Why Cell Phones Are Bad for Parenting

Our children will always know whether they have our full attention. It's time for parents to break the phone habit before it's too late

  • Share
  • Read Later
Sally Anscombe / Getty Images

There was something to be said for the old-fashioned landline, with a handset so bulky, you had to tuck it between your neck and shoulder to get your hands free. They didn’t — couldn’t — go everywhere with us. Now we’re tethered to our mobiles — addicted, even. They’ve become handy tools for avoidance, and it’s our children who are getting the bad end of the deal.

All around me, I see parents with their babies and toddlers and young kids — but not with them. The grownups are on the phone. The dad pushing his son on the swing set while hands-free on his mobile isn’t really with his child. The mom pushing her baby in a pram while she’s yakking on the phone isn’t really with her child.

(MOREParents Do What’s Right for Them, Not for Their Kids)

The kids aren’t too happy about it. They’re pulling on their parents’ clothes. They’re yanking on their arms. They’re acting out to get attention. I’ve heard them begging their parents to stop, disconnect. I’ve watched children start to whimper the minute the mobile is picked up — off the dinner table. During dinner. The son of a friend of mine recently announced, at age 10, that he hates cell phones. Actually, he will tell you he hates technology. IPads don’t fool him. Neither does texting. He understands that his father can never get away from his work — and the office won’t get away from his father. He sees the phone, and he thinks, I’ve lost my dad’s attention. And that’s what children crave: attention. We all do.

Parents have to break the phone habit before it is too late. I’m not talking about getting extreme here — no phone calls around a child, ever. But I am talking about giving more thought to all the missed opportunities for communicating with a child. For simply being with her. Quietly. I was pleased to find the blog of a young mother from Alabama, Rachel Stafford, who has started an aptly titled campaign called Hands Free Mama, encouraging parents to put away the tech toys and be present with their children.

(MORE: Is Your Cell Phone Making You a Jerk?)

Is being a parent boring? Sometimes. Lots of times. And guess what. Those boring moments are what you will miss the most once your children are grown. Carpool is when you should be hanging on every word. Walks are when the world unfolds at a child’s feet, in the safety of your company. The parent is the genius who gives names to things and encourages a child’s attention to detail on the path. The tiny accretion of daily routines is dull and divine. Of course there’s always plenty of time for a phone call, or 10 of them. Children are always slowly walking, slowly eating, slowly looking, slowly reading, slowly going nowhere, until suddenly they’re gone.

And giving the kids their own phones in the name of fair play doesn’t cut it. That’s happening all too often; families are together, but each person is in her own bubble of technology. Some of us worry about radiation and the developing brain. But we should be worried about disconnectedness and the developing mind.

One day, sooner than you realize, you will be with your child, wanting to talk. But she’ll be too busy. Talking to someone who isn’t there. And why not? You weren’t there when she was.

COVER STORY: Are You Mom Enough?

5 comments
AndreaOrgan
AndreaOrgan

I don't feel our generation of parents is that much less involved in our children as our parents. Yes, I may take a phone call when at the park with my kids, but guess what, I'm at the park with my kids.  When we were kids we ran the neighborhood, if we wanted to go to the park we went alone or with friends.  Our parents didn't come with us.  We pulled and tugged on our parent's pants when they were on the phone too, just it was in our houses.  My mom always comments about how busy and social we are and that when we were kids we didn't leave the house.  They didn't "car pool", we took the bus or walked.  When on mat leave my kids and I went to classes, socialized, made friends.  Did I sometimes accept a phone call when I was out, sure thing, do I sometimes check facebook while my kids are playing soccer or playing on the park, yep I do that too.  However, I am there, I am taking them to soccer, I am at the park watching them.  I work full time plus have a direct sales business, I work while I spend time with my kids, I multitask.  Do my kids sometimes wish I paid more attention to them, I'm sure they do, but no more than we did when we came home from school and our mom was on an important phone call and couldn't devout every second to us.  That's not the way the real work works.  

AliciaShepherd
AliciaShepherd

There is no denying that our time with our children is best spent investing in them, putting down the electronics and being present. We must also remember and honor the fact that all moms are not the same, not cut from the same cloth and do not have the same situations. In addition , it is absolutely imperative that we are raising children that we will be proud of  as adults. The world does not revolve around their every move, and they need to learn and respect others as well. Its really all about balance.

www.theevolutionofmom.com

qaz
qaz

bring meh a shrubbery

qaz
qaz

ya b stuntin

qaz
qaz

sniff ma bootie