Parents, want to keep your kids safe, and help them grow up to be happy, self-confident adults? Then put down your smart phone or BlackBerry – and pay attention to them!
According to The New York Times, child-development researchers are concerned about parental use of cell phones, instant messaging, and Twitter, and the effect of all that technology on their kids. The first issue is safety – and not just when a parent is texting or talking behind the wheel. Experts point out that more and more parents are focused on their phones while walking down the street with small children. Or “watching” them at the beach, park or pool, which is incredibly dangerous because kids can get into trouble in seconds – especially around water.
Then there’s a child’s sense of self-worth. Sherry Turkle is the director of MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. She interviewed hundreds of kids about their parents’ habits. The most common complaint? Feeling hurt that they have to compete with technology for their parents’ attention, especially during meals, rides home from school, after-school activities, and sporting events. One three-year-old in the study got tired of begging his mother to get off the computer – only to be told repeatedly, “Just a minute.” So, he started making her set a kitchen timer, and when it dinged, he insisted she come now, and not bring her phone. A lot of kids in the study also said they’d tried to get their parents to stop texting while driving, only to hear things like, “Just one more quick one, honey.” Which Turkle compares to an alcoholic saying, “Just one more drink.”
Kids also make decisions about how much they’re liked by how much attention their parents pay to them. In other words, if parents are engaged and paying attention, their kids get “I like you” vibes. However, if they’re being ignored so mommy can send yet another text message, or daddy can finish an Internet search, they get the impression that their parents don’t like them. Even if that couldn’t be further from the truth.