Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Heart Smartphones

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...

(c)Herding Turtles, Inc. 2009 - 2012


  1. I'm a very easily distracted parent. I've had to ban myself from tv, smartphone and iPad while my little one is awake. The problem is that sometimes parenting is boring. I can't sit still staring at my toddler for three hours while she plays quietly, and it's probably not good for her to be watched like a hawk every waking minute. So i relent and check facebook and two seconds later she is rewiring the tv.

  2. I can honestly say (and this pure true honesty here so don't judge, wink! wink!) that one of the only reasons why I have not upgraded my dinosaur cell phone to a smart phone is that I genuinely believe that if I did that I would be even less interactive with my children than I already am...and that is saying something. I feel like in the car and out in public, I actually (pretty much, sometimes) can focus on them, because when we are in our home I feel like I am totally distracted and disconnected from them.

  3. I really feel like being a SAHM when you do not live in your home town is quite isolating. We had to move 7 times in 8 years ( nope, not military just REALLY lucky) and now that we are finally in one spot we only have a few friends here and are far away from family. My neighbor across the street was a SAHM but she was FULL ON GWENNETH and I could not hang out with her. it was too bad for my morale. My children are 7 months and 2.5 They don't nap, so it is us from 8 15 s.m. til my husband comes home at 6 30 p.m. I do feel badly if I am on the computer during the day but with no nap time I get a little whacky. My toddler plays fairly well independently but has Devil's cupcake tendencies if left alone. So I spend a LOT of time on the couch or the carpet. I try and just go on almost like a "cigarette break". Like....if poop hits the floor while someone is barfing etc I clean up, make us hot chocolate and take a time out while I remember that my children are not trying to kill me. Annyhow yes I keep telling myself I need to ditch my laptop but sometimes it is the only that keeps me from drinking.

  4. That's my local mall! It was a big story when it happened a couple of years ago. Craziness. I am totally a distracted parent and I'm okay with that. I don't remember my childhood as a time when my parents were constantly hovering over me. I was sent outside to play with my friends. We rarely had our parents watching us while we played. That's probably why my parents' house was always clean and we had laundry done and folded and delivered to our rooms.

  5. omg.. I'm addicted to the technology. even at work.. like right. now. at work... reading RFML.. I am very easily distracted and often am by myself when even at work so having the ability to be in touch with other people it crucial to my well-being. You're normal.. no worries

  6. my kids as i watched the fountain video over and over with me. and we laughed and laughed. i check my phone sometimes. i don't think i'm as addicted as some moms i've seen - and i'm probably way more addicted than other moms i've seen. i use the kids as a judge. when they tell me to stop - i do. my four year old talks (to me mostly) from the SECOND she wakes up until the SECOND she falls asleep. sometimes i just need a break - and it's usually my phone or my laptop. ;o)

  7. I don't have a smart phone, and my husband, my mother, and I have disabled texting and internet access on our cell phones. I have three girls, age 4, 3, and 22 months, and while they are not the reason for forgoing texting, it is a great reason to. My husband is a computer guru that is well paid for his computer expertise and I'm really grateful that despite being in a technological field that he recognizes that texting is not a necessary part of life. We use computers heavily in this family, but that particular piece of technology really had no advantages to society, only to the individual and even that doesn't seem worth it to me.

  8. Totally guilty, but as Lydia points out, at least it's a more socially accepted form than drinking/smoking/taking valium. Though I have my days where the latter would be preferable. Anyhoo, I digress. I've had to set limits with myself. I get sucked in and pick my head up to realize the kids have had the ipad for their down time for an hour, and they were only supposed to have it for 20 min so I could get dinner at least started and I haven't even pulled the meat out of the fridge much less figured out if it will be polenta, potatoes, or risotto or should we do mexican tonight and oh crap. I guess they will eat sandwiches again.

  9. Heh...I think your RSS Feed is broken :) It's spitting nothing but garble atm.

  10. I must admit since I've been laid off I play more than I should, but it's more my laptop than my smartphone. I'd much rather see stuff on a bigger screen when it comes to the internet. But when I'm not right in my living room, it's just sooooooo easy to pick up that phone when you're bored. Oh what's the temperature? I'd better add that to my online grocery list before I forget. Let's check and make sure I haven't missed any calls... I haven't fallen in any fountains, because I'm not capable of walking and checking my phone at the same time. That's probably a very good thing.

  11. Hells yeah I do! I bring the wigglers in on it to! We Skype with family, play games, and watch videos... I am totally getting them ready for the future where they will just implant the devices directly into our brains!

    P.S. - How many of those injuries are because of txting or because we freak out at the sight of blood more these days and don't just say things like "Well, let's slap some duct tape on that" and then send them on their way like parents used to?

    1. Scary book about that called "Feed." Check it out.

  12. Personally, I think the actual problem is that parents are, overall, less inclined to actually care for an injured kid because it would mean they had to put down the phone. Come ON! Use it for good, not for evil people! At the very least, look up some basic first aid and apply it.

  13. I have an iPhone and when I first got it, it was a HUGE issue. My hubs and I would spend quality time together, on the couch, playing on our phones and not spending the time together. So we made a rule. If there is someone in the room, our phones go away. Which means the only time we are playing around on our phones is if we have some time to ourselves. I will admit I cheat every once in a while. When our daughter is watching a movie, I'll whip out my phone, if we're at the park I'll do a quick check to see if I have missed calls/emails/texts, I will say though, our new rule has helped immensely. we are back to focusing on each other.

    Plus, anything that is needed from me is not so important that it can't wait. Sometimes you just need to ignore the world and focus on the present.

    Good luck!

  14. When I first got my husband his iPod, my youngest was JUST starting to master stairs. I had to gently (ok, not so gently ) remind him that it might be a bad idea to be playing "Angry Birds" while J was going up or down the stairs.

    I'm not allowed to have it on me at work, so my phone sits in my purse all day. I won't lie. I take five minutes before picking up my kids to check facebook and messages. But for the most part, my technology stays away until they go to bed. The only exception is if they are having video game time (aka "Screen Time") which they get on special occasions. Then we all get a half hour to play with our gadgets.

    Where do you stand on Kindles and Nooks? I mean, you're (possibly) reading, so does that count? Is that different than flipping through a magazine? Why?

  15. My mom was a SAHM and RARELY did she "play" with me and my sister. There were no smart phones then, just regular phones with a really long cord. We did our chores, then we played outside, in our room or living room or watched tv. As babies and toddlers, there were these things called play pens that we were put into so we wouldn't kill ourselves while mom had to do something. I don't think it's healthy for children to be hovered over and engaged in some sort of adult directed play all day. My computer is right in the middle of the living room so I can monitor what my kids are watching on tv, what they're playing on the iPad and monitor that the toddler is not eating food off the floor. If he brings me a book, I read it. If he screams that he can't get a shape in the shape sorter, then I help him. But I am not hovering over him every second. My older two wouldn't even tolerate that!

    My oldest got my hand-me-down smartphone when I upgraded (He'd been wanting a DS). With the messaging feature between devices under our wifi, I feel like it's just a new different way of telling him it's bedtime and to correct his spelling errors. LOL And he seems to like getting into a good game of WWF with both me and my husband. :-)

  16. After reading this post, I took my daughter to what she calls "big slide park." It has one of those tall, metal slides from when we were kids. It's got to be 15 feet tall. She won't climb it, and I won't either.

    There was a guy there (could have easily been a gal!) with his not quite 2 year old. She was bravely clambering up the steps while he was playing with his phone. Every now and then he'd hold up a hand as if to steady her. Not particularly helpful when she's 10 feet in the air! I'm by no means a helicopter parent and I'm all for letting my kid fall down and learn the boundaries of the physical world. However, that seemed even a little excessive to me. I was going to snap a picture, but then I realized that I'd be in the same boat. Haha!

  17. I have a friend who is totally hooked on her smartphone: talking, texting, playing games sometimes for hours at a time...and then wonders why her two-year-old is constantly getting into/breaking/destroying things. The other day it was the shelves (and glass containers) in the refrigerator because she was climbing up them. Thank goodness it was the shelves & glass & not the little guy's bones that got broken when the shelves gave way & he went tumbling to the ground! And then he's put in time out/yelled at for doing something he's not supposed to do.

    The worst part is she admits she knows it's an issue, but still won't put the phone down.

  18. My son has the same exact chances of falling down our dangerous stupid stairs while I'm cheating at WWF or while I'm doing the dishes. The only thing that changes is my guilt level.

  19. I have a smart phone. I love my smart phone. Half of my kids are old enough to tell me when I am using my smart phone when I should be paying attention to them instead. And usually I listen to them. I love my phone though, because it lets me receive messages from my husband in Afghanistan even if I happen to be at the store or at the park or wherever. His first deployment I felt like I couldn't leave the house because I never knew when I might hear from him (in 2008) but the last two deployments (2010 and Now) have been made much easier with the smart phone :)

    That said, I do think too many of us use our phones too much and aren't actively engaged in what is going on around us. They are pretty addictive little devices!

  20. When my husband upgraded his smartphone, we gave the old one to our 18 month old. We disabled everything on it but the apps and she has a grand ol time counting, singing the ABC song and popping bubbles. I try to limit her screen time but I sure will plop that phone in her chubby little fingers if I NEED to get the laundry done or whatnot.

    And I check FB while nursing, or Pinterest while she's in the stroller and I'm walking the dog. Living in a new city with no friends is very isolating and my phone is how I stay sane and connected.




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