Parenting can be a lonely business, guys, especially when you are parenting toddlers and babies. Also it can get crazy boring. Sure, there will be moments in your day as a parent when you will experience a sort of mini-Utopia, when your darling little one will do something so unexpected or sweet or brilliant or hilarious that you might think, Yep, best decision I ever made. But sometimes you need a little break. Enter smartphones, and the golden age of connecting. While many parents enjoy taking a little mini break by texting, a study found that texting while parenting makes parents cranky, and negatively affecting their children.
The study by the Boston Medical Center, which came out in 2014, found that parents who spent a lot of time on their phones, absorbed with emails and apps and texting, were not engaging with their kids in a positive way. The kids in the study felt like they had to compete with technology for their parents' attention, and in some cases felt neglected. Dr. Jenny Radesky, of the developmental-and-behavioral pediatrics at the Boston Medical Center, decided with her colleagues to surreptitiously observe the way children were interacting with adults in a fast food restaurant. They sent in investigators, who observed 55 groupings, and paid attention to the co-relation between a child's behavior and how frequently the adult was checking their phone.
The goal of Dr. Radesky's study, who specializes in counseling parents about children's behavioral issues, was the get a realistic, unbiased look at how distracted parents were when on their phones. And the data proved to be pretty grim. According to the study, one poor kid tried to reach over and lift his mom's face away from her tablet without success. Another mom kicked her kid under the table for trying to take her attention away from her phone. Dr. Redesky told Time:
“What stood out was that in a subset of caregivers using the device almost through the entire meal, how negative their interactions could become with the kids."
Radesky went on to say that there was very little interaction between parents and children, and in some cases "harsh or negative interaction" between caregivers and the children.
So I think it's fair to say that totally ignoring your kids while texting is not exactly #parentinggoals. But parenting, like everything else in the world, is all about moderation. You need to pay attention to your child's needs, obviously, but you also need to take care of you. Devoting every ounce of your energy to another person is exhausting, and sometimes taking a little "time out" from parenting to text is pretty much the only break you're going to get (unless someone offers you a spa day. Never, ever say no to a spa day).
Here is my brilliant suggestion as a mom of four big, giant boys who still (mostly) love me: go to the park. Sit on a bench with a coffee. Let your kids play on the swings, watch them and smile and take pictures of them looking robust and healthy from all the gorgeous fresh air. Then take 10 minutes and scroll through your phone. You'll feel reconnected with Tall People, which is always nice. You're not taking too much time away from your wee one, also nice. Balance, right? It's all about balance.