This afternoon I took my kids to the playground after I got home from work. It was a pretty typical trip…we got there and my children happily scampered off in opposite directions. I waved hi to a few moms across the mulch and then decided I would sneak a peek at my smartphone.
See, I have one of those jobs where you have to keep your phone shut OFF the whole time and I make a point of not reading emails/texts on my drive home because I am already an easily distracted driver, even without a smartphone in the mix. I’ll be driving along and suddenly be like, “WHAT THE CRAP! WAS THAT A WOODCHUCK?!” And then I almost die on 95 North craning my neck to see the same type of animal I can see anytime I want in my own backyard because there’s one living under my shed right now.
Anyway, what was I saying? Oh yeah, I get easily distracted. So I was at the playground looking at a few texts when I heard/felt this thump in front of me. And then I glanced up and saw my friend Cate’s little boy on the ground in front of me. He took a classic toddler digger, so his pride was hurt more than anything else. And as Cate was hoofing it across the mulch with her tiny baby in the carrier on her chest, I just stood there like an idiot because I was still texting. When Cate reached her son a moment later it hit me that I could have offered a tiny bit more help in the moment than I had mustered. So I started apologizing for being on my phone and she waved it away, saying no big deal, she's on hers all the time, too. But then she said, “You know, my mother called and told me last week that some study found that the hospital treatment of injuries of children is up, like, 500% due to how often we use smartphones while watching our kids.”
I exclaimed something like, “Shut the front door! That’s just a bunch of stuff. That’s malarkey.” (I watched the VP debate last week and was reminded of some sweet expressions.) And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So when we got home I got on my computer and sure enough, there was an article out earlier this month called “The Perils of Texting While Parenting”. Shiiiiiiit. The accurate statistic is that nonfatal injuries were up 12% from 2007 and 2010, but that seems significant given that the rates had been declining for decades prior to that. Of course, this just happens to coincide with the years when the number of people owning a smartphone went from 13 million to 114 million. Yowza.
So this is just an association, not proof of causality. As the article suggests, maybe one reason this statistic increased is that parents are now more likely to drag their kids to the ER after any injury. But honestly, since I read the article I just haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I mean, I consider myself a decent parent. I’m fairly capable and I try to take good care of my kids. Do I look at my phone while parenting? Of course! Do I text while my kids climb the slide? Sure I do! Do I check my email on my phone while my kids are "busy"? Oh hellz yes.
But…then I think about this video:
I think that could totally be me. (Or you, Lydia. That might happen to you even if you aren’t texting.) So clearly if playing with my phone is so distracting then maybe I shouldn’t be doing it while I am watching my precious small people.
But checking my phone throughout the day is a little window to the outside world. I like getting email. I like getting texts. Sometimes a text from Lydia at 4pm about something asinine will get me laughing so hard that it revives me enough to get me through the rest of the witching hour. Would I really be a better parent without this active link to other adults during the day?
When our parents were doing this they had their own distractions and obstacles—for example, the phone was stuck in the kitchen by a spiral cord so they literally could not supervise me if they were on the phone and I wasn’t in the kitchen. But that didn’t stop my mom from talking to her best friend while I was smearing paint on the walls of the living room or stealing real food from the cabinet to play with in my 80s play kitchen. She needed that outlet. She needed to connect with another woman during that long day at home with three kids. As Lydia so aptly pointed out, when our grandmothers were parenting they got to smoke, drink *and* take valium. All we get is f-ing Angry Birds.
So where’s the balance? Have any of you given up smartphones while parenting? Have you replaced it with some other form of adult communication/connection during the day? Or are you still using it but you've just set limits on it? Please, fill me in! Oh, I gotta go...Lydia just texted me a photo of another boobstain...
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