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Distracted Parenting: Time to Put the Devices Down

By Stacey Ross

Distracted parenting.

Upon hearing that resonating phrase, I immediately stopped scrolling down my phone for a second (or even two) and had to check it out! While there are no conclusive studies linking the increase in reported childhood injuries to distracted parents using smartphones and other devices, there is a growing concern among doctors and social scientists over the tug-of-war parents feel between their parental obligations and the lure of technology.

Sherry Turkle, director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self, has studied the effects of technology on children and parenting. “After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread,” the New York Times reported. “Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events.”

The topic makes me want to press pause for a sec, because I can admit that my kids sometimes do regard my apparent connection to my smartphone as competition. I try and rationalize my habitual dependence on my smartphone, despite my inner voice saying “just put it away.”

But then there are times, as a work-at-home mom, that I truly need my kids to understand that mobile communication has been a game-changer, allowing me to earn an income while also effectively managing my kids’ busy schedules and being an accessible partner to my self-employed husband.

The safety issue

I am quite certain that in the heat of a good tweet or text, many of us have been sucked into some form of mesmerizing cyber vortex! I think as parents, however, that we can exercise a little self-restraint and determine when or if we are being neglectful or even downright rude.

I think that whether or not we are drawn into the novelty of all the bells and whistles and wall updates, we are all smart to consider prioritizing being courteous to our present company and, most importantly, attentive to our primary obligations, namely our children. Remember, multi-tasking is a myth!

It is always smart to feel out the situation before we whip out our devices at family gatherings, play dates, meetings, etc. I am sure we would all agree that by giving small kids our full attention (or taking turns with other adults), we will help insure their safety and foster a greater sense of well-being.

Chelsea Gladden of BreezyMama.com succinctly shares that as parents we are smart to catch ourselves and get real with our kids: “Make a big hoopla with your child by saying, 'Mommy is turning off her cell phone and putting it away until after our special play time.' This will boost your child’s sense of self and self-esteem. We, children and adults, all want the same thing – to be seen, acknowledged, validated, and accepted, flaws and all!”

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