It’s true – I do groan.
It happens each time I wander past a playground to see children happily playing whilst their parents are busy attending to something or someone else on a mobile phone or device…either via a voice call, sms, email or web-browsing.
The same thing happens when I turn up at children’s sport, only to notice that half of the spectating parents are otherwise engaged enthusiastically with their hand-held technology.
You’ll find similar responses are elicited from me when I sit down to meals with families only to observe the incessant intrusion of ‘other outside business’ via beeps, tweets, tones, trills and push notifications into what I believe is sacred family time.
(I won’t start on my response when I notice two youths, sitting next to each other on public transport texting a conversation with each other rather than simply turning face to face and having a verbal chat…)
Our presence and connection with another human is largely related to our attention to them and this is, at best, limited whilst involved in mobile technology use…and at worst…absent.
“There is someone or something more important to you than me, in this moment!”
This could quite rightfully be the perception of a child, partner or other family member who is in the presence of a significant other who is otherwise engrossed in their mobile phone.
It appears that our virtual or online connections are becoming more valuable and important than our human connections and it seems to me, from conversations with children, that our kids are getting this message loud and clear. And they are craving to have our attention back…at the playground, at their sports’ games, in the home…
I believe it is time that we truly question our use of mobile technologies as parents and partners. Let’s acknowledge their invasive nature, regain control and model responsible and respectful mobile technology use.
It is interesting to hear the barrage of excuses that start when parents are challenged on their use of mobile devices around children. I hear some of the same conversations happening in my own head. However, most of the excuses I have heard pale into insignificance when placed next to the role of raising a child
Our ‘dependence’ on mobile technologies over the last decade has grown exponentially but I always find it refreshing to remember back to times before they were as influential. Business still got done. And even with a more monitored and conscious approach, business will still get done and our children will benefit hugely, from our increased engagement and attention.
I would like to offer the following 3 guidelines for mobile technology use around family…with the basic mantra being ‘It can wait!’:
Leave your mobile phone or device in the car when attending children’s sport or events.
Make the focus and priority your child in these moments.
Turn off ‘push notifications’ when with children and/or partners.
Let your children/partner know that they are the most important thing to you in that moment.
Put your phone on silent during meals with partners and family.
It will probably pay to have a family expectation/rule around mobile device use at meal times. I suggest they are left elsewhere and switched to silent.
In summary, this is simply a call to be more conscious of the invasive nature of mobile technologies, to be more aware of how they distract us from what really matters and to make a commitment to improve the situation in our own lives…for the benefit of our children and families.
NB. This piece is written as much for my own benefit as it has been the benefit of any other parent.