Rabbi Ross. I want to ask you a question. Why do my parents and I’m guessing other parents also, care so much when we waste time? If I even chill out on my phone for a second, my parents get all annoyed and upset with me saying I need to be more social. When they were kids, didn’t they also hang out or waste time? Why was it ok for them to be kids, but nowadays I need to be always doing something constructive? If I start playing fortnight for a minute, my father is all up in my face telling me I’m wasting my life, but when he was a kid, I heard from his friends he used to play space invaders and pinball all day and night. I guess what I want to know, is how can I tell my parents they are hypocrites? Name Redacted – Far Rockaway
Your last question was how you can tell you parents that they are hypocrites. You can’t. Even if they were being hypocritical, you couldn’t tell them something like that. Besides, I don’t agree that they’re hypocrites anyway. If your parents were playing these games nowadays, then it would be hypocritical.
I’ll give you an example. Imagine that a friend of yours sat down on a bench which was covered in wet paint. If he tells you, “Don’t sit down, it’s wet paint!”, is that hypocritical? According to your logic, since he sat down he can’t tell you not to. The fact is, he just doesn’t want you making the same mistake. The same holds true with your parents. In their eyes they made the mistake of “wasting time” when they were younger, and they want to protect you from making that mistake. It’s not hypocritical that they want what’s best for their children.
However, I actually agree with your first point. Kids need to be kids, and wasting time is a part of that process. There are many times that parents become over-protective and don’t let their children have enough freedom. As one girl wrote in a similar e-mail, “My parents are trying to live vicariously through me, and it’s making me miserable. I want to be able to learn from my own mistakes!”
The response many parents would have to this is actually a pretty good one. You’re correct that they spent time playing Space Invaders and pinball, but they also spent time outside playing ball or interacting with real people. Most kids these days haven’t played Space Invaders or pinball. I played both of those games, and while they were certainly fun, they got boring pretty quickly. The games that are being played these days, are designed to keep you occupied for hours. For example, you mentioned a game everyone is playing called Fortnight. It’s designed to be addictive, and kids (and adults) play for hours on end.
What this all boils comes down to is not if it’s okay to waste time. The question really is, how much time is it okay to waste. Your parents, and many other parents out there, are worried that because you’re spending so much time on electronic devices, you’re not maturing socially. There have been many studies about this over the past few years, and there is no doubt that kids these days are having social issues.
Here’s a simple test I’ve developed to see how social kids are. This isn’t necessarily scientifically accurate, and you might not understand why certain questions are relevant. Don’t think too much into it. Choose the answer to each question that you feel is the closest match to what you would do.
In any case, most parents these days are worried that their children aren’t developing socially. When parents were younger people interacted more, there were no cell phones and if you wanted to speak to someone you called or went to their house. It’s not anyone’s fault that kids have phones and communicate via texting. This is a new generation and with it comes new challenges.
These challenges affect you and your parents. You need to be aware how often you’re using electronics and understand that you can’t let it control you. That could mean limiting the amount of time you use electronics, and/or increasing the amount of time you spend with your friends (and, yes, even with your family).
So, what can you do if your parents are annoyed every time you “chill out?” I think you should be proactive. Before playing electronics, tell your parents that you need a little downtime. Make sure that you aren’t on your phone for too long, and when you’re finished let your parents know. For example, if you are playing a game for 20 minutes, and then stop and read a book for 15 minutes, your mom will think you’ve been playing for 35 minutes.
Another idea is to prove to your parents how social you can be. Be involved at dinner time, hang out with your siblings once in a while, and try to be upbeat whenever possible. This will show your parents that the downtime isn’t affecting you negatively.
Thanks for writing in and have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.