I’m in my fifties and I’m part of the first generation of parents whose children possibly knew more than we did about technology. Ten years ago, I didn’t believe my daughter when she told me she absolutely had to have MSN. I also didn’t know what it meant. What a difference a decade makes. Now I have an iPhone that takes my heart rate, provides hypnosis when I can’t sleep and among other things, it tells me when I make a wrong turn in my car. My 90 year old mother recently asked me if I was talking on my phone and I replied that I was actually talking to my phone. So Syri has become my new best friend. I count on my phone so much that I call it my boyfriend. So if you hear me say, “I’ll check with my boyfriend, I’m not having an affair, honest.” The truth is, I would rather have my car stolen than lose my phone.
In the last few years, technology has changed so much that I’m not sure where the boundaries are anymore. It amazes me to see how many people are on their phone walking down the street, standing at bus stops (perhaps because their phone is telling them when the next bus is coming) and even when they are having lunch with a friend. Actually, it amazes me when people aren’t on their phones. I especially worry about seeing this when parents are spending time with their kids! Is it interfering with their ability to be present at those times that can be so very special? Is our fixation with these amazing devices giving a message to our kids that they come second? Furthermore I can’t even imagine how to define boundaries around our kid’s use of technology.
Not only can these devices make dinner suggestions, they also make great babysitters.
Recently I was shopping in a mall and went by Mac Makeup. While sitting in a tandem stroller, a two year old was playing on and iPad, behind him his older sister about four, was playing on a smart phone. Mom was getting her make-up done. Thirty minutes later I walked by that same place and nothing had changed. Kids were still staring intensely at their devices and mom was still getting a makeover. I think I would have been tempted to do the same thing when my kids were young. I definitely would have been seduced into using the baby app that stops two month olds from crying as they stare at white moving shapes on a black background. I’d probably downplay concerns about how this might be affecting my child’s new, developing brain.
I try to imagine how I would find balance if I had my boyfriend ten years ago. I’d have to give up my Facebook Scrabble addiction because that is an ongoing pull. If I didn’t, I’d be taking a lot of trips to the smallest room of my house to make my next move. Surely I would make a commitment not to take my smart phone with me when I go to the park or go for walks, but then again, what if there is an emergency? Like, someone posting on Facebook to say that they just had a blueberry muffin straight from the oven. Come to think of it, what if I want to take a picture or a video of the kids and send it on Instagram right away to my mother and my 256 friends.
I think the dinner table is where I would draw the line. No phones at the table! I have to show some discipline with that sexy little friend of mine. Syri-ously. Where are we going with all of this? Oh, we actually don’t know. So what do we know? We know we need to unplug and connect with each other. We know that nature provides us with an ability to get grounded. We know that having nothing to do as kids made us very creative. We also know that nothing could be more important than face time with the people we love, screen free.