By: Melissa Maypole
Dear Mom, Pay As Much Attention to Me As You Do Your Phone, ok?
When’s the last time you left your phone somewhere? How long did it take you to realize you were off the grid? If you’re like most of us, it took all of five minutes tops, right? And the panic that ensued as a result probably caused more than a little discomfort. We live in a hyper-connected, hyper-digital world, and our phones have—little by little—become the centre of our universe.
Stop and think—how long can you go without checking your phone?
Probably not long. But what does that have to do with parenting? A LOT, actually. Think about it. Technology has advanced so rapidly that it’s taken on a life of its own. Things are changing so quickly that if you blink, you’re likely to miss out on the latest gadget, game, or social media craze.
But change is good, right? Well, maybe. The truth is we don’t really know what effects all of these devices and gadgets are having on our minds and bodies. We can’t predict with any accuracy how digital technology will affect our kids, our families, our society.
We’re really just a bunch of guinea pigs navigating a virtual maze.
While there’s no app for parenthood, there are quite a few things we know about how healthy children grow and develop. Hint: None of them involve a screen of any kind (Sorry, Fisher Price.)
- Children need eye contact.
I think we can all agree that Smartphones have greatly diminished the amount of time we spend looking another human being in the eye. It’s so much more entertaining to swipe through your list of apps, right? And what if you miss something your third cousin twice removed posts on Facebook? Unfortunately, while you’re catching up on your “friends’” social media activity, your little one could be missing out on important developmental experiences like gazing into mommy’s eyes, for instance! Eye contact can make your baby feel safe, help build emotional bonds, and accurately read facial expressions (an important social skill!).
- Ebooks don’t cut it.
I love e-books as much as the next modern mama, and they DO have their place in our kids’ digital lives. Just be sure not to make them a replacement for reading time with your child. Flipping pages may be old-fashioned, but it’s still the best way to instill a love of reading in your child. Plus, it’s a great bonding experience!
- Kids need proactive parents.
Aside from your child’s social and emotional development, your iPhone could present a threat to his or her basic safety. I don’t have to tell you how quickly little ones move. Take your eye off of them to check your phone for a split second, and disaster can ensue! Decide to check your phone during naptime and resolve NOT to be a distracted parent.
Final Word: Children Need Attention. (Phones do not.)
Contrary to popular belief, phones don’t need your attention 24/7. They don’t have to be held every time they ring, buzz, or vibrate. You can put them down and completely ignore them, and they will STILL be there for you when you actually need them. In other words, you don’t have to let your phone control you; you can control them. Now as for kids, well that’s a different matter entirely!
Melissa Maypole is Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio, a parental control software that helps parents monitor children’s activities from connected devices. You can find her on the front lines of the uphill battle to successfully parent four kids in a high-tech world. Readers can follow or contact Melissa on Twitter @MelissaMaypole.