When it comes to technology timeouts, do parent and son Jamie and Lyall see eye to eye?
Heads or Tails is a semi-regular column that shares the views of a parent and child responding to a topical issue or feature in the news.
It seems nothing gets in the way of young people and their social media followers these days. After a tech-savvy teenager named Dorothy had her phone confiscated, she tweeted from her family’s smart fridge instead (yes, you read that correctly. A fridge that can tweet.) The most ironic thing? Dorothy was being punished for accidentally starting a fire while cooking because she took her eye off the ball…to go online.
The punishment backfired somewhat when her ‘fridge tweet’ went viral, with 12,000 retweets and social media erupting with calls to “#FreeDorothy” and reunite the teenager with her phone. Even Twitter and the fridge company itself supported the cause. But should parents confiscate phones, tablets and games consoles as punishment when kids misbehave? We asked Jamie of parenting duo Daddy&Dad what he thought of the debacle, as well as getting his son Lyall to offer his two cents...
1. What do you think about teenagers being able to tweet from a smart fridge?
It’s brilliant! We’re surrounded by smart-tech now, aren’t we? My first thought was ‘will our boys ever be so desperate for social media they would need to tweet from a kitchen appliance!?’ - I hope not. If our lads were resourceful enough to access social media from the fridge, we’d be secretly amazed. Lyall and Richard are only 10 and 9, so their devices are just used for games and the occasional chat with their cousins. They don’t crave social media… just yet.
2. Do you think a parent has the right to confiscate digital devices as punishment for spending too long online or as a general response to misbehaviour?
Absolutely! If the boys are in trouble (and I’m talking about something pretty major, like a fight or deliberately breaking something) they shouldn’t be able to return to business-as-usual – heads down on FIFA or Candy Crush straight after a telling off. As adoptive parents, discipline and routine are important to maintain a happy, stable home environment for the boys – a mild threat of ‘no phones’ or a day without the PS4 is perfectly acceptable.
3. Do you think confiscation is an effective punishment in today’s online obsessed world?
It can work as an effective punishment yes, but there are limits. There’s a fine line to walk; the last thing you want to do is inadvertently create even more desire for their electronic devices. We got it a tad wrong a couple of months ago when the boys had their devices embargoed for way too long; it’s only an effective punishment in short bursts – what surprised us is that after a little while, Lyall completely forgot about his devices! Also you have to consider timing; if there’s a long car journey or a trip to the dentist coming up, it’s not a good idea to remove their digital devices moments before. Of course, the silver lining is all the extra time spent running around outdoors – devices are no replacement for kicking a football around on the green.
1. Do you think it’s fair that someone’s parent can take away all of their digital devices – their phone, games console, laptop, iPad – as a punishment?
No! It’s not really fair because I use my phone to keep in touch with my friends and my cousins and, like in the summer holidays, we had to go for at least a week without chatting to anybody on WhatsApp. Luckily, we saw loads of friends and our cousins in the summer and it was sunny most of the time, so we played football outside.
2. What would you think if your dad took away your digital devices? Is there another punishment you’d prefer?
When Rich and I are really naughty our dads sometimes hide our phones away. It can be a bit harsh to begin with, but we get used to finding other stuff to do. One time we were in big trouble and our dads banned our phones and the PS4 for two months – that was a bit too long but to be fair we did loads of other stuff and forgot about them in the end.
Daddy always says if I fight with my brother or answer back when I’m in trouble he’ll take me to the supermarket to walk around for like two hours. He loves going shopping, but I really hate it because he walks around really slowly and stops to look at everything, even the candles and shoes and everything. It’s SO boring. I think if I had to choose between the supermarket and no phone, I’d rather have my phone taken off me!
3. If your dad had misbehaved, what do you think would be his worst form of punishment?
My daddy is always on his phone for work and the blog and everything, so I wouldn't be able to take that away if he was naughty. I'd probably say a good punishment for Daddy would be to ban X Factor or MasterChef because they're his favourite programmes and when he's watching them, he gets really angry if anybody talks over it or messes about!
Jamie’s final thoughts: I'm really proud of Lyall's answers – it’s really given me an insight into the way he thinks and shows that he seems to understand why there are reasonable consequences when he makes mistakes or fights with his brother.