Parenting While Plugged In

Childtech-1-articleLarge Today's installment in The New York Times' anti-technology series is about parents who neglect their their kids, because they're glued to  their iPhone and iPads. They have a cute little graph that shows that people talk to their kids less when they're also on the computer.

This has been a concern for a while. The mommybloggers are periodically accused of being bad mommies, because they spend all their time blogging.

There have always been distractions from your kids. Before there were iPhones, there was TV and neighborhood conversation and books and knitting. Studies do show that we're spending more time with our kids than every before.

That said, we have certain rules around here. Nobody is allowed to read books or check e-mail during dinner. No video games before noon. 40 minutes of computer time during the week for kids. I rarely blog or send e-mails between 3 to 8. I will check comments on the blog and monitor tweets, while I'm supervising homework.

My kids are older, so I can ignore them for short burst of time during the afternoon without damaging them forever. However, I still can't spend the evening in front of the computer. I want to set a good example for them, so they don't end up as computer blobs. Also, they still need attention. Jonah and I have formed an informal book club, so we have to talk about the latest Percy Jackson book. Ian and I are reading books together, too, because he's in a graphic novel rut and he needs soft nudges to read something new.

12 thoughts on “Parenting While Plugged In

  1. I’m trying to implement a rule in our house that no-one checks email more than once every hour, and that when one is on the computer one does not pretend to be engaged with other members of the family. I decided a couple of weeks ago that when my family members start checking email in the middle of a conversation with me, that conversation is over, and I’m leaving the room. It is, in fact, pretty effective.

  2. I had to threaten to do terrible things to a Blackberry to get my wife to stop checking it mid-sentence. The iPad is so much nicer (and not owned by an employer) that all I need to do is pretend to be a bit of a klutz with a glass of water and it gets put away.

  3. I shudder to think of what my kids are learning as normal, as my husband and I both sit on separate laptops most evenings, typing away with the White Sox game blaring on the TV. Are these the same parents who smugly tell the kids to turn off SpongeBob because they’ve already had their 30 minutes of screen time? I’m sure that won’t come back at us or anything.

  4. This is one of those stories of decline from an unnamed previous normal that drives me nuts. Let’s get our stories, straight, motherfuckers! One minute it’s that kids in the beautiful middle-class yesteryear were frolicking about the neighborhood unfettered exploring stuff, building forts, and having life-affirming experiences, untied from their stifling overmonitoring parents, and the next minute it’s OMFG parents are spending too much time with in iPad lotusland, won’t anyone think of the poor neglected chilluns?

  5. This is one of those stories of decline from an unnamed previous normal that drives me nuts.
    Back in my day, dad’s didn’t swear unless they were golfing or doing home repair.

  6. This is a home repair project, except the home ain’t broke. I really liked Stephen Pinker’s op-ed in the Times today that linked the whole series to other ridiculous moral panics about kids (comic books!, video games!). The stats say children and parents spend more time together than ever before. And how is being on the blackberry during different from reading the paper during dinner, watching tv during dinner, or any of the other sins that our parents visited on us that we swore never to repeat but find ourselves engaging in, if not repetitions, than variations on a theme.

  7. I learned to say “crap” by listening to my dad mutter under his breath when he took my older brother and I golfing back when we were kids. It’s been downhill for me ever since.
    Tim, your point is a good one…if the phenomena being targeted by those two critiques are the same, and I’m not sure they are. No doubt there is much overlap, and to that extent people whining over how kids used to be allowed to go wonderfully unsupervised while their parents played bridge, but now are forced to go horribly unsupervised while their parents blog, are clearly, as you note, all fucked up in their thinking. However, I think it is quite possible that there is a lot of non-overlap here. One might argue that the bridge games took place during set hours that could be and often were, theoretically at least, situated within a schedule that still provided time for needed amounts of appropriately timed parental involvement (during mealtimes, say), whereas the blogging and e-mail and FBing insert themselves right into the daily routine of talking with your kids, knowing what they’re up to, answering their questions, listening and offering sympathy, etc.
    Personally, I think there are far more potentially worrisome consequences to the invasion of the internet into our daily lives and classrooms than the fact that it provides an additional route for bad parenting to manifest itself. But still, I also think we should admit that there is at least some reason to think that this particular route might be worth a little more attention that simply saying that it’s all been done before.

  8. Why do we need to read this as a comparison with some golden age past, rather than with some better way of doing things? Systematically ignoring the people with whom you share a home while you pursue your own interests; failing to respect any boundaries between work and home; going back to email, or the newspaper, or whatever, mid-conversation (mid-sentence) — its all crappy behaviour, and its crappy even if, overall, one is better than what one’s own parents were.
    I watch youngish couples walking together, with one (usually the man) talking animatedly one the phone. What is his lover thinking, I sometimes wonder? Wandering along together daydreaming is just different from wandering along together while paying full attention to completely different person.

  9. What is his lover thinking, I sometimes wonder?
    Statistically, in most regions of the country, she’s likely thinking of a sensitive vampire who sparkles.

  10. I would frown on electronics at dinner, but other meals tend to be free form.
    I eventually want something iphone-like for those looong solo playground and children’s museum visits or other kid-related downtime. There’s a way in which an electronic device can improve your kds’ lives, in that it makes a parent more willing to facilitate activities that would be normally extremely tedious. (Of course, it makes it harder to spontaneously meet and talk to other parents at such locations if either they or you are electronically engaged.)
    I was just realizing that it is time to introduce some family etiquette on electronics, since my husband is prone to start doing stuff with his Treo when we are out and about as a family. It annoys me 100% of the time, although at least 50% of the time, it turns out to be family related–looking up movie schedules, store hours, relevant information, etc. My current thinking is that when we are out doing family activities, nobody should start doing electronic stuff without getting permission, just as in the good old days, you weren’t supposed to smoke without asking first. I know that that rule was violated quite a lot (including by smokers who’d say doyoumindifIsmoke? while pulling out their supplies and doing everything but lighting up), but in a family setting, I think it’s not a bad model.

  11. how is being on the blackberry during different from reading the paper during dinner
    The amount of time spent on the BlackBerry is limited only by the stamina of one’s thumbs, whereas the newspaper in its dead-tree format is a finite distraction. (Even if you read the fine print on the sports page and every ad, you eventually run out of new material to read.)

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