Dear Parents,Over the years social media has became part of all our daily lives. Yet, it is fairly new to the parenting world. Yes, there are studies done and currently being done, but now we need to add the years to these studies.
We still don’t quite know what the actual long term outcomes will be. What we do know is everyone needs awareness, education and, most important, balance. I am as addicted to social media as the next person. Recently, I ran across this article that helped me look at my smart phone (as well as other social media that I use) and the effect it may have on children in another light. It gave me some education and awareness but, mostly, it gave me the presence, balance and foresight on something in parenting that one can do for their child to create a positive outcome. It is a one-page short read-powerful!
Your Smartphone or Your Life
by P. Donohue Shortridge, MA
On a crisp Saturday morning at a Denver farmers’ market, the smell of roasted chilies hangs in the air. A wiggly 10-year-old girl waits in line at the burrito vendor’s cart, arm linked with her dad’s. All skinny jeans, sweatshirt, and braces, she sways to the nearby music of a guitar and mandolin duo.
Food in hand, daughter and dad sit across from each other at a small cafe table. She looks adoringly at him as she’s about to take her first bite. In that golden moment, dad slips his phone out of his pocket. Her eyes pivot instantly to that thing, that mortal enemy that will once again rob her of her dad. Engrossed in his phone, he does not notice as his daughter draws back from the table, her eyes glaze over, and she looks distractedly at the moving crowd, accepting her not-unfamiliar plight: At any moment, her dad may abandon her for his phone, exiting this intimate father-daughter space and going elsewhere.
This true story is one of many: Anecdotally, parents use mobile devices in front of their children all the time. Children have become used to their precious parent time being interrupted, without apology or permission, by their parents’ exiting at will to attend to their electronic life. The device’s ubiquitous presence at the dinner table, on the nature walk, and during drive time and downtime signals to sons and daughters that they must compete with these inanimate objects for their parents’ attention or simply resign themselves to the shared attention. Some act out, thinking negative attention is better than no attention. Others adapt and imitate their parents’ behavior, begging for a mobile device of their own. New research from Common Sense Media found that “almost twice as many children have used mobile media compared to two years ago and the average time children spent using mobile devices has tripled” (2013, p. 9).
Distracted parents model that it is acceptable not to be present when you spend time with your loved ones. Children quickly learn that attending to a mobile device is an approved value.
But how do children really feel about their parents’ use of mobile devices in their presence? In her book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, Sherry Turkle recounts one boy’s lament that he could understand it better when his dad worked at his desk computer than when he sat next to him with his mobile device in hand, physically there but not fully present. Says Turkle, “Children have always competed for their parents’ attention…with parents being off with work, friends, or each other. Today, children contend with parents who are physically close, tantalizingly so, but mentally elsewhere.” (2011, p. 267).
Our children need and deserve our full attention when are with them. So what’s a parent to do?
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“It is spring again.
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–Rainer Maria Rilke