page contents

Parenting and Smart Phones III  

One of the issues for parents using smart phones and other electronic media is the model they present for their children. It is difficult to speak with authority about children’s use of electronics and screens if parents themselves are consistently to be found with their nose in a screen or distracted from other activities by one of those dings that indicate a new message or piece of information. When parents don’t practice what they preach, their verbal authority in asking their children to change or set limits on themselves withers away.

One of the things we model with too much focus on smart phones and technology is that face to face social interaction, actually talking to people, isn’t important.

Another trap that is easy to fall into with smart phones and electronics is the idea, and expectation, that we should be entertained at all times. We all seem to be moving toward the expectation that we will have some sort of external stimulation or entertainment at our beck and call 24 hours a day. The ability to sit quietly with nothing but the company of our own thoughts seems to be slipping away from many people. And that ability is important for everyone, so should be modelled for our children.

Sherry Turkle, an MIT social scientist who studies the impact of technology on society, says, “Children need to be bored sometimes because boredom is their imagination calling them to turn inside.” She’s right. Boredom forces us to turn inside and call upon our own resources. Our ability to entertain ourselves internally is directly related to a number of things, including our creativity and our ability to cope with stressors. The continual turning to our smart phones gradually allows those abilities to wither. What this really means on the modelling front is that parents not only need to show they don’t need external stimulation all the time, but to more actively model that it is OK to sit quietly with nothing stimulating you at times. In fact, they should show that it is a good idea.

Now, lest you get the impression that I am a Luddite with nothing good to say about technology, let me put your mind at rest. Next month I will talk about some of the positive ways parents can use smart phones.

Previous                                                                               Next