Why I’d rather give my kid a flaming Sambuca than a smartphone



I nonetheless reckon I’m onto something. Forget horror movies involving body snatchers targeting children; my personal worst-case parenting scenario involves YouTube videos featuring kids unboxing rubbish, anything at all produced by Mr Beast, and most especially, those strobe-lit seizures masquerading as expert gaming commentary, posted by someone’s jobless, unmodulated, unmedicated 19-year-old.

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Then there’s the unholy trinity of TikTok, Insta and Snapchat. I’d rather strap my kids to a rotating propeller hovering precariously above a crack team of specialist man-eating piranhas than throw them, unsupervised, into those scream chambers of misery and self-loathing.

You don’t have to go far to find excellent, well-researched, scientifically robust essays outlining the arguments for keeping kids off smartphones. The one by Jonathan Haidt in this month’s copy of The Atlantic is a cracker. I wouldn’t even attempt to summarise it, other than to say that if – god forbid – my 12-year-old developed a taste for Winnie Blues and Sambuca, there’s a well-lit pathway back to sobriety. But dealing with a 14-year-old whose drug of choice is kiss emojis and Insta hearts? Good luck with that.

I once posited to someone my long-held theory that we will look back on these times of unfettered smartphone access for kids and shudder. Furthermore, I added from atop my soapbox, we will regard them in the same way as we do those old movies where a hapless patient receives the news of terminal lung cancer through a cloud of cigarette smoke being belched out by the doctor himself.

In hindsight, deploying this argument to a tech professional was one of my more idiotic manoeuvres. After he’d finished laughing me out of my own living room, he pulled out his smartphone to show me some study highlighting the virtues of social media. Fortunately, I was able to divert him with Kim Kardashian’s latest butt shots and a selection of lovingly compiled cat videos. Keep calm and carry a smartphone, as they don’t say in the classics, but only after you’re old enough to vote.

Michelle Cazzulino is a Sydney writer.

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