This just in. Ami Albernaz, in her article, “Attention Seeking Devices,” for the Boston Globe says:
“Whether you’re wanting to finish that one quick e-mail, set up a play date, or read the newspaper, it all looks like you are doing the same thing – staring at your phone and ignoring them [your children].”’
Right. The seduction of mobile devices. And children who want to talk and play—generally have fun at home or when they’re out and about with you doing errands, grocery shopping, or driving to visit grandparents—want more than your presence. They want you to truly be present. In fact, children’s brains are wired to seek attention from their parents.
The tension between children and parents is obvious as we become more and more glued to our phones, tablets, and other devices, according to Dr. Jenny Radesky. Vocal children will often speak up and demand that you “listen to meeee!” But more shy children may simply withdraw. And all children would rather that we were interacting with them, rather with Siri, someone at the office, or Huffington Post. After all, children look to us to help gauge their response to new situations and events. As Dr. Radesky explains, they want their parents to be there to help them navigate the world. If parents are overly distracted, children may become anxious.
Albernaz summarizes the tension this way:
“Of course, parents have always had to multitask and split their attention But mobile devices seem to exert a unique pull. There’s always the possibility some juicy bit of news is waiting, or one important e-mail, or one more work task to be knocked off the list.”
Right. It’s hard. I’ve sometimes been drawn into the “juicy bit of news” when I’d really rather be sharing a book with a child or teaching him how to make scrambled eggs. I need to press the pause button and remind myself that real life is much more vital than the virtual world many of us live in. “Technology is a better servant than master,” as happiness author Gretchen Rubin points out.
What do you do?
Have you figured out a good strategy for curbing your own online behavior/letting work have access to you 24:7? Have you set up guidelines for yourself or as a family (as in, no smart phones at the dinner table)? If so, how’s it working? Write to us and let us know! We’d love to hear from you!
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