by Donna Prunkl
The six-year-old whirlwind thrashed about the room in a rage of tears. My mother would have termed it a “hissy fit.”
“I want to go with Mommy,” she wailed over and over. “Why can’t I go with her?”
As a sitter I’ve learned it’s best to say nothing and wait it out. When they wind down, I distract them.
“She doesn’t play with me,” the distraught girl sobbed! “All she does is look at her phone!”
I know the family, and I know this child is cherished, but her resentment was real and raw.
The accusation smarted. My grandson recently made a similar declaration. I talked to my daughter who accused me of overreacting. After all, she needed her phone for work, and as a single parent, the connection to her friends and game apps were stress relievers.
A fork in one hand, phone in the other
It had become more. At meals she had a fork in one hand, her phone in the other. While helping with homework, while grocery shopping, even while driving the kids, it was always the same. My daughter had joined the one-armed mothers, gripping a cell phone in one hand, while juggling her domain with the other.
Multitasking? Maybe. But how many tasks can you manage successfully with your eyes on a tiny screen, your ears attuned for a bleep and your thumbs pecking away?
What must kids do to get their parent’s attention? In my experience, they talk louder, tug harder and act out bolder. Or, if they’re not strong willed, they give up and dive into their own electronic devices or diversions.
What is the long-term impact on children?
Dr. Jenny Radesky, a behavioral pediatrics researcher, talked about the consequences for children in an NPR interview. “By watching us they [children] learn how to read other people’s facial expression. And if that’s not happening, children are missing out on important development milestones,” said Radesky. What do unemotional, distracted responses teach? How do our children learn to interact socially, to judge reactions and to share ideas if they are not modeled?
I’m not a technophobe. I love my iPhone and check it often except when sharing time with family and friends. It’s a choice.
Give your children a gift—your undivided attention. Turn off your cell phone and turn on to them. Then talk to your friends about setting limits and text-free zones during family time. And look into your children’s eyes; they speak volumes.
This Throwback Thursday blog first ran in March 2014 and was written by Donna Prunkl, then-editor of Carolina Vine, the newsletter of the North Carolina Synodical Women’s Organization of Women of the ELCA.