Socially Responsible Investing and Our iChildren, Androidkids or Cybernanny

A possible art piece in the future: sketch by Ramona

Welcome to 2018: a year where those who have the largest shares in big companies like Apple Inc. (AAPL) are in a position to exert their self-proclaimed moral responsibility to address the astonishing rate at which humans are interacting with the computer processors on their smartphones and similar devices.

The Premise

The article released this past Saturday, January 7th by the Wall Street Journal reports that there is currently a push by some large shareholders in Apple that are calling for the company to make changes to their systems to help parents exert more control and limit phone usage. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend it: https://www.wsj.com/articles/iphones-and-children-are-a-toxic-pair-say-two-big-apple-investors-1515358834

Personal Past

I personally have written for years on this subject about the possible negative effects on our children and their interaction with digital technology and social media. At the end of this piece I’ll provide links to my past blog articles for context and proof that although I’m not a medical doctor, my experience as a mother of three children has weathered me into the philosophy I have on this general subject today.

The Short and Painful Truths

We’ve all been guinea pigs since our computers made the leap from the Oregon Trail game in green on the screen to the Internet on PCs to the smartphone on some of your wrists.

Somewhere along the way parents everywhere forgot that babies and children watch their caregivers and strive to copy them relentlessly. So while parents obsess over how many “likes” they’ve racked to their recent Facebook post or are scrolling through Pinterest ideas for dinner that night, their young are taking that in as normal behavior even when they are vying for their parents’ attention in the process. Even more alarming is that many parents may spend more time trying to “capture the moment” in forms of photo bursts, videos and vines than actual quality time conversing or participating in activities with their children.

I refuse to personally judge anyone in this area as I’ve made my own mistakes regarding this new frontier of instant messaging and phone calls at a touchscreen’s length. Instead I’m comfortable sharing my own personal journey as a way of giving some ideas to parents and caregivers that perhaps they can weave into their way of life — in turn helping the next generation have an idea as to how to navigate their own progeny in tandem with our technological advances yet to come.

Parents: Put It Away

This is a blunt heading and intentionally so. This is not easy and perhaps quite impossible for many people depending on their line of work. Thankfully there is the “vibrate” setting for most devices and which I use constantly.

Before you dismiss this idea entirely, do yourself a favor and think about how much time you actually interface personally on a daily basis with your child or children. The answers will vary depending on vocation and age of the children of course but the effect should warrant an honest assessment.

Here’s what I’ve learned in just under 10 years of being a mother myself to three children under the age of 10: they grow up quickly and learn even faster!

If you make it a point to interact with your child without the smartphone attached to the palm of your hand it will help them bond not only with you but also know how to engage with other humans.

The questions will come and with them your respective answers as it goes with the majority of parental interactions with their young — in my case, my older children have inquired as to why they don’t have phones. My responses to these repetitive questions are simple and hopeful. For example, I let them know that their father and I don’t see a need for it nor is it allocated for in our family budget. In addition, we believe they will have them one day in an even better model and aren’t missing anything in the meantime.

While investors are suggesting to companies about how their technology can be manipulated to help give parents control the reality is that the control is with the parents themselves all along.

People, Artificial Intelligence and Beyond

Guess what? We’re still all test subjects together as we progress in this whole new world of cyber-digital interactions and integrations with homo sapiens.

We’re talking about parental controls available on the iPhone platform and before we know it we’ll be reading psychologists’ research papers on the emotional integration of robot-nannies on our grandchildren one day.

To be sure we’re excelling in incorporating these new devices into our lives so quickly without knowing its effects until we become aware of the effects. Although we focus mostly on negative consequences, we should be fair and acknowledge where the technology has been very helpful for parents and kids alike.  For example, I recall a scratchy long distance land-line phone call to Greece with my great-grandparents whom I could hardly hear — our kids get to Facetime with their grandparents in California.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and need to read something that will assuage the fear of the unknown I reccommend “Abundance” by Peter H. Diamandis. It’s a helpful book with opening our mind to the possibilities of the good things that can come out of our digital evolution together.

Global Village Is Not the Front Line

Ever since the release of the World Wide Web late last century, the world has shrunk down to what is commonly referred to as the “global village”.

This shouldn’t be confused with the world that our children know when they are born and growing up in our homes. We as parents and caregivers are still their front line in seeing and interpreting the world around them.

In the end the moral responsibility still falls on us individually to make parenting decisions that we feel are right for our own offspring.

Blessings to all you out there raising children in the 21st century and beyond!

R.V.S.B.

P.S. As promised, past blog links of mine concerning children and cyberworld:

iParenting: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iPARENTING: The Positives, Negatives and i-don’t-know!

iSCARED

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

Please…Listen to Me

“I’m discovering something new right now at the playground. Why won’t mommy come over to me when I call for her? I want to know what this thing is called. I need to learn why it does this thing? Where is mommy? Why is she looking at that little thing in her hand and stroking it with her finger? I just called for her again but she’s telling me to wait without looking at me. Why is that thing in her hand so important? Does mommy not like being with me? I want to be with her but she wants to be with that thingy…iphone is it called?”

Okay, to be fair, the above thought process may seem a bit advanced for a toddler/preschooler…however, the emotions and visual recognition of the theme are not.

I think I hit my limit earlier today when I took my children to a local museum and observed both a mother and a grandmother totally engrossed in their handheld devices as their two boys were playing with a train set that required coordination of assembling more tracks. After witnessing these boys ask multiple times from their “mom” and “nana” to assist them and outright invite them to play with them, I knelt down with my baby carrier and assisted them myself as I often do with my own children daily.

It makes me sad not just for the children ignored by their parents while they’re pecking away at their awesome technology. I grieve for these parents that will one day reap what they sow because children aren’t stupid, they notice EVERYTHING–especially about their parents’ behavior as it relates to them.

I’m not saying we can totally disavow ourselves as users of our present-day mode of communication. What I am urging is moderation and especially careful usage when raising young children who rely on their caregivers to give them nourishing time as they grow in these critical years that shape them for the remainder of their lives.

Please, don’t take me as a self-righteous judge of all parents…just ask yourself if you can dial it back a little if you find that you check your device more than 5-10 times an hour. Do you really need to check Facebook that often? Can that texting or long phone call wait until naptime?

I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m guilty of sometimes relying on my device too much…I used to be able to hide texting but now my one child is at an age that he notices a lot and I’d rather just go without than teach him that this is the only way to socialize.

To those that say the devices help them feel connected to the world, I say remember that you are in the world with your children now and you’re their teacher as to how they should interact with everyone in the world. These handheld devices are great tools but they should not replace the precious time with our children, tomorrow they’ll be adults and perhaps our caregivers as well.

R.V.S.B.

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"