American Journey

Hey parents, put down the gadgets and pay attention to your kids

Hi folks, I’m wearing my curmudgeon hat today and, as you can see, it’s a little tight so please bear with me.

I was eating breakfast at a diner yesterday when I noticed a cute three-year old boy sitting at the table next to me. He was playing with the little cream containers and then tossing them on the floor. As I usually do when I see toddlers I made goofy faces at him, which is not much of a stretch for me. He was making them right back as he gleefully tossed more cream onto the floor.

Of course his parents were oblivious to all this activity. The mother was yakking on her cell phone, I think the conversation centered around a pair of Uggs she just had to have, while the father was staring at his phone in rapture as he texted away. Here I was, a complete stranger, and I had more interaction with their son during breakfast than they did. Not to sound too old fogey but what is it with this new generation of tech-addicted parents?

It is one thing to see these North Face clad young adults walking around town with their text ready cell phones held out in front of them, as if making an offering to an unseen god. It is quite another to see them morph into parents, but still be as tethered to their gadgets as a junkie to his spoon. In the playground, dads absentmindedly push their kids on the swing with one hand while staring at their screen and texting with the other. Is checking your Facebook status or getting a Tweet from a college drinking buddy more important than interacting with the real live human being right in front of you?

I see mothers jogging with those running strollers. Their child leads the way, delightfully pointing something out in a child’s awed gibberish while mom is oblivious, wrapped in a set of headphones connected to her iPod or nattering away on her ear phone.

It all reminds me of the Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle. You remember that one. The father is always too busy for the son, but as the son becomes a man he is too busy for the father. Chapin wails away at the end, “My boy was just like me.”

Someday these parents will wonder why their kids don’t have time for them and who they learned that from. Look at the reflection in your shiny Android screen and you’ll have the answer.

So parents, I implore you: unless you are calling in for a medical emergency or a tactical air strike against a nearby terrorist cell, nothing you are doing on the phone is more important than interacting with your child. Take it from someone who was not fortunate enough to have kids of his own, those moments are too precious too squander.

In the meantime, thanks for listening. Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled blog.

Quality time of the future?

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About Michael

This blog has a mix of some of my main interests in life: travel, politics, food and generally being a curmudgeon. Enjoy.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Hey parents, put down the gadgets and pay attention to your kids

  1. I once watched a father and son in a restaurant. They ate an entire meal, the father on his cell and the son playing a video game. There was no interaction. I’ve started to think that electronic devices should be regulated like cars. You can’t use one until you pass a test, showing knowledge of basic curtesy and use limits. Then, if you are seen in violation, your get a ticket. The first rule is NO phone when driving (hands free/feet free included). The second is NO phone in use when with children. Then there are 100 other rules.

    Posted by lifeintheboomerlane | March 19, 2011, 12:29 pm
  2. So true! Whenever I meet someone with a new baby, Itell them to treasure every moment (even the crying ones) because they grow up too soon. My own children were delightful that I sometimes wish that I could go back in time and relive the moments.

    Posted by Mickey Finn | March 20, 2011, 9:32 am
  3. Maybe the parents who seemed to be ignoring their toddler at the diner while furiously texting were actually calling the police about the weird stranger making faces at their kid!

    Posted by mapleman | March 20, 2011, 9:46 am
  4. I couldn’t agree more! We are traveling the world as a family, so live a digital life..BUT we don’t have use a cell phone ( except for long winter stays ONLY so our neighbors can call us) and we purposefully avoid a smart phone/ crackberry etc because we do not want to be tethered to anything. Nor do we want to teach our child such ( do you know how many smart phone apps there are for toddlers??).

    Unplugging is one of today’s greatest pleasures.

    Posted by Jeanne @soultravelers3 | March 25, 2011, 9:53 am
  5. I wouldn’t say that I use cell phone or any other techy device to take the place of parenting with my son, but he and I do share the same cell phone company. It was actually one of the only “cool” things he and I have done together recently (according to him) when we went to Walmart and picked out his Straight Talk prepaid phone – his first. I got a baic little $30 LG flip phone and it included his first month’s service and he couldn’t have been happier, but with the phone came rules I even put on myself. No talking or texting after 7 on weekdays and 5 on weekends – that’s family time.

    Posted by Janice | March 27, 2011, 3:57 pm
  6. Realizing that if one is reading this, I am probably “preaching to the choir”
    Nonetheless I have two points: One I see too many families driving around town and their dvd players are on….we are not talking about long road trips here…..PARENTS REALLY…use the time to talk, inquire, sing. or even “lecture” your children…But pay attention to them; dont plug them in.
    Second, I recently watched a young mom walking down my street with her toddler. The little girl was jabbering about something-everything, but the mom wasnt even paying attention….she was on her cell phone. So very sad! You miss so much good stuff doing that.

    Posted by MW | May 20, 2012, 11:25 pm
  7. My son is almost two and a total monkey boy. It would be so dangerous for me not to watch him at the playground. Plus, I enjoy him so much. We were blessed with a happy, chatty little boy. He already makes jokes. I would hate to miss any more of that than I have to. When you factor in that most of these parents probably work outside of the home, this gets too sad.

    Posted by Naomi | August 17, 2012, 9:27 pm

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