or two.

With the demands made of us, we must learn to prioritize our choices to match our goals or risk being exposed to the winds of procrastination and being blown from one time-wasting activity to another… I invite us to identify the time-wasting distractions in our lives that may need to be figuratively ground into dust. We will need to be wise in our judgment to ensure that the scales of time are correctly balanced to include the Lord, family, work, and wholesome recreational activities.

This doesn’t mean don’t relax. Down time is good, even important. Technology can provide us fun and wholesome activities we can enjoy together as a family, or quiet time alone crashing birds into concrete walls. Often it relieves boredom on long car rides. It provides creative outlets, helps us keep in touch with others and expands our minds with new ideas. But it can also dull the mind and crush innovation and imagination when we allow ourselves to become drones to technology.

I love you so much. I want good things for you. I want you to love the world and all that it has to offer. I want you to explore and think and learn and create. I want you to use all the wonderful talents our Heavenly Father has blessed you with to bless the lives of others and find fulfillment in your own life. Remember our time is limited here; maybe more so than we know, don’t fritter it away.

We’ll probably talk more about this in Family Home Evening, but until then remember I love you every time you have to ask me to type the password into the computer, or  I ask you to hand over your iPod until your homework is done. Eventually it will be all up to you how and when you use technology.

Love,

Mom

Do you set limits on tech use in your home? If so how? Do you worry about your teens and excessive tech use? To what extent is it hurting our relationships? To what extent is it enriching them?

Comments

  1. You’re a good mom. This is great.

  2. Amen to Stapers.

  3. Love that you posted this on a BLOG! :P

  4. home slice says:

    When referring to Wheezer, did you by chance mean Weezer? To some, that would be like spelling the Beatles as the Beetles. Not big deal to most, but definitely a huge deal to a devoted teenage fan.

  5. Hah! Duly noted.

  6. I am so struck by your wisdom in this, I concur, you are a great mom

  7. virginia robinson says:

    I love this..your mom. You are a great mom…did you actually give this to your son?

  8. Sure, via Facebook. But he hasn’t read it yet.

  9. So, I was a little nervous during Elder Alden’s talk that it was going to turn into a technology bash, but I was pleasantly surprised that his overall message was measured and sensible. I liked many of the same points you brought up in your letter. I’d have to read the talk again, but I don’t recall him speaking about the pleasure or usefulness of straight up entertainment the way you do, but I’m glad you included it in your thoughts. While there is much we can accomplish with technology, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pure entertainment as long as we know where/when to draw the line.

    I’m still waiting for the inevitable misuse of this talk to back up various ward members’ pet dislike of Facebook, angry birds, texting, etc. Listening to the talk I could just imagine the extremes his sentiments will be taken to when somebody wants to prove a point. But for now, I’m glad for your measured and sensible analysis of his thoughts and counsel.

  10. My kids are still pretty young (8 and under) I’ve either taught them really well not to be too enamored with tech gear, or it just hasn’t hit yet. (I suspect the latter.)

    In all honestly though, I worry about my time with tech gear more than I worry about my kids time w/ tech gear. When I was a stay at home mom, I had time for playdates and trips to the park that enabled me to have some face to face time with adults. Now that I work full-time from home, and still manage my part of the responsibilities of being a parent of 4 kids, I don’t get a lot of adult interaction. There are no more trips to the park or play dates, I don’t even do the grocery shopping any more, husband does that. He also takes kids to their extra curricular actives.

    In short, I am a “stay at home” mom now, more than I ever was before I started working and I rely on the internet A LOT in order to achieve some sort of normalcy. I’ve recently noticed that I hover around the refresh button much more than I have in the past and it bothers me. I don’t like having conversation that take hours to complete when, if in person they would only take a few minutes. Alas, I feel this is my only choice, I must wait for my friends (with lives that take them away from the computer) to come out a play.

  11. And all week long your River City
    Youth’ll be frittern away,
    I say your young men’ll be frittern!
    Frittern away their noontime, suppertime, choretime too!

    Oh, yes, you’ve got trouble my friends. With a capital “T” that rhymes with “C” that stands for computer.

    With apologies to mmiles, whenever I hear talks like Elder Alden’s, or, I’m afraid, read much of the Open Letter, I think about a neurologist friend who laughingly told us how her parents used to yell at her to stop playing video games, because they weren’t serious, were a waste of time, and “you’ll never get a job playing video games!”

    “And,” she said, “now that pretty much IS my job, staring at a screen and playing video games — it’s deadly serious and people live or die based on how good I am at it.”

  12. Excellent. As with so many things in our lives, technology is good; music, ipods pads and phones, games, wii, Facebook, and blogs can be good as long as judgment and moderation are applied.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Why does this have to be so hard? I hate navigating technology with my kids.

  14. DLB,
    I think it’s important that kids are very familiar with all the technology out there for that reason. Tech is the future. It’s here to stay. Keeping them away from it could hurt them. However watching family members who are well into their twenties who have no other drive for life, I will set limits. Kids are still learning how to do that.

  15. Steve Evans says:

    mmiles, I love the discussion questions at the bottom — they remind me of the questions that follow the First Presidency Message in the Ensign. Only relevant.

  16. DLB, you’re talking to a blogger, I think it’s safe to assume mmiles is not somebody who thinks all tech is bad. I myself am a computer professional who spends all day in front of one and loves playing on computers in my free time too. But, if you think that it’s just a fantasy that people can darn near ruin their entire lives (and those of others) by frittering away time in WoW or whatever, well, you have a select group of friends and acquaintances.

  17. As my daughter, the teacher, said recently, “There’s a whole generation of children growing up with wires hanging out of their ears.”
    That said, I think every generation has it’s distractions and teenagers are prone to looking for ways to avoid interacting with their parents. It’s an ongoing challenge that I face even with my grandchildren.
    As an older disabled adult, the graphic at the beginning of this post is very true for me. Without the internet, life would be very, very lonely.

  18. I’m so out of it, I didn’t know Weezer was still a thing.

    My husband and I have set modest limits on screen time, to make sure that we all get at least a couple hours of non-screen time a day–more on the weekends. Sunday is a no-internet day, until 6:30 pm, which is about when we’ve had enough of the Sabbath, anyway.

    My 10-year-old son has recently become more responsible about his time on the computer, recognizing that it’s not healthy to spend all day there. Of course, part of this is to make himself look better next to his 13-year-old sister, who would spend all of her waking hours online if we didn’t kick her off. Sadly, most of her social interactions are online. She is like her mother this way. (Actually, her mother is worse, since she isn’t forced to go to school for seven hours a day.)

    The internet has definitely allowed me to stay closer to my siblings, since we are all very bad about calling each other on the phone and haven’t taken time to write letters since the internet was invented. I think my blog has improved my marriage, since it’s easier and more painless for my husband to find out what’s going on in my brain by reading my posts. Less drama that way.

    I like the friends I’ve met online, but I miss having close friends in real life. The internet doesn’t have much to do with my lack of real-life friends; it only kind of makes up for not having them. Well, in a way it is just easier to get close to somebody online because you can skip all the small-talk and pretense, and you don’t have to bother coordinating your schedules. You interact at your convenience. I don’t think technology is really what’s hindering us in real-life relationships. People are just so busy (with real-life stuff, not just technology). Real-life friends you can see and talk to in real life are the best, though.

  19. great letter. We set limits. When the computer is being used as a tool there are no limits (13 yo writes on the computer every night-there is no timer as long as she is pleasant the next morning)-actual communication is using the computer as a tool in our house (rarely do FB or tweeting fall in that category). I wouldn’t homeschool without technology.

    When the coputer is being used as a tool there are limits. Chores and school need to be done, there are certain days when computer takes a break from playing(about 4 days a week the computer is not in play mode for children), and children have different limits as to how much time when they do use it. Educational games, even good ones (we like timezattack) are still considered games at our house.

    I think I have to be more strict because we homeschool and our schedule is more flexible and the computer is ever present.

  20. Steve,
    I only added those because it was getting awkward. No discussion and everyone stroking my mothering ego.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    oh, I’m not interested in stroking that ego! But these are difficult questions you ask. What would you consider to be a positive result with tech in the home? How do you propose measuring the benefits?

  22. Steve,
    I’m not sure you can measure the benefits. Do you think you can? I’m sure I’ve only ever seen the benefits compared to the detriments. But overall I don’t think it can be a bad thing. We have to learn to set boundaries for ourselves with all good things in life. I don’t think this is any different.

    Some of the benefits I’ve seen at our house: Using an iPod is a simple solution to calming anxiety in teens–and they enjoy it. I think for my son in helps him focus more on his homework and not be distracted from what’s around him—unless he gets sidetracked with Angry Birds. He can check on his own grades, his assignments and email questions to his teachers. It makes more sense to text a teen that is out and about than call him.

    Part of the utility of technology is surely simple pleasure and enjoyment. I do think Skyping with cousins and aunts, uncles and grandparents is a good thing. I don’t really find video games fun, but even I have fun playing tennis on a rainy day or when it’s too hot on the Wii. My kids have gotten really creative with PowerPoint, and there are lots of great art programs for the computer now. I’m having a hard time seeing a downside unless it’s ignoring others and/or responsibilities to play with technology.

  23. My oldest just started at BYU this semester and in conjunction with that my wife and I got testing on our cell phones. It has proven vital in having continuing conversation with him now that he is not here. We find he is much more apt to send us a quick text on how he is doing than call. He is also way more likely to respond to a text than an email. So for us it has been a fantastic addition to our relationship with our son. Especially fun was texting back and forth during Priesthood session of conference while I was here in Minnesota and he was at the conference center. Mostly it was did you here that sort of thing, but yes, we both agree Dieter is dreamy.
    With the younger kids texting has been a great way to know when to pick them up from school events or to tell them to get home for dinner. Currently we only let them get phones once they are in HS and will probably stick to that, but who knows how cheap they will become or how involved our Middle schoolers will become.
    The other service we use a lot is Facebook with all 5 of the kids. It is great to keep a subtle check on them and their friends without being to in their face about it. The only thing they ask is we do not call them to task on their wall – it is like picking them up in school wearing pajamas, very embarrassing. Otherwise it has been great for keeping up with their lives, especially again when they go off to college.
    We do limit X-box until the weekends, keep the computers password protected (they have to ask), and have everything turned off at dinner. As for headphones we generally go with the rule you can wear them but if you do not hear us you are still accountable. Anotherwords the excuse “I didn’t hear you because I had my earbuds in” doesn’t wash. So for the most part they don’t use them that much around the house.

  24. My oldest hates Facebook. He never looks at it and refuses to add friends to his small list of family members. But I know my aunt keeps an eye on her teens via Facebook. The thing is, if kids really want to hide things from their parents, they can and will.

  25. That is true, that they can hide whatever they want, so I take whatever openness they will give me gratefully.

  26. My wife and i keep discussing adding texting to our phones. I love the idea of it, but hate that it costs so much when it costs the phone companies next to nothing to provide the service. Texting should be free. My wife doesn’t understand why people text instead of calling, and I’ve been unable to convince her that there are plenty of times when texting is preferable to calling. She gets upset when she sees teenagers do nothing but text.

    Also not having texting is starting to become a problem, when everybody else just assumes you have it, and the phone companies don’t alert the senders that texting is blocked on the recipient’s phone. People that text a lot tend to assume everybody does.

    My oldest is 11 and is babysitting out of the home now. We ported the landline to a cellphone so that we have a 3rd phone to give her when needed. Pretty soon we will need to get her her own phone. At that point I think texting will simply be a requirement for us.

  27. Great post, and great questions.

    Do you set limits on tech use in your home? — Yes. That is my lovely wife does, since I’m not home enough to monitor anything. We have guidelines for how many hows of screen time one kid may have in a day (and the kids do their best to thwart that limit, regardless of what it is). Sometimes, if they’ve been stuck on the laptop for what seems like too long, we might recommend an alternate screen (like the Wii that they could do with someone) or a video. The whole earbud thing has always driven me nuts, and I don’t know how to avoid it, except to try to talk to my son whenever he’s in the room with his earbuds on so he has to yank them out and say, “What?!”

    Do you worry about your teens and excessive tech use? — Yes, for the time-wasting element and for the actually-interact-with-other-humans element. I’m still coming to grips with whether online connection to other humans is different but ok or not.

    To what extent is it hurting your relationships? — Not a particular concern. Our kids have all gone through the “new” phase with the i-Pod or whatever where they had it constantly, and eventually they backed off. But as a parent, I have to make the effort to bridge the gap is there is one; I can’t wait for my kid to do that.

    To what extent is it enriching them? — To the extent we share content, we have something else to talk about, always a good thing with my teenager and young adult kids. I share blogs I read and interesting articles online; they share You-Tube videos. (Maybe I’ll send them this blog and see what they think…)

  28. Sorry Cynthia, but to those of us who spend time on the history of technology — especially the history of new media — this conversation sounds amusingly familiar. People have had exactly the same conversation about radio, television, telephone, telegraph, phonographs, even the printing press, for about as far back as we have any records to look at.

    It seems particulalry the inclination of religious leaders — like Elder Alden, and not so long ago Elder Bednar — who for at last the last couple of centuries, probably longer, have used as an attention-grabber a standard rhetorical device declaring — a la Professor Harold Hill — that you have trouble right here in River City — just look at that newfangled [fill in the blank] that is wasting the time and degrading the morals of our youth!

    I was reading a couple of weeks ago the impassioned discussion among various ministers in the early 20th Century how “party lines” (basically rural telephony) was leading inevitably to the disintegration of the American family — among the most serious dangers apparently, was that “silly women” would spend far too much time chatting with thier distant friends, rather than attending to the cooking and cleaning and child rearing they were supposed to be doing. A clear recipe for moral and social disaster.

    Just a few years earlier, good old John Philip Sousa was on a tear against the phonograph — because it would lead to people just listening to recorded music, instead of spending that time learning to play music themselves.

    I also have here a lovely rant by a Benedictine abbott, contemporary of Gutenberg, bemoaning the evils and vice that would inevitably flow from the printing press making widespread availability of cheap books to just about anyone — not those trained for such things, mind you, but anyone — who wanted them.

    Even Socrates, in Plato’s Phaedra, goes on a screed against the invention of writing — because it causes people to rely on texts rather than their own memories, and their ability to memorize will inevitably deteriorate (no doubt Elder Scott would agree).

    And you know what? Most of them were pretty much right.

    I spend a huge amount of time sitting around reading whatever I feel like. I place enormous reliance on reams and reams of written texts, and my ability to memorize is far inferior to that of my distant illiterate ancestors (sorry, Elder Scott). And I spend far more time listening to music than I do learning to play new instruments myself.

    And it’s okay.

    All those outcomes that seemed so horrific to the Socrateses and John Philip Sousas and Benedictine abbots of the world have turned out to be just everyday life, and even mostly pretty pleasant.

    The future belongs to kids who play Angry Birds a lot and give one another virtual hugs. And that’s okay, too. It won’t be worse. It will probably be better. But it will be definitely be different.

    Nothing wrong with encouraging kids to make wise choices about their time — especially if we pair that with the recognition that we probably don’t have the wisdom to know what will turn out to have been a waste of time 20 years from now.

  29. Oh and for those worried about the time investment — Danah Boyd and several others have found that, at least for North American families of average or above income, screen time pretty much equals a constant. So if kids are spending more time in front of a computer or XBox, it is probably coming at the expense of television.

    I personally tend to think that interactive screen time is preferable to passive glass teat screen time, but I suppose opinions could differ.

  30. screen time isn’t a constant in my home, where we have severe limitations, and guess what, our kids are pretty happy.

    It seems like a fallacy of equivalence to say that going from memorization to reading texts is the same as going from reading texts to playing grand theft auto. Perhaps all is not well in Zion, as happiness levels have been steadily decreasing for the last 60 years, so maybe technology isn’t what it is all cracked up to be (that of course isn’t the only thing that has changed over the last 60 years). Technology can be used for great things but using it as time wasters actually does hurt your chances for happiness. I do know for instance that there are studies that say that an increased amount of TV watching is correlated with decreased amounts of happiness.

  31. “Sorry Cynthia, but to those of us who spend time on the history of technology — especially the history of new media — this conversation sounds amusingly familiar.”

    (1) Don’t condescend to me. (2) I don’t think that you are correctly understanding “this conversation.” For example, if you think mmiles’ post is the Angry Birds analogue to this:

    “I was reading a couple of weeks ago the impassioned discussion among various ministers in the early 20th Century how “party lines” (basically rural telephony) was leading inevitably to the disintegration of the American family…A clear recipe for moral and social disaster.”

    then you are just misreading. I don’t see anywhere in the post where she says that all of society is going to “inevitably” meltdown into “disaster.” However, it is demonstrably true that individuals here and there have made poor choices that led to their own disastrous meltdowns. I know some, it sounds like mmiles knows some. Those people almost certainly didn’t need technology to help them make poor choices and meltdown, but in each era of history the means by which someone makes poor choices will be characteristic to that era. In ours it is technology. Is it really so silly to try to encourage those we love to avoid poor choices, in whatever technological or social form they might take?

  32. On use of the wii (our only console game platform) we limit games we buy to only those games that are designed for 2-4 players. I have taken back games that purport to be multiplayer, but only have multiplayer minigames. If the game can’t be played in normal mode with more than 1 person it goes back to the store right away. While a single player can still play all of those games, it increases the chances that if a sibling (or dad) wants to join in its easy to do so.

  33. JTB,
    “I do know for instance that there are studies that say that an increased amount of TV watching is correlated with decreased amounts of happiness.”

    Isn’t it just as plausible that unhappy people resort to watching TV more?

    I’m curious as to where you are getting your stats from that happiness has declined in the past 60 years, and is that for Utah? What do you mean when you say Zion?

  34. Have you seen what’s on TV? It’s very depressing.

  35. mmiles,

    “Isn’t it just as plausible that unhappy people resort to watching TV more?”

    yes it is possible, I think its likely it goes both ways though.

    As far as the stats go, I realized looking back that I wrote my post wrong, I meant to use the phrase all is not well in zion as a figure of speach. I was actually talking about the United States as a whole when I was talking about statistics of happiness going down over the last 60 years, and I have a whole slew of books I could recommend to you on the topic, if you are interested. Bottom line is that I didn’t mean utah or zion, but our society as a whole.

  36. Thanks for this mmiles. Very nicely said. My daughter is learning patience as she tries to help me level-up in ‘Little Big Planet.’ It’s a virtue she will need all her life in her interactions with her technically challenged Dad.

  37. SteveP,
    I played Mario Kart for the first time a few days ago. My boys thought it was pretty funny since I play slightly better than my 4 year old.

  38. DLB, I laughed out loud at your comment.

    I think at issue is the use of a young person’s time (at least from my reading of the OP). In today’s world, a lot of that time is easily etched in electronic playthings. Some may be interactive (like multiplayer Wii games, or even posting on blogs(!), some not.

    That others had similar concerns before seems immaterial to me; the temptation for time wasting in their day may well have been different than in mine. But I’m willing to bet most of the potential readers of Gutenberg’s books had far fewer hours in the day to waste reading than my teenager does to waste it electronically.

    My son attended a school in Taiwan where all middle and upper school students had to have laptops. Once the policy was in place, it was astounding to look in the lunchroom: instead of actually speaking to one another, kids were IM-ing like crazy. Not that IM-ing by itself is bad, but there’s also value in face-to-face spoken communication, and in our kids’ learning how to do it.

  39. I think at issue is the use of a young person’s time (at least from my reading of the OP).

    No, Paul, what is at issue — and this is the part that Cynthia isn’t getting, either — is the propensity for each generation to be certain that the succeeding generation’s media is socially detrimental.

    As nearly as I can tell, this stems from a deep-seated conviction that how I wasted time as a kid was far superior to how kids these days waste time.

    That’s a little facetious, but only a little. It doesn’t matter which communication technology we’re talking about — a stylus and clay tablets probably — if it’s familiar, it’s okay, if it’s unfamiliar, it’s bad in some moral dimension. This is a standard trope.

    Meanwhile there is a lot going on behind that curtain. Back to Danah Boyd’ s research, for example (and Mimi Ito as well). The stunning aspect in the pattern of North Amereican kids’ computer mediatied communication — and this is also true for related communication technologies, such as texting –is that the vast majority of the recipients (on the order of 80-95%) live within five miles of the kids’ homes.

    In other words, nearly everything happening electronically via text and social media is with people they already know face to face, and probably see on a daily basis at school or wherever.

    Why?

    Danah’s ethnographic work supplies some answers. When I was a kid, you would go hang out (read: “waste time”) with your friends on the corner, or at the park, or in front of the 7-11. Kids don’t do that anymore. Parents (especially suburban parents, interestingly) keep them geographically far more constrained, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here but which the parents reading will all probably know.

    So in response the kids have effectively created their own virtual corners to hang out with their friends electronically. Analogous behavior, using the technology to ameliorate current mobility constraints.

    That’s significant. That’s a small hint at some important social shifts happening. The “time wasted” on Facebook and other CMCs is just epiphenomenal. My concern is that talks like Elder Alden’s, and Elder Bednar’s “Things As They Really Are ” — and rifs off of Elder Alden’s talk, like much of the OP — don’t reflect the way things really are at all. They miss what’s occurring by indulging the standard generational trope. That’s not healthy or helpful when really big changes are in fact happening — just not the changes Elder Alden assumes.

  40. DLB, what you are missing is that I (and the OP) do not disagree with you that “the sky is falling!” is a stupid thing that happens like clockwork every generation. While that does happen, using mmiles’ post as an occasion to rail on that seems like you are just shoehorning her post into an ill-fitting strawman position. Maybe you could add a little nuance to your depiction of your rhetorical foes, or, you know, engage mmiles and what she has written rather than using her as a stand-in for your foes.

    Here’s a fun idea: you think that parents were wrong then to say that kids shouldn’t spend all their time down on the street corner, just like they are wrong today to say that kids shouldn’t spend all their time online. You are using the cyclically repeating nature of the phenomenon as “proof” that every generation of parent is wrong. But we can just as easily turn that around–what if every generation of parent is right? What if–once you set aside the convenient strawmen and look at people who are giving reasonable, measured warnings against actual instances of excess–parents have been wisely threading the needle between freedom and limits according to the particulars of each generation’s challenges?

  41. DLB, here’s another take. Read the first paragraph of the OP:

    “Fourteen years ago today your father and I were married. Not much the sealer said before the ceremony has stuck with me. However one thing has stayed with me, “Don’t fritter away your time.””

    Now tell me again how the OP is not about wasting time?

    Even Elder Alden’s talk says it clearly:

    “There is much that is good with our easy access to communication and information. I have found it helpful to access research articles, conference talks, and ancestral records, and to receive e-mails, Facebook reminders, tweets, and texts. As good as these things are, we cannot allow them to push to one side those things of greatest importance. How sad it would be if the phone and computer, with all their sophistication, drowned out the simplicity of sincere prayer to a loving Father in Heaven. Let us be as quick to kneel as we are to text.”

    This is not about demonizing new technology. It’s about understanding how to use that technology in enough moderation for our kids to learn other important things in life, like how to turn to one another in face-to-face communications that build relationships and how to turn to Father in Heaven in prayer.

    Besides all that, what Cynthia said.

  42. It’s very easy to dismiss a talk at General Conference by laughing at it as soon as it starts and not listening for what it actually says – and then by totally misrepresenting it and thoughtful posts that deal with it.

    I text my kids far more than I call them, and they text me more than they call me – even though we have unlimted calling and texting among us. I use Facebook and other social media more than most of my co-workers. There are some high school students I recruit who won’t answer or return a phone call, but I can have extensive conversations via texting – since they are having multiple comversations simultaneously and won’t interrupt three conversations to answer a call. I don’t fight that; I participate. I blog extensively.

    I set limits on myself and on my children.

    I work with high school and college students, and I have seen firsthand the effects of some things on youth – programs and “games” that literally become a real addiction. Anyone who doesn’t set limits (or, at least, attempt to set limits) has their head buried in the sand and is courting problems for some kids. (not all, but not a tiny number, either)

  43. DLB- such intersting points! Thanks for sharing that historical perspective!

  44. Dear mom;

    My computer is the only thing in this world that is keeping me alive. The friends that I’ve met through it are the only people I can relate to. And it’s not that I haven’t tried; I keep trying, and keep hoping, that someone I meet at church or in school will be interested in the same things, or at least treat me like a person instead of a freak. But they don’t, and I’m starting to give up.

    I know I seem upset, but it’s because I feel humiliated. I hate being reminded of how little power I have. I hate being reminded that you don’t know who I am, you never have, and you never will no matter how many times I try to explain it to you. I hate being reminded that everything that I value, all the good things I seek according to the Articles of Faith, are silly distractions to you. I hate hearing you talk for me, and tell me and other people what should be important to me. I hate having to beg for the only good things in my life.

    I don’t hate you, mom. I can’t. I love you and I’m sorry I’m not the person you wanted me to be. You don’t know how many times I’ve prayed and begged God to let me be that person for you. You don’t know how it hurts when I see you cry. You don’t know how hard I’ve tried to obey. You don’t know how awful it feels to know that I can’t.

    The only thing that keeps me going is telling myself that someday, I’ll have what I need and won’t have to beg for it. And no one will be able to hurt or deprive me anymore, even if they’re not willing to listen to me.

    Love,

    Your son

  45. #44 TF: I have one son who could have written your letter, with only very minor changes.

    Yes, we do need to listen, don’t we?

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