By Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK
The weather's warmer and the parks are full of birds chirping, flowers blooming, and kids running and laughing. And moms on iPhones. Wait, what? Yesterday when I took my kids a nearby playground, I did a quick count of all the parents using their phones. With each kid I've birthed I've lost IQ points but I'm fairly confident in my math this time: 100%. Whether those moms and dads were just checking the weather to see if those ominous green clouds meant a tornado or if they were tweeting about the RHONJ I'll never know but I do understand the allure of having e-mail, texting, blogging and Angry Birds right at your finger tips. While we often fret about how much time our wee ones are spending glued to screens big and small, we don't talk about how much us moms do it. Especially when we're with our kids.
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It's a fine line to walk. On one hand being with small children for extended periods of time can be tedious and stultifying. (Isn't it enough that I watch their soccer games? Must I watch every practice too?? Professional soccer is boring but peewee soccer makes me want to poke my eyes out even if they are my peewees out there.) But on the other hand do we adults really need to be entertained every waking minute? We lecture our children - and each other - about the benefits of boredom for kids. Shouldn't that apply to grown-ups too?
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Tired of not being fully present with my kids, when I upgraded to my current smart phone I purposely did not install any of the apps for gmail, Twitter, WordPress, Facebook or the like. When a friend told me she had just tweeted our picnic lunch and suggested I do the same (joint tweets - the new friendship bracelets!) the pity in her eyes was unmistakable when I told her I couldn't. Lest you think I'm going to get all high and mighty about what an awesome involved parent I am, let me tell you that at home we have 3 laptops and a desktop as well as a Wii and all are connected to the Internet. We're a wired family and I'm perhaps the most so. Not using my phone to catch up on work e-mails was just where I decided to draw the line.
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I'm not the only mom who's conflicted. A recent NY Times article laments superiorly, "I always feel a pang of pity for children who are out in public and looking lonely as their parents direct their full attention at a smartphone screen.The parents are probably texting, playing games or reading Facebook posts. [...] It's possible that those parents are using apps that somehow make a child's life a little better. Not probable, perhaps, but possible." The irony is that the very next article in the Personal Tech section is - and I swear I'm not making this up - "My Blog is Also Paying My Bills" featuring one of the ultimate mom bloggers, Stephanie Nelson (a.k.a. Coupon Mom). Being online is a great way for moms to connect, make friendships, find tools to help their children (Starfall is the sole reason my son started reading before kindy) and, yes, work. And yet I don't want my kids to look back at their childhoods and say, "Was mom there at my 6th birthday party? Oh yeah, she was in the corner live-blogging it."Where do you draw the tech line when you're with your kids?
- When I'm with my kids, the phone goes away. Period.
- I'll text sometimes or check my e-mail but I try to keep those intermittent.
- What keeps me sane, helps my kids too. I love my phone.
- My phone IS a family affair. My kids and I often use it together.Vote here.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.