There were new guidelines out this week from the American Academy of Pediatricians. Basically saying, except for some real live interactions, like Skype, children under 2 should not have any screen time, and those under 5 should have very limited amounts. They pointed out that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and a huge emphasis placed on parents being more involved with their children's media.
Although there’s been a lot written about technology and its effect on our children, yet when I look around, I am not sure anyone’s really listening. I actually saw a mother pulling her 5 year-old son around in a wagon on Trick-or-treat who was playing a video game on his mother’s phone. Trick-or-treat is a highlight of childhood! Why was his mother letting him miss this? I see examples of this all of the time. And I try very hard not to pass any judgements: Maybe the boy had 2 broken legs and was allergic to candy? Or maybe that girl waiting with her mother at the dentist office had been there a very long time. At least, I’ve never seen any kids playing with smartphones or tablets in Mass. Have you?
What I wanted to reflect on here is our own technology viewing habits—mostly smartphone use-- not how much our kids are looking at them, but how much are we looking at them? Not only are we being poor role-models for our children with our constant media use, but we are also missing out on our children's lives.
What’s going to happen to this next generation of children who have had to settle with moms who are more absorbed in what’s on their smartphones than the children in front of them? Babies at such a young age yearn to see their mothers’ faces. And we know this continues because how often do we hear our children say, “Mommy, look at me.” This is such a precious request. But as many of us experienced mothers know, this only last for a short time. Soon those requests go away. But the need for attention at all ages never quits. Even our teenagers need us to put our phones down and listen to them for that short time when they arrive home.
And I am just as guilty as the next mom. So before my preschooler turns into a teenager, which happens so quickly, (I can’t believe she is no longer a toddler.) I don’t want to miss a single moment because I am engaged with my phone. And more importantly, I want her to grow up with the love and attention she needs from a mother.
For this reason, I have put together a quiz for us to take to keep our cell phone usage in check. It is adapted from a letter that was written for the blog, “Hands Free Mamma.”
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, then it may be time for a new flip phone or at least a new resolve to put the phone down and pay attention to what God has put in front of you.
*Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child midsentence; always let the caller take priority.
*Carry your phone around so much that when you happen to leave it in one room your child will come running with it proudly in hand—treating it more like a much needed breathing apparatus than a communication device.
*Decide the app you’re playing is more important than throwing the ball in the yard with your kids. Even better,yell at them to leave you alone while you play your game.
*Take your children to the zoo and spend so much time on your phone that your child looks longingly at the mother who is engaged with her children and wishes she was with her instead.
*While you wait for the server to bring your food or the movie to start, get out your phone and stare at it despite the fact your child sits inches away longing for you talk to him.
*Go to your child’s sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won’t notice that you are not fully focused on her game.
*Check your phone first thing in the morning … even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.
*Neglect daily rituals like tucking your child into bed or nightly dinner conversation because you are too busy with your online activity.
*Don’t look up from your phone when your child speaks to you or just reply with an “uh huh” so she thinks you were listening.
*Lose your temper with your child when he “bothers” you while you are interacting with your hand-held electronic device.
*Give an exasperated sigh when your child asks you to push her on the swing. Can’t she see you’re busy?
*Use drive time to call other people regardless of the fact you could be talking to your kids about their day—or about their worries, their fears, or their dreams.
*Read email and text messages at stoplights. Then tell yourself that when your kids are old enough to drive they won’t remember you did this all the time.
Next blog post: The Best Idea Yet for Gift Giving this Christmas!