When I was a kid, I had freedom. There were days full of riding my bike with the other kids in the neighbourhood, evenings full of hangin’ out at the park and lots of time to figure out who I was in relation to the crowd I hung out with.
That doesn’t happen anymore IRL. That is an online thing now, where kids create personas of who they want to be seen as among their peers.
This scares me. I know it’s not new. It has been going on for a while. But now that I have two kids entering those years where I want them to have freedom to discover who they are, I wonder how they’ll do that while all of their friends are glued to their phones to create digital personas of who they want to be.
It is becoming more difficult, despite my persistence, to let my kids experience freedom and independence when the world around them is inside and staring at a screen.
My kids and I have had many talks about the benefits of technology and its downside. They are exposed to tablets and phones (though not their own), and they know how to use the technology for productive purposes (and unproductive purposes, because there is really no avoiding it). But when the sun is shining and the outdoors are calling, they are outside and away from screens. They are 11.75 and 9.5. Screens will come in due time. The longer I can put them off them, the better.
But what of their friends? How does one free-range parent in an age of fearful parenting where all their friends are encouraged to sit inside and play on screens so that they don’t worry their parents with their whereabouts?
My method is to send my kids outside anyway in the hopes that they will run into some other kid(s) who might have like-minded parents. And so far I’ve been lucky. Turns out there are parents out there who share my views on childhood freedom and my kids are having a great summer hanging out with new friends in the neighbourhood.