Look, I get it. As the father of two young boys who fight — and wander off and mewl — like cats, the small screen of my phone is a tempting bit of catnip to keep them occupied whilst in public. How much easier a meal becomes when los niños sit slavering before the small glowing screen, absorbed in Spooky Stories (Tony, 7) or playing Toca Boo (Patrice, 5). And sometimes, as it happens, when you don’t have two pairs of headphones handy — which, who does? — it’s tempting to let them opiate audibly, releasing into the general air the soundtrack and sound effects of their chosen programming. I am guilty of doing this more than I wish to admit. But, for the love of God, get your kid a set of headphones.
First off, having everyone in your vicinity hear whatever clangs, cha-chings, jingles, bings, blorps, zings, zaps, bangs, explosions and all the other sounds coming from your kid’s device is really, really fucking annoying to everyone within earshot of your kid.
Besides the momentary annoyance of noise pollution for one’s compatriots, fellow diners, or subway riders or even park-goers, the fact is that most children grow up to be adults. Therefore, children in whom is inculcated a sense of audio entitlement — i.e. listening to their phones without headphones — grow up to be adults who sit in the restaurant, subway, or park watching fucking YouTube videos without their goddamn headphones in. And, as anyone who isn’t one of those garbage people knows, those people are the worst.
I’ve heard a few arguments as to why it’s wrong to plug your kid into their screens. Perhaps the most compelling is that it’s a little too Black Mirror-y. By immersing two of your child’s six senses in mass-market entertainment the concern is you are turning them into little Disney zombies. This is, undeniably, true. However, by forcing them to watch their programs without their headphones, you are simply either forcing them to listen to their shows at volumes so low it makes them cranky or volumes so high it annoys everyone around them. It does not mitigate the underlying fact that they are, in fact, screen dependent.
Now, the other valid argument is that listening to music too loud injures the tender eardrums of your babes. This is, indeed, true. However, there are many good pairs of headphones out there for children with dB restricting technology. But if you do let your spawn pollute the world with their personal soundtracks, they’ll be forced to listen to pissed off strangers telling them they’re trash people for the rest of their lives anyway so maybe they would prefer hearing damage. Or you could just avoid that all together and, for the love of God, give your kid a pair of headphones.