Back-to-School Tips for the Digital Dystopia from the Folks Who Brought It to You

As we send our kids back to school, it’s a good time to review strategies for helping them navigate that other playground—the digital one.

  1. Thinking of buying your child a phone? Here’s an idea: Don’t.
  2. You don’t listen, do you? Perfect, neither do we. How about delay buying your child a phone for as long as possible, preferably until they’re old enough to drive? You’ll never see them again after that anyway.
  3. When they complain that all of their classmates have had iPhones since preschool, ask them if they’d rather be in a different family. If yes, consult your state’s adoption laws and seek legal counsel. Looks like phones are that other family’s problem now.
  4. Strictly limit the amount of time your child has access to screens, whether at school or at home. Consider anything under a combined 12 hours per day an unmitigated victory.
  5. Be sure to set all appropriate parental controls for social media, browsers, and apps. Your child’s classmates will undo every last one of them in a matter of minutes, but at least you’ll feel good about that first part since you’ll never know about that last part.
  6. When they ask if there really is a killer clown epidemic, let them know how flattered you are that they think you know what’s going on. Google “killer clown epidemic.” Lock your doors. Lock your windows. Sleep with the lights on. Everything’s fine.
  7. Make an effort to offer alternative activities at home, especially those involving family time together. Take a walk, read a book, do some yard work, watch a nature documentary. Do they hate you? They should hate you.
  8. Model good behavior for your child. Put your phone away during meals and other times when your child can actually see you. You can always make up for this between midnight and 4 a.m. when parenting forums are most active and when it’s okay to cry.
  9. Posing as an age-appropriate user, befriend and follow your child’s friends and classmates on social media. Screenshot, catalog, and save every potentially embarrassing post. Guess who now has all the leverage they might need to restore their child’s reputation when it all blows up? (Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to instigate.)
  10. If your child asks you what “technically” qualifies as sexting, tell them you’ll look into it. Then don’t. Then move. Then change your number. Then your name. You have a new life now.
  11. Recall what you were doing at their age. Be glad they’re not doing that.
  12. Remind yourself that it was your own generation that, through a combination of greed and apathy, built the Orwellian dystopia we are all currently inhabiting. Nice going. But hope you enjoyed the tips and everything.

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