“Did you see this ridiculous thing on Facebook?” If you’re anything like me, you probably say something along those lines to your spouse/partner/friend on a daily basis. Most of the time I just roll my eyes and keep scrolling, but yesterday something popped up in my feed that rubbed me the wrong way. You may have seen it – its been around a couple months and shared over 13,000 times. It’s a post called “Dear Mom on the iPhone,” and in a lot of ways it just struck me as…wrong.
Here’s a link to the post, but the gist is that it’s a letter written to a mom at the park who the author believes was neglecting her children in favor of her iPhone. The tone drips with superiority/judgment:
“Your little boy keeps shouting, ‘Mom, MOM watch this!’ I see you acknowledge him, barely glancing his way. He sees that too. His shoulders slump…”
“Now you are pushing your baby in the swing. She loves it… You don’t see her though, do you? Your head is bent, your eyes on your phone as you absently push her swing.”
“You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are.”
I’ll get to the tone of the post in a minute, but that wasn’t the only thing that bugged me. I was also struck by how out of step with the times it seemed. Technology is a part of modern society – technology is a part of modern parenting – and that isn’t a bad thing. Smart phones are just one of the many types of technology that parents use, but they do a lot of good.
One example is that smart phones help keep parents connected when they’re away from the home/office. I remember when I was a kid there were many days when my Dad couldn’t take me anywhere because he couldn’t risk leaving our home office and missing an important call. Nowadays, smart phones free parents to get out into the world and spend quality time with their kids. You think parents are distracted at the park with iPhones? Back in the day parents were way more distracted worrying about what they were missing while pushing their kid on the swing.
Another terrific benefit of smart phones is that they can keep parents in touch with their kids when they’re not with them. When Heather and Annie go somewhere together when I have to work, Heather sends me texts, photos, and videos about what they’re doing. Sometimes we even FaceTime. And when Heather is the one stuck working, I do the same for her. These things help us stay connected to Annie. I’m so thankful that I live now and not back in the day when, once you left for work, you had no real contact with your family until you returned home at the end of the day.
It’s easy to idealize the good ol’ days, but I don’t remember parents being so much more attentive or tuned in when I was a kid. Parents found plenty of ways to distract themselves back then (talking to other parents, reading a book), and they always had a million errands to run which always cut into how long they could stay at the park – errands that today’s parents could take care of with a smart phone.
Okay, so I said I’d touch on the tone of the piece. I didn’t appreciate how it seemed like one big guilt trip… another example of mom (and dad) shaming that happens so much on the Internet. Not using a smart phone at the park doesn’t make you a good parent anymore than using one makes you a bad parent. Being a bad parent makes you a bad parent, and those come in all kinds (thankfully so do good parents).
It should go without saying that if a parent is so addicted to technology that it causes them to ignore their kids, they have a serious problem. But I’ve seen a smart phone in the hand of just about every parent in my circle at one time or another, and I consider all of them to be good (if not great) parents. Having a phone doesn’t mean you’re phoning it in.