May 14, 2018

10 things to do with your first smartphone: Advice for my daughter

Congratulations on this huge milestone! For months, your parents have been lecturing you on the “Don’ts” of how, when, where, and with whom you may NOT use your phone. Here is the other side, the positive side, of our parental wisdom.

1. Take pictures. Now that you have a camera everywhere you go, capture things that make you smile. Your cat napping in the sunshine. A cool rock you found. Funny moments with your friends. Adult You will love revisiting the world from when you were 11.

2. Make playlists. When I was a teenager, I made mix tapes of my favorite songs. Then, mix CDs. The technology is outdated, but the concept still works: Make a Spotify playlist of the songs you can’t get enough of right now, name it with the month and year, and you just built a time machine.

3. Create stuff. When I was your age, I wrote stories starring stuffed animals. My friends and I performed plays and comedy routines for our parents. Now it’s your turn, and you have a green screen, iMovie, and the ability to save and share your creations.

4. Notice people. Clicking “Like” on a friend’s Instagram post is like smiling at them in the school hallway. Writing a comment is like saying hello. You don’t have to talk to everybody, but when you do, be nice. If you give a compliment, be sincere and specific.

5. Spread kindness. Your phone makes it easy to tell a friend or family member that you’re thinking of them, to share a joke they’d enjoy, or to wish them a good day. If your friend is lonely or sad, receiving a simple “How are you?” text could mean a lot.

6. Keep in touch with faraway friends. It’s fun to text your squad from school, but don’t lose track of your cousins, your friends who moved away, and our family friends from around the country. They have interesting adventures, and it’s important to know people who aren’t wrapped up in the same daily dramas.

7. Reach toward your IRL friends. You know it’s rude to ignore people you’re with and stare at your phone. But there are times when your phone can be part of a real-life social interaction: sharing a video, looking up a fact related to your conversation, or taking a goofy selfie together. If you’re with a friend and take out your phone, ask yourself: Am I bringing us together, or pulling away? 

8. Learn things. Find games that challenge your brain. Listen to podcasts that teach you about the world. Get one of those workout apps if you want. You are fabulous as you are, but life is a long journey of always learning, and your phone can help.

9. Connect with your parents. Not because we’re trying to keep you out of trouble, but because we love you and love being part of your life.

10. Make this place better. I discovered the Internet when I was in high school, dialing into BBS’s in my parents’ kitchen. I fell in love with a cool, free place where people could express themselves. I could be a published writer, I could make friends all over the world, I could learn new things constantly. Social media came along, and I loved it so much I made it my career.

It was like a beautiful, wild garden that we didn’t take care of very well. I was scared to let you play here because of trolls, bullies, spammers, scammers, fake news, and the lowest form of human discourse: the comments section.

When I asked why you wanted a phone, and Instagram specifically, your answers were so pure: You want to see pictures of your friends’ puppies. You want to put silly filters on your face. You want to belong to a community of people like you.

The garden is still there, and I won’t lock you out. I will help you navigate the brambles. It’s a mess. People need to prune it and to build the structures to make it grow healthier, and it’s probably going to come down to you: the smart kids with the smartphones. You’re going to make this thing better. I am proud of you already.


Brenda Rios said...

Thank you so much for writing this! This is a great outlook and exactly what I want to share with my child. We will be reading this together, tonight.

Anonymous said...

I’m so proud of my wise daughter-in-law. Your advise could not be better. We are in a new technological world and it is necessary to have not only access to it but guidance and permission to use it well. I’m looking forward to the connectivity the smart phone will provide.