I just read a post at The New York Times City Room Blog titled “Smartphones and Dumb Parents” which, as the title suggests, is a long-ish complaint about parents whose attention is on their smartphones instead of their kids. The author complains:
With a so-called smartphone seemingly at every adult’s fingertips, many parents are finding playtime to be the ideal time for answering e-mails, firing off text messages and browsing the Web — leaving their children to cavort about virtually unattended at playgrounds, pools and kiddie gyms.
I get it, and have thought about this quite a bit myself as an iPhone wielding parent and observer of other parents’ behavior “in the wild”: playgrounds, public pools, etc. My current feeling is that technology and communication devices aren’t the main problem, just a new manifestation of an age-old issue: parents sometimes just don’t watch their kids. Or, more generously, sometimes parents just need to check out for a bit. Here’s my response to the Times blog post:
While I agree that email/text/web/other electronic communications have an insidious way of intruding into personal and family time, I don’t think it’s quite fair to demonize smartphone-wielding parents. What about the mother or father a) reading a book or a newspaper, or b) chit-chatting with other parents while ignoring their kid? I see this all the time.
Not two months ago I had to jump into a kiddie pool to snatch out a one-year-old who had fallen in while his dad was reading the paper. (I had been on the verge of jumping up for about 5 minutes as the kid precariously teetered and his dad was engrossed in his paper.)
Why is it worse if the blissfully ignorant parent is using a smartphone instead of some old-school distraction?
What do you think: Is there a meaningful difference between ignoring your kid analog-style, versus being unable to put your smartphone down?