I recently came across an article on The Huffington Post titled “5 Ways Technology Makes You Miss Your Kids’ Childhood.” The author, Nicole Fabian-Weber, contends that we parents spend so much time trying to capture every last moment or making ourselves accessible to everyone other than our kids that we totally miss the important moments with our children. I agreed with much of the post, but I thought it overlooked the most common ways in which my smartphone pulls me out of the moment with my children: email, Facebook, and Twitter.
Meanwhile, Annie Urban, the author of the PhD in Parenting blog recently re-posted a piece she originally wrote in 2010 on the same topic. However, Ms. Urban offers a more balanced view of the role of technology, acknowledging some of the problems as well as a lot of the benefits of email, Google, and social networking. (Last spring, I also wrote a piece about my struggles with technology for Kveller.com here.)
I agree with both of them. There is no doubt that I am a better parent and a more sane person because of the knowledge I have gained online, the books I have read on my iPhone while waiting for meetings, and most importantly, the friendships I have developed through Twitter and blogs. I spend less time running errands because I can shop online, and we take fewer trips to the Doctor’s office because I can email questions to our pediatrician.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I’m also a worse parent because of technology. I get distracted by Facebook, and I feel compelled to respond to emails that really could wait until after the girls are in bed. I am definitely not practicing mindfulness in the moment with my daughters when I am reading and responding to text messages every few minutes.
I’m not planning on becoming a luddite any time soon, but I do think some changes are in order. It’s fine for my daughters to see me use the computer or send a text message to their father to check in about the evening’s plans. However, there is a difference (for both me and my daughters) between mindfully deciding that I am going to let the girls watch one TV show so I can get some work done and mindlessly scrolling through my messages when I’m theoretically playing with them.
That difference really matters. As a result of thinking about all of this, I’m definitely going to strive to be more mindful about how and when I use my smartphone when I am with my daughters, with the goal of using it less (which will probably be better for me in general, not just with my parenting skills!). What about you? When does technology help with your parenting, and when does it hinder?