iPARENTING: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!
Note: I would like to apologize upfront for any possible offences I may incur at what follows in my article—I only hope to help continue the necessary discussion on what is best for the future generation. Also, I fully admit that I too am struggling on a daily basis to find what the right balanced approach is to using my mobile device and raising our children. R.V.S.B.
I continue to write about the rising usage of iPhones or similar mobile devices by parents in front of their babies and young children because I am in the season of life where my children are under the age of 5 years. It wouldn’t surprise me if as my children grow into teenagers and young adults that I may feel the same way I do now about parents heavily using their incredible gadgets in their offspring’s presence: confused and anxious!
My default emotional reaction to the general mob obsession with iPhones and the like devices is to boycott them and rule that they are completely negative and poisonous around our children. However, I’m not ignorant to how these gadgets are becoming a mainstay in our society on a global scale. As with most things in our human history, though, I do feel it is critical that we begin to focus our energies on how to balance the effect of these multi-use gadgets into our social lives—especially in terms of our family relationships, e.g. our children.
iNEED HOW MANY PHOTOS?
I am in full disclosure that I’m guilty many times of being without my perfectly good digital camera when I go somewhere special with my kids. Aha! I have a Blackberry smart phone that allows me to whip it out and use the camera setting to capture that moment(s) as needed. As it is so easy to just thumb-click to snap the photo (still cracks me up that we have a camera shutter-like sound to accompany the photo-taking), I end up getting a bit trigger-happy resulting in many more photo than I know what to do with later. It turns out I’m a good 5-6 years behind on album/scrapbooking my family life and that’s counting the photos I’ve actually developed. Scary how many photos/video are still sitting on my memory chip in my phone and not in actual photo paper form or saved DVD format!
One day I was at a children’s museum and I made myself take just about 10 photos before I put the Blackberry away in my pocket to focus on spending time with my boys in the various interactive exhibits. What amazed me more than the real time fun I was having playing with my sons was how I suddenly noticed all the parents around me in relations with their children or lack thereof. It was a horrific site: I would have rather witnessed their children running around amok and unsupervised than what most parents looked like standing right beside their little ones. There was a mom with her son who was continuously trying to get her attention and she showed little regard for him and no explanation as to why her iPhone was more important. There was the dad who was sitting opposite of his daughter fully engrossed in his respective mobile device and also unresponsive to his daughter who kept beckoning him to check out her construction. But I digress, what I especially noticed was how many other parents I looked like when they’re trying to frantically take as many photos as their thumbs/fingers can click off. Do we really need so many photos? Isn’t it more important to create memories with our children that they’ll remember carving through their early development with their parents right there interacting with them and not just making them pose or paparazzing them with our relentless photo clicks?
iPLAY WHILE YOU PLAY
I will continue to beat this drum until I see a change in the outside and indoor playground scene: It really is a shame that many parents take the opportunity (except for odd situations like traveling and needing directions, urgent phone calls, etc) of being at a playground with their children as the green light to unabashedly indulge in their fix with their iPhone or like device. In that case, if I am using parallel logic, I should feel free to pour myself an adult liquid concoction, play loud bootie music and get down and dirty with my dancing by the swings like I’m faux pole-dancing at the local Dr. Feel Good’s club. See one of my prior blog shorts on a possible child reaction: https://ceoofthehome.net/2012/05/31/ipicture-this-what-does-your-child-see/
Where places like the museums, zoo and other educational outings are opportunities to engage and guide our children in intellectual pursuits and personal knowledge growth, playgrounds serve as the training grounds for our children’s social and physical development. Why are we missing this obvious reality that by going into our own little worlds on a consistent basis we are losing the opportunity to be etched into the memory card of our children’s hearts? When these years pass they are irrevocably written and what do you want your kid(s) to consistently remember about you when they were in your presence? Again, this is NOT easy. I have had to repeatedly discipline myself by putting my Blackberry away tightly in its case or even just leaving it a few steps away locked in the car.
iOFFSHORE MY PARENTING
Upfront I will admit that there was one time and one time only that I handed my mobile device to one of my children to hold without me and it was in a local urgent care center where I had to have my son’s eye examined for possible glass shards and the poor baby was hysterical and it was the only thing I had to hand over for a distraction to help the medical staff get him calm—that being said, I will not do it again and as my four year old son asked me recently if he could hold it I said no as it was mommy’s and he hasn’t asked again. At the same time, I only use it when I need to and always inform my children as to why I am using it. Example: “Mommy is calling Mama So-and-So so I can check where we are meeting her and her daughter for our play date this morning.” I could go on and on as to how I conduct myself in front of my children when it comes to my phone and computer but it wouldn’t be to seem better than anyone. It does require sacrifice, it’s not convenient sometimes and of course it would be easier to just put a child app or video on my device to pacify my energetic boys when I’m in difficult social situations like traveling with others or out to dinner, et cetera.
Yet, as hard as it can be to deal with being so fully engaged mentally with my children in their relentless conversations daily whether or not we are around others, I wouldn’t trade it for just handing off my mobile device to them to shut them up. I’ve noticed that adults are amazed everywhere I go with my older son because they find it remarkable that he can initiate, conduct and even inject clever humor into conversation with them. I started to get concerned about it because although it’s a nice compliment, I couldn’t understand why it was getting such special attention in a wide variety of audiences: family, friends, cashiers, new acquaintances, strangers in a store. Except when you start to notice around you how young children are being satiated for their constant need to interact these days. DVD players in car seats for just regular driving during the day, iPhone educational apps at their fingertips in the doctor’s waiting rooms, shows on the mobile device while sitting in their high chairs at the restaurants, getting into fights with their parents while playing with their iPhones in the register checkout lane at the supermarket and the combinations are seemingly endless. What are our children learning in terms of human interaction in the mundane although necessary parts of our lives? If the world seems like it is full of people struggling with feelings of loneliness and social isolation today, what does it mean for the adults of tomorrow who are growing up with lighted-up colorful moving wonders in a rectangular disc being thrust in their faces when they reach out for that human touch and instead get a cool, slippery metallic device?
iHOPE iPRAY iLOVE
It goes without saying that what matters most in our parenting is that we love our children and make sure we tell and show them so. While I may rail in an anti-iPhone rant more times than I can click a photo in a minute, I also have hope that our humanity will prevail despite the numbing speed at which we are progressing when it comes to our mobile and computing devices. As with the countless battles and wars we’ve endured, I do sense that we can overcome the drawbacks of our overconsumption of iPhone and like device usage and use them for positive things like motivating political and human rights change.
Most important, may our love for our children always win out so that they can pass that on to each other and their own possible offspring one day.
R.V. Saridakis Bean