If you are reading this on your smartphone or tablet while your child a) is eating across the table from you or b) about to score a goal in soccer or c) paused mid-sentence in a bedtime story because your phone beeped and, while checking email, you were sucked down the digital rabbit hole – then, well, read on with caution.
This blog post is about to make you feel really guilty.
In a recent post for Time magazine, Dominique Browning argues kids know when their parents are paying them no heed (they're no fools – the devices in ours hands give it away) and all these distracted adults are falling down on the parenting job. In fact, she laments the loss of the landline because we couldn't take it with us, or go hands free without getting a crook in our necks. Even if hands-free technology has the sound of progress, it's actually costing us our relationship with our kids, she suggests.
"[Cell phones have]become handy tools for avoidance, and it's our kids who are getting the bad end of the deal," she writes. "I've heard them begging their parents to stop, disconnect. I've watched children start to whimper the moment the mobile is picked up, off the dinner table."
Every parent, as the post points out, knows that parenting can sometimes get a little dull, and who can blame a weary mom or dad for slipping away to catch up on the latest gossipy text – to say nothing of the fact that we all need to appear to be working all of the time, even when we are at home. But, as Ms. Browning warns (and every loving parent knows) "those boring moments are what you will miss the most once your children are grown."
One mommy blogger has vowed to put away her BlackBerry (and her to-do lists) and try to tune in to her kids more this summer: She's calling it the hands-free revolution, and she's not referring to that fancy new iPhone with the big screen that sources say is on the way. This is the kind of revolution where you shove your smartphone in a drawer when you get home, and don't even think about checking Facebook until the kids are snoring. (Okay, maybe you think about checking Facebook, but the point is that you resist. Baby steps.)
Kids aren't fools: The savvy ones know to ask for something when dad is on his phone; or to just sneak off to watch the latest episode of Wizards of Waverly Place until mom lifts her head half an hour later. But ultimately, as Ms. Browning points out, it's the parents who need to set an example and break the habit. (And not, she sternly cautions, by giving your kids a phone, so you can all end up disconnected together.)
In a rehash of that cheery standby, Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin, Ms. Browning ends with this little heart-tugger: "One day, sooner than you realize, you will be with your child, wanting to talk. But she'll be too busy. Talking to someone who isn't there. And why not? You weren't there when she was."
Do your kids complain you are on your smartphone too much? Do you set a boundary on use when you're at home?