There have been many, many articles about the damage parental cellphone use/screen time has on relationships with children. It stands to reason that a parent who spends the majority of his or her time looking down at a screen is interacting less with her child.
Children absolutely need face-to-face time with adults: Eye contact, conversation, love and social interaction. Adults’ faces buried in screens denies them ready access to that.
So while that makes complete sense, the tendency (as usual) is to take things too far. Nowadays, when a parent needs to — or heaven forbid, wants to — check his or her phone while out in public with a child, they often have to sneak it.
I’ve noticed it a lot lately. The parent will look guiltily around, make sure no one is looking and compose a brief text. Or maybe even a tweet. Or return an email. It’s done furtively, complete with shifty eyes, and then the phone or tablet is quickly hidden again.
Why are parents afraid to blatantly pull out their phones in public?
I wish that everyone would lighten up.
Should parents be constantly staring at screens when their kids are around? I’d argue no. Children thrive on human interaction.
But if the rest of society is allowed to take a break and check email, parents should be allowed to as well.
The truth is, you may think you know what’s going on when the mom pulls out her phone as her toddler sits next to her on the bus. But you have no idea why that mom is on her phone, who she may be interacting with, or what else has happened that day.
Maybe she’s just spent three hours taking her toddler to the playground, running around, chasing and laughing and having a picnic lunch with friends. She makes the trek to the bus stop with her toddler in tow, folds and stores the stroller, wrangles the child into the seat and exhales.
Maybe she pulls out her phone to have a “mommy moment,” and other passengers sneer because she’s ignoring the precious little human seated next to her. Even though they all have their phones or Kindles or iPads or whatevers on too.
She may very well be scrolling through Facebook updates, but most people check Facebook several times a day. Or she may be texting her older daughter to see how her day at school was. Or maybe she’s sending a quick email in to work. You know, for that job that allows her flexible time so that she can go to the playground with her toodler.
My mom is a fabulous mother. She was very present and very available to me as a kid, but not every second of the day. She watched tv, she talked on the phone with her friends and she sometime, just plain told us not to bug her. We weren’t very good at honoring those requests, but the fact is, she wasn’t spending every second of our time together gazing into our eyes, cooing, and talking about life. She did that plenty, and I remember it. But she took breaks too.
So the next time you see a parent look at a screen, try not to gasp in horror. She might just be taking a break, just like your mother probably did.