Technology is altering the very fabric of society and eroding the parent/child connection!! At least that’s what you’d think by scanning media. Phones: smart, cell, land, and rotary have changed everything about how we communicate!! It’s true; you know what also changed communication; the written word, the printing press & going a bit further back; speech. But the children! They are attached to their screen. Yes, as they were once attached to their comic books, and paperbacks. Okay but what of the parents? Parents are often on their smartphones/tablets while in the presence of their child. Shudder. Grown people are actually reading, writing or talking on the phone before their child leaves for college?!
At first glance a parent pushing a stroller while texting or chatting is a bit disconcerting. But that’s more to do with what was once a private behavior is now public. All our mothers talked on the phone. Some of our mothers threatened dismemberment if interrupted. (“There better be a LOT of blood if you’re interrupting me!”) Talking/texting while parenting publicly just takes some getting used to. Like girls styling their hair in a crowded restaurant. Over your food. There’s very little private behavior left. So once we just get onboard with that, what in the world could possibly be troubling about an adult being an adult in the presence of their child?
In this age of parenting as guerilla sport it’s actually refreshing to see a grown person engaged by something beside their child. A parent not utterly consumed by his/her child makes for a much better parent (perspective is everything.) For the child, it is imperative that they experience their parents as something beyond their appendage or magic genie. Learning to do things on their own, even the simplest things is what plants the seeds for strong roots. Remembering to pack their lunch or do their homework teaches competence, responsibility and creates self-esteem. Being left to one’s own devices in social situations not only develops coping mechanisms but also gives the child the freedom to experiment. Attending birthday parties or summer camp with a parent in tow stifles creativity. Children, particularly in early adolescence like to try on new selves. It’s hard to improvise with your choreographer in tow.
So enough with the demonizing technology. Parents do not need to focus on their child every waking moment. They need to be engaged and present which is not the same at all. Teaching a child right from wrong, how to be a good member of society and how to be a functioning adult has nothing to do with being emotionally and physically available 24/7. Seeing one’s parent engage with other adults (outside of a pee-wee soccer match) is important for a child. Being on the phone signals to a child that mom/dad has a life beyond the playground. (This is critical for parents who take their vacations with their children, dine out with their children and/or sleep with their children.) If children do not see adulthood as somehow more privileged or better than childhood, why grow up? So pick up the phone or tablet and read, write, chat. If anyone dares give you the evils or heaven forbid verbally criticize you, have at it. Perhaps you could hold up the tablet & remark; “Such a pleasure to be able to read again! All that smoking & drinking while pregnant meant I didn’t have a free hand!” Or I suppose if you’re a better person than I you could just hold up the phone & ask; “Did you need to make a call?”