Do You Text And Parent?
Put down the phone, mom.
I text while parenting and I do so frequently. I text to ask my husband to pick up milk. I text the babysitter to find out if she can come over on Friday while I get my teeth cleaned. I text to ask my friend Jeanne if she wants a play date. I text my friend Mel to tell her that I’ve been peed on five times that day and I need more coffee.
I do my best to stay present with my children. I leave my phone in another room on silent while we eat and while we play and I don’t play games. But even with those rules, I know I’ve ignored my children because of my phone. I frequently email, Tweet and Instagram. To be honest, 95 percent of playing with young children is just sitting there. And while I love them dearly, sometimes it’s boring. What am I supposed to do while we are playing princess and I just have to sit on the floor because I’ve been turned to ice? I thought I was doing a fairly good job until a month ago, when my daughter was organizing a picnic with her dolls. She said, “Mom, you can come. Baby brother can come and phone, you can come too! We love you, phone!”
Two days ago, I dropped my phone at the park and it smashed beyond repair. We don’t have the money to just rush out and buy a new one, so in the mean time, I’m using an old flip phone. I feel stuck in 2005 and I’m a little panicky without my emotjis. But the truth of the matter is, without my phone, I am more present.
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a fellow in developmental-and-behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, recently studied the interactions between parents and children while the parents were on the phone. The study was observational and didn’t quantify its results. Yet, the results are a little alarming:
“The data provided an unvarnished look at how absorbed many parents were by their devices. One child reached over in an attempt to lift his mother’s face while she looked down at a tablet, but to no avail. Another mother kicked her child under the table in response to the child’s various attempts to get her attention while she looked at her phone. A father responded in curt and irritated tones to his children’s escalating efforts to tear him away from his device.”
Of course, it’s easy to extrapolate that texting while parenting makes life miserable for everyone. But I wonder how many of those parents would be irritated and curt with their children regardless of having a phone? I know that I tend to use my phone more on the days I’m more tired and less patient. So, it becomes a chicken and egg argument. The study also needs to examine whether it’s just smart phones or is it all other distractions? I know my mom used to read while we played at the park and when my daughter colors, I’ve been known to pick up a book. Also, parents who are irritable with their children while on the phone might be irritable parents in general. Parents can be jerks and we don’t need to blame the iPhone for our problems.
Radesky and her colleagues are working to form guidelines on how parents should use technology in front of children, which seems almost ludicrous. Do parents really need to be told to pay attention to their children? Is telling parents to put down the phone really going to make them better at parenting? Bad parents have been around long before smart phones, and despite Radesky’s efforts they will continue to be around whether they are playing Candy Crush or not.
I will get a new smart phone, eventually. And yes, I will still text while parenting. But, I also want to model responsible adulthood to my children and that means that if you were dumb enough not to spent $30 on an Otterbox and protect your phone, then you certainly shouldn’t run out and spend $500 on a new one the moment it breaks. And I hope that the lessons I learn from these next few months with my “dumb” phone, will help me better monitor my own behavior when I finally get that new phone.
My children will mostly likely have many more technological distractions when it becomes their turn to parent. My hope is that I’ve modeled balance to them so that they can navigate this tricky world as well.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN