You don’t have to be on all the time

I was listening to the CBC Radio: Spark podcast on the effects of parental use of technology on children. This hit close to home. I use my iPhone for everything — from reading and writing to looking up recipes, words and maps, taking pictures, recording voice memos, shooting and editing my YouTube videos, communicating with my parents, husband and children, checking the weather, traffic, the news, streaming music and podcasts, look-up knitting patterns, get calendar reminders, learning Spanish on Duolingo, Netflix & Chillaxing, I must forgetting some — often fielding accusations from my children of being “always stuck to my phone”. My technology use is mostly family-related, serving their needs more than mine but appearances don’t lie: I use my phone a lot. I also remember how lonely, isolated and depressed I was before being able to connect to friends via social media. The podcast didn’t make any earth-shattering revelations for anyone who is aware that young children need their parents to be emotionally engaged. Whether you are distracted by your work, your book, your latest fling or the money you just don’t have, the question is not whether being tethered to your phone is harmful but whether it is harmful in different or more severe ways than everything else going on in your life. The study discussed in the podcast points to a shrinking attention span for children when their parents’ attention wanders.

Where the podcast rubbed my buttons the wrong way was with this quote:

“I see parents mindlessly pushing their kid on a swing while looking at their phone”

To be fair, the message was not that it is wrong to check your phone at the park but that your device should not prevent you from engaging in the normal activities of parenting such as the park. The image of the parent revelling in every ounce of childhood is one that won’t die. Once you are done cooking, cleaning, shopping, organizing, cuddling, control-towering, time-managing, refereeing and driving, you should also make a public display of gleeful cheer-leading while your children ask you for the 12 millionth time to look at them climb the slide backward for the 20 millionth time. I’m sorry but no. There is a surface covered in expensive, obsessively safe, kinetically-correct, expert-approved, City-stamped, edible, equipment right here. It has been designed to foster cooperative play with other children who are, conveniently, here at the same time you are, doing exactly the same thing you are. I gave you a bunch of siblings and believe me, it’s not because I like hospital food. So don’t mind me while I sit my ass down on this bench right here and check my phone while you have fun.

You don't have to be on all the time


4 thoughts on “You don’t have to be on all the time

  1. THANK YOU! I’ve seen those photos that circulate Facebook with a picture of a kid in a swing and a mom checking her phone and people saying “That’s just sad” or terrible things about her. And I remember it, every time I frantically google recipes for that night (or you know, scroll through pretty things on Pinterest) while pushing kids on swings. And feel guilty. No more 🙂 Thank you Vero!

  2. Je n’ai pas écouté le podcast, aussi mon commentaire sera t-il peut-être un peu à côté de la plaque.
    Je crois simplement que l’exemple du parc est très mal choisi : typiquement, s’il y a un lieu où les enfants ne devraient pas avoir besoin que l’attention de leurs parents soit focalisée à 100 % sur eux, c’est justement au parc.
    Mais le message de fond me paraît malgré tout important : sachons leur accorder régulièrement notre pleine attention, les écouter des 2 oreilles, formuler des réponses complètes plutôt qu’un simple “mouiiii” distrait.
    Et puis notre propre attitude vis-à-vis du téléphone et des réseaux sociaux en général déterminera un jour la leur, et ce qui est tolérable ou ne l’est pas au sein de la famille. A méditer ! Enfin pour celles qui comme moi ont des enfants encore petits …

    1. Tu n’es pas à côté de la plaque! En fait le podcast touche à une étude qui démontre que lorsque les parents sont distraits, l’empan d’attention des enfants en souffre. Alors si par exemple un parent parle à son enfant et soudainement regarde son téléphone, le simple fait de diriger notre regard ailleurs que sur l’enfant a une influence sur le développement de l’enfant. C’est un secteur de recherche vraiment intéressant mais je me demande si la distraction offerte par les téléphones/ médias sociaux est pire ou différente que n’importe quelle autre distraction. C’est l’exemple du parc qui me prend toujours à rebrousse poil….

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