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Challenge: Kids and Technology

How "Connected" Are You?

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After having my son and making the shift from full-time-career-girl-with-long-crazy-hours to full-time-work-from-home-never-sleeps-Mama-with-longer-crazier-hours, I found myself planning lots of daytime activities for my new sidekick and me. Our days are busy with Mommy and me classes, errands, meals, etc, and I like to incorporate special, fun activities for Jack too. The parent-child hot spots I find naturally involve many other moms and dads looking for things to do with their little ones during the day.

Regardless of our activity or location, I notice a lot of common themes among the parents. I see a lot of parents with exhausted faces, a lot of moms like me wearing their Mama leggings uniform, and a lot of folks carrying the same items in their big kitchen sink totes. But can you guess the one common thing that I’ve noticed most among parents?

Parents glued to their phones.

It blows my mind when I’m spending time with my son how “connected”… or, actually, disconnected… so many parents are when with their children. After all, what is the meaning of “connected” today? Is it being electronically connected or being emotionally and physically connected to another human being?

The attached-to-their-phones parents that bug me are not those glancing for a minute or checking the time. I’m not talking about those taking a fast phone call or needing three minutes to make sure their bank account hasn’t overdrafted. I’m talking about the folks who spend the entire time their kids are engaging in an activity disengaged while glued to their device.

I get it, sometimes we parents need a break. Believe me, I get it! I know if I don’t budget in some “me-time” everyday during naps or bedtime, I’m not as happy or relaxed. But I also don’t want my son’s most vivid memory of me to be as that chick attached to her iPhone.

Bringing my son to these special activities is not just so he can be entertained; it’s also so we can spend time together, since that’s what he’ll remember most. When we go to the bookstore, I don’t sit on my phone while he looks at books alone… we read together. When we go out to lunch, I don’t yammer on my phone to my girlfriends… I talk to him and help him make Play-Doh masterpieces in between bites. And when we go to the carousel at the park, my favorite thing is to watch his happy, excited little face and exchange eye contact and smiles. It blows my mind how many parents can stand up on a carousel with one hand on their strapped-in kid and the other hand scrolling through their phone, while their child looks around seeking connection elsewhere. Even in our Mommy and Me classes, so many parents sit on the sidelines while checking their phones. What is the point of “Mommy and Me” if Mommy is barely there?!

In addition to interrupting important personal connection between parents and children, studies have found that cell phone overuse by parents can harm a child’s development and create tech-addicted kids. Experts at Indiana Univerity found that parents who check their phones too much raise easily distracted kids with short attention spans. The other day in the mall I actually saw a woman and her young daughter both silently texting and walking while each attached to a portable charger hanging out of the mom’s purse! (Monkey see, monkey do-not let our batteries die!)

Rest assured, this post isn’t meant as a judgment. It’s just an observation of something that really makes me think about little ones. After spending so many years as a children’s therapist, I can’t count how many kids told me how much they wish their parents:

  1. were more present
  2. talked and listened more
  3. in many cases, put down their damn phones.

Children inherently desire attention, closeness, and togetherness. Sharing the seemingly silliest little moments can bring about the most beautiful bonding. Think back to your own childhood. What are your most special memories?

In twenty years, my son isn’t going to care what toys I bought him but he’ll remember that we played with toys together. He may not remember everything I said, but he’ll remember that I looked into his eyes while I talked to him. And honestly, I don’t want to look back and feel I missed a moment either. To me, that’s what being “connected” should mean.

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