Raise your hand if there have been times when you've lingered maybe a wee bit too long on your iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, email, Facebook page or ____________ (insert tech distraction of choice), when you could (and should) have been spending that time with your kids. You can’t see me, but my hand is raised. Each person has his or her own tech weakness and I admit that mine is work email. I get so darned much of it, I want to stay on top of it, so my strategy is to check it regularly. The emails don’t stop, and parenting never stops, therefore there are bound to be many times when they intersect. I have my moments, but after reading a recent article in the Washington Post entitled, “Parents are ignoring their children for their Blackberry,” I realized my tech-affliction is still in check.
The unnamed author of this article references findings that MIT professor Sherry Turkle unearthed while conducting interviews with several hundred kids and adults for her book entitled, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Others. Kind of a depressing title. What’s even more depressing is what the author cites from Turkle’s research:
“What she found, over and over again, was children who feel that their parents often pay less attention to them than to their smartphones, particularly at mealtime, in the car at school pickup and during games or sport events - but even, on occasion, during bedtime stories.”
Checking email during bedtime stories?! Doing it during meal time is bad enough, but in your kid’s bed, wow. I’m not one to make judgments on other people’s parenting styles, but that’ll make me raise my hackles and say, “Seriously, parents?” I get that people have demanding jobs and that there are deadlines and demanding bosses and ____________ (now insert excuse of choice), but I can only imagine the kind of message a child is getting when his mom stops in the middle of Go, Dog. Go! to see if she’s gotten feedback on her PowerPoint presentation. And we worry about our kids becoming addicted to technology. Well, it’s a pretty telling example that’s being set if we can’t even break away from it for a couple bedtime stories.
It’s a slippery slope of technology-dependence and I think all parents should pause for a moment to take stock and assess how far down the Blackberry hole they’ve fallen. Any time my kids give me a gentle (or not so gentle) nudge to play with them while I’m working, it’s a great wake up call for what’s really important. Technology is ironic because it saddles us to being in the moment, at this second, in real-time, yet also has this power to keep us from looking up and seeing what the real moments are.
This ongoing discussion reminds me of an article I wrote for Mommy Tracked a while back on the topic of being a distracted parent. In it, my main lesson was for parents (me included) to “Stop, Drop and Pay Attention.” It’s a simple concept that anyone can remember and is one that’s becoming increasingly important in this day and age. We are not going to rid ourselves of our technology, but we can at least strive to find a better balance with it.
And back to the Washington Post article, the author quotes Turkle as saying:
"These technologies are with us, but we have to learn to live with them in a healthy way, according to our human values. And our human values are not to put our kids fifth, after texts, e-mail, Twitter and everything else."
I certainly hope that’s a given.