My daughter’s sitting quietly in her car seat, staring out the window. Unusual, because my daughter doesn’t do anything quietly. After a while, she pipes up: “Mum, why weren’t you watching me at swimming?” “I was,” I tell her, “I was sitting on the bench right in front of you.” “No,” she says, “I saw you – you were playing on your phone. All the time.”
That conversation still echos in my ears as the saddest we’ve had in her five years. The next week, I watched. Really watched. She looked up at me constantly. She smiled, waved, gave me the thumbs up. She chased approval, affirmation, attention.
Which is why another mum’s plea for parents to take their eyes off their screens has really hit home. Brandie Wood conducted an “experiment” on her two-year-old twin sons, Blaine and Rylie, to see how often they looked at her for approval or reaction as they played. The result? A staggering 28 times.
“I couldn’t help but wonder if I was on some sort of technology what message would I have been sending?” she writes in a heartfelt Facebook post that has since gone viral.
“(Twenty-eight) times my angels would have wondered if the world wide web was more important than them. 28 times my boys would have not received the attention most adults are searching for. 28 times my loves would have questioned if they were alone emotionally. 28 times my kids would have been reassured that who you are online is what really matters.
“In a world where we are accepted as who people perceive us to be and not who we really are, in a world where validation comes from how many followers or likes we have, in a world where quality time with loved ones is being replaced by isolation and text messages from the other room, I beg you to be different.
“Please put down your technology and spend some time with your family and loved ones. The next generation of children is counting on us to teach them how to be adults, don’t be too busy on social media, you never know who is watching and what message you are sending.”
Her message struck a nerve, with more than 70,000 shares. Later, she wrote: “I’m just happy lots of little ones will be getting more attention because of it! Even though ironically it took posting it online to grab attention!”
She tells Huffington Post that while she is “guilty of being connected to my phone”, her experiment as “humbled me to be more present”. “I think technology should be limited, a healthy balance. Technology is a double-edged sword. It helps and hinders. Everyone should find what works for them. Just being aware will help tremendously.”
Use of technology – both for parents and for kids – is a contentious issue in parenting circles. Recently, we showed you five reasons parents should limit their kids’ screen time. Or there are these disturbing images of what kids look like watching TV. According to one study, kids are even more likely to choose more iPad time over dessert. And that alone is good enough reason for us grown-ups to set a good example by putting down the phones!