I read an article recently called The Dangers of Distracted Parenting. While I don’t usually subscribe to fears about how we’re ruining our kids with whatever the newest technology is, this article really hit a nerve.
It was about how our addictions to our phones and devices are affecting our parenting. I can pinpoint the exact time that I became addicted to my phone. It was when I began nursing and pumping when my daughter was born. I couldn’t keep a book open with one hand, and my Kindle was always out of charge.
During those wee hours of the morning, I’d get up to feed Penny and my phone would save me from falling asleep. I’d scroll through Instagram and Facebook, pleased to see the world was still bustling with activity even though I hadn’t been outside in weeks.
The midnight feedings came to an end. The nursing and pumping came to an end. But my addiction to my phone just got worse. I found myself constantly reaching for it and absentmindedly scrolling through social media apps. Most of the time If you asked me what I was looking at I couldn’t tell you. I wasn’t really paying attention—it was just something to look at.
I began realizing I had a full-blown addiction to my phone. I would get irritated if someone interrupted my text messaging or scrolling—my toddler included, I’m extremely ashamed to admit. My engagement with my daughter was limited because I was only half paying attention to whatever she was doing or saying. Not all the time, but often enough that when I read the article above, I realized I had a real problem on my hands.
Forget about all the bad signals my distracted parenting was sending to my daughter—it’s just plain dangerous to be only half paying attention to a toddler. As I’d guess most parents and caregivers would agree, it’s amazing how quickly they can get into trouble, even with you right in the same room.
I’d been thinking about this “distracted parenting” for a few days when I read about how Bode Miller’s daughter had drowned in a tragic accident. Penny and I happened to be on our way to a playdate at a friend’s pool. That afternoon I watched Penny drop a toy into the water. She bent over and watched it sink to the bottom. Horrified, I watched her turn her little body around as if she were going to scoot down stairs. Naturally, at twenty-months old, she had no concept of the depth and danger of the water she was about to lower herself into. What if I happened to have my phone out at that very instant? We always assume someone would see if a child was drowning, but these tragedies occur all too often.
This was an a-ha moment—the phone has got to go. I thought about what I look at most when I pull out my phone: Instagram, Facebook, and text messages. I do like to have my phone nearby in case of an emergency, so I decided to delete the apps that are most distracting. It’s been about a week, and I’ve noticed two huge differences. First, my mood has dramatically improved. Second, I’m much more engaged with my husband, daughter, and others around me. I no longer reach for my phone because I know there’s nothing to look at. I’ve been shocked at how much happier I feel all the time.
Our children’s safety and wellbeing are infinitely more important than whatever we’re looking at on our phones. Although this is such an obvious statement, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve pulled out my phone when we’re at the beach, or at the playground. An accident takes two seconds to happen.
As that article concludes, “Parents should give themselves permission to back off from the suffocating pressure to be all things to all people . . . But when you are with your child, put down your phone.”