One major theme contained in the technology position statement discussed yesterday is that technology can be used to enhance playful, creative and engaging activities between adults and young children. What about parents who are tethered to their smart phones and lap tops? The Boston Globe looked at always-texting, always-phoning, always-emailing, always-Web-surfing parents and the children competing for their attention.
The newspaper describes a pair of Natick siblings, ages 3 and 4, who “pound on [their father’s] laptop keyboard to get his attention, stick their heads between him and the screen, and even fabricate potty-training accidents.”
Young children, research tells us, thrive on loving, supportive back-and-forth conversations and interactions with their parents and other caregivers. It’s the basis of social-emotional development, the oral language skills and vocabulary building that form the basis of literacy, and the parent-child bond. Now the use and misuse of “screen time” is proving to be an issue for adults as well as children.
“Kids have always fought household rivals for their parents’ attention, of course,” the Globe reports. “But competing against a phone attached to a kitchen wall or a newspaper is nothing compared with going head-to-head with Facebook or Angry Birds. No one has calculated the number of iPhone (or tablet or laptop) orphans. But children who dream of talking to or playing with their parents without mom or dad stealing a glance at a screen may find it increasingly difficult. Almost half of Americans – 46 percent – now own smart phones, up from 35 percent last May, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. With the growing mobile connectivity has come increasing expectations from employers – and also from friends and family – that e-mails, texts, and tweets will be responded to immediately. Toss in the siren call of ESPN’s ScoreCenter and it’s no wonder the kids are starting to push back…. But pity the parents, too. Many find themselves pulled between work and family, unable to disconnect from their jobs, but unwilling to miss time with their children, even if it means texting while junior is kicking the winning goal.”
One young girl interviewed by the Globe conducted a successful intervention.
“Sheri Gurock’s daughter Audrey took a more direct approach. Her parents own the Magic Beans chain of toy stores, and frequently worked during dinner,” the Globe reports.
“’They’d have a few bites of food and then open their phones,’ said Audrey, a fourth-grader at Sudbury Valley School in Framingham. ‘I told them they shouldn’t always be on their phones because we barely get to see each other. I only really see them in the morning, when we’re rushing to get to school, and at dinner. I felt kind of ignored.’’
“Incredibly, her parents looked up from their phones, listened, and made a conscious effort to cut back on their digital habits. ‘I’m really proud of them,’ the 9-year-old said.”