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Cornelius News

The mere sight of a mobile device may diminish your cognitive resources

MODERN DAD | By Jon Show

Sept. 10. I detest mobile devices in all forms. iPhones. iPads. iPods. Whatever you call devices that aren’t made by Apple. Samsungs? If you handed me a Samsung phone I would interact with it in the same manner as if it was handed to a caveman.

The first cell phone I owned was a Nokia purchased in the summer of 2000. I was the last of my friends to get one and I really only got it because my job required me to carry a pager, which would buzz at inopportune times on weekends and then I’d have to wander around looking for a payphone.

I was the last of my friends to get a flip phone and the last of my coworkers to get a Blackberry. I held onto my Blackberry until Blackberries were no longer a thing and I had no choice but to get an iPhone. Up until this year my iPhone was at least three models behind the times.

My assault on mobile

Future Man was born shortly after the release of the first iPhone and turned two the year that iPads were invented. Seemingly everywhere we went kids were handed a mobile device, strapped into headphones and essentially muted unless the battery died, and then they turned into the child from The Exorcist.

As it pertained to our kids, I mounted what can best be described as a military-style assault on mobile devices in all forms. How bad? On the spectrum of Amish to Steve Jobs I’d describe myself as more abacus than calculator.

Save for airplanes and road trips — when we glued devices to our kids’ faces like a farmer straps a feed bag on a horse — they were forced to find something to fill their boredom other than Minecraft and YouTube. At restaurants we played tic tac toe with them on the backs of kids menus.

Everywhere we’d go I’d point out families staring at their phones instead of talking. Little boys and girls watching YouTube while visiting a state park. Kids playing Madden on their Switch while at an actual Panthers game.

Heavy handed? Who cares.

One time we were having lunch at Which Wich and four kids were sitting at a table with their faces buried in their phones, scrolling through feeds with dangling index fingers.

Every 30 seconds or so one would alert the group and then turn his phone around to show everyone whatever he’d found. They’d all nod in trance-like approval and then return to their phones. What a childhood memory!

“Bro, remember that one time we were at lunch and I showed that video of the guy doing the egg crate challenge? That was sick.”

No, it wasn’t. Maybe if you’d done the egg crate challenge but even then probably not.

Look, I’m not judging anyone. I just didn’t want that for my kids. There are plenty of things that I allow my children to do — like walk around half-clothed while using power tools — that other parents don’t want for their kids.

Besides, our device policy was probably heavy handed. Definitely heavy handed. Sometimes when I dig in on things it’s tough to change my mind. Maybe impossible to change my mind. Whatever, I’m trying my best.

He is ridiculous

Anyhoo, things changed last month. Maybe it was them getting older. Maybe it was COVID and they needed an easier way to communicate with their friends without borrowing our phones to call or text.

Future Man, a rising seventh grader, got a phone. It’s an iPhone 7 that he received because the Mother of Dragons needed a new phone.

The Blonde Bomber received Future Man’s gently used iPad Touch, which we gave him last Christmas as kind of a starter mobile device that only worked at home on our Wi-Fi. I know, I’m ridiculous.

Let’s just say my feelings are still mixed on the whole thing.

The phone and iPod Touch both come with rules. Future Man has to pay 75 percent of the monthly fees and insurance, and he’s on the hook for repairs and replacements. The Blonde Bomber isn’t allowed to leave the house with hers.

We also put time and content limits on what they access from their devices. After all, the internet can be a dangerous place and there’s just a lot of manipulative garbage that isn’t appropriate for shaping the worldview of a child, like CNN and Fox News.

Future Man has extremely limited access to social media and there’s no chance the Blonde Bomber is getting near it anytime soon. I can’t imagine the untold hell of being a tween/teen whose self-esteem is based on number of likes and followers.

Don’t even get me started on TikTok. Don’t tell my kids … but what an amazing app. I downloaded it last year and lost a month of my life before I deleted it. TikTok Pasta is so yummy. Alas, no TikTok for them. Or me.

Dad jokes

I guess there are some benefits to having devices. When I need to find Future Man because he has practice in 15 minutes and is nowhere to be found, I no longer have to drive around the neighborhood screaming his name in the hopes he’ll hear me.

The Blonde Bomber sends random nice messages to me every day. She also texts “Hi” to me every morning before coming downstairs and telling me good morning 20 seconds later.

Part of me is actually excited for the family text chain. You’re telling me I can send memes and dad jokes to my family regardless of their physical proximity to me? Sign. Me. Up.

I expect Future Man to mute it immediately.

He’ll have to wait a few days, though. Thirty-six hours after he got the phone it fell out of his pocket and into a deep, murky pond. He failed to retrieve it with an industrial magnet and had to spend $150 of his savings to replace the phone and protective case.

Never saw that coming.

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 10-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 7-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.