The “parents paying too much attention to their smartphones” trope is getting old. I have news for you — my parents were often distracted and didn’t pay attention to me way back in the ’80s. Technology isn’t making us bad parents. Bad parents will find a way to be bad parents, with or without a smartphone.
One of the hardest parts of becoming a new parent for me was figuring out how much time to spend with my baby. I was home with my new son all day long as a work-at-home parent. I loved him so much and was enamored with all of his baby-ness, like rolling over, drooling and babbling, but I was still confused. I even Googled it.
Was I supposed to stare into his eyes all day long and track his every move, or would that damage him? If I took a few moments for myself to watch TV, check Facebook or catch up on work, would he hate me forever? All of this obsessing and spinning my wheels, and my son was only 6 months old.
I’ve ebbed and flowed in my use of my smartphone around my kids, but there’s one thing I now know as a somewhat experienced parent of three years: There’s nothing wrong with using your phone around your kids. There’s nothing wrong with taking your eyes off your kids for a few seconds.
This was a decision that I didn’t come to lightly because of my background — I had a rocky childhood with quite a bit of loneliness and neglect. As I said, I was parented back in the ’80s. My parents weren’t checking Facebook and Twitter when they ignored me. They were wrapped up in their own personal dramas created by their stressful relationship.
I swore I’d never do the same thing to my kids, but that doesn’t mean I have to watch and adore their every move. Making this parenting decision was difficult, considering the smartphone judgment from other parents and child development experts. If you look at your phone once while taking your kid to the park, you’re branded a bad parent for life.
Colorado pediatrician Jane Scott writes in The Washington Post, “Parents today are probably the most informed and involved generation in history. And, yet, in the company of their children, they often act as though they’d rather be someplace else. That’s what they’re saying when they break eye contact to glance at their push notifications or check Facebook when they think their child’s distracted.”
I’m not on board with this blanket smartphone judgment. Parents were distracted from their kids 30 years ago and broke eye contact often. If a parent doesn’t want to be with her child, she won’t — and a smartphone has nothing to do with it. Let’s stop blaming bad parenting on technology.