I cannot sugarcoat this: Cell phone attendance in my home is fervid.
The hubs’ phone is usually busy keeping him connected to the company at all times. In my possession, my phone is in action retrieving visual memories and story ideas and quick links to my social media accounts, not to mention one of the only branches linking us to family living in other states.
Mommy’s phone also works as Jrue’s diversion representative and as Jai’s chew toy.
The kids’ smartphone involvement was initially unintended and is now unavoidable. I don’t run from that and attempt to find a daily balance across all parties within reason. As many mothers, I dreamt up the phantasm that “active mom” meant staying locked into the needs of my children around the clock. This can translate to “My children won’t watch television or play on the phone or on video games because we’ll be too busy with calendars of activities and outside fun.”
So. That got old quickly. I am wiser.
If I allow Jrue to borrow my phone to watch videos, I can bet that I won’t see the phone again for quite some time if I do not cap his consumption. The videos he gawks at? A woman loudly sticking balloons with her bright red, claw-like fingernails. A “Peppa Pig” edit where the baby brother pig keeps crying repeatedly. A little boy with his own channel who shows off how to play with different toys. A man opening pieces of chocolate, then wildly throwing the chocolate all over a white table. Unnamed hands…so many hands…working their ways through hundreds of pieces of foil-covered candy or popping open colorful plastic eggs. And “Mommy Finger, Mommy Finger, Where Are Yooooou…” Every variation of it.
Oftentimes, I just stare at the squawking cacophony of it all.
If Jai steals my phone, it is invariably to stare into the light. Her little fingers provoke the motion of scrolling or her foot/thigh/bottom somehow leave an indelible body print on the screen before she lovingly plugs the rubber case into her probing lips. If Jrue is watching some kind of episode, she will tune in over his shoulder for a baby-appropriate span of time before disinterest sets in.
I am surrounded. I surrender to technology.
Screen time allotment has become an increasingly contentious topic as smartphone innovation advances, much like corporal punishment,”crying it out,” and other similar strategies. Scientific citations warn of cancer risks and developmental delays and attention problems, and parents are left sifting through what’s real versus what’s unreliable. Naturally, with constantly evolving engineering, and ever-enhanced phone features, the same warnings that remain regarding television and computer screen time for younger children exists for phones, too: “Generally, don’t do it.”
Tell that to our lifestyles. We are a screen-driven society.
Allowing (or disallowing) our children to look at a cell phone screen has become a newer reflection of parenting preference, and parents are frequently criticized one way or the other.
In her article “Babies Using Cell Phones: Not Great, But It’s Happening,” writer Ellen Seidman discusses findings from a survey that highlights reasons why parents may turn over their phones to their children. “. . .There’s this thing called real life. Many parents let children use their devices for practical reasons; 73% of parents in the survey said they let their kids play with mobile devices while they were doing household chores, and 65% did so while running errands.”
In this manner, the cell phone serves as a temporary instrument of entertainment and not as a babysitter, as was the main concern many invoked with television technologies. She further explains a potential scenario in the article: “When a parent is waiting on a long line at the supermarket or Target, a toddler is getting antsy, and none of the usual stroller toys are helping, handing over a phone for a bit seems like a perfectly reasonable, sane thing to do.”
I will admit: From a distance, this can appear as promoting a growing addiction to the constant stimulation computers bring. In a worldly way, we are teaching our children how to avert boredom, but mostly in the scheme of a fresh dusting of powdered sugar atop a bowl of lollipops. To deny a child a cell phone is to possibly invite embarrassment on the parent, bringing around more uninvited critique from others.
We’re judged for handing over the phone to the child. We’re judged for repressions stemming from refusing the child phone usage.
Can we win?
What contributes most to the current phenomenon with children and cell phones is society’s overall increasing reliability on our devices…and our children noticing it and mimicking it. “Since babies see their parents using their phones and iPads all the time, it’s hard to resist letting them look, or to use them as a pacifier,” says Heidi Evans of the New York Daily News.
The safety of our children while on a cell phone is in the unknown block, too. Because trends are so new, we have not reached the point in history when we can identify benefits or harms involving our dependability on our devices; therefore, we are mostly stuck with what we think may occur based on children’s natural learning curves and needs at certain life stages. It is, indeed, scary.
Unfortunately, until we arrive at a universal place of solace when it comes to cell phone operation, parents should feel free to make individual rules, for their own children, in their own homes. As a society, we need not rush to particularly unfair opinions concerning children on cell phones.
Maria Guido, Senior News Editor for Scary Mommy, supports the notion that parents, particularly mothers, should not be expected to be fully engaged with their children for 24 hours, 7 days of the week. “When did we make the collective decision that parents need to be staring lovingly at their children all day or they’re horrible people? The collective shaming. . .gets. . . hilarious, considering that everywhere you go, there is always someone looking down at their phone.”
One thing is for certain: Cell phones aren’t going away; our children will eventually own them. We have to find some peace in sticking to a “for” or “against” or midline, but solid parenting decision about our phones and only hope that we’re not creating monsters.
Evans, Heidi. “Toddlers may be at risk from technology, warn experts as new study shows use soars by diaper set.” New York Daily News, Apr. 7 2014, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/toddlers-risk-tech-experts-study-shows-soars-article-1.1747694. Accessed Mar. 2, 2017.
Guido, Maria. “It’s Time We Stop Expecting Parents To Engage With Their Kids 24/7.” Scary Mommy, n.d., http://www.scarymommy.com/parents-on-phones/. Accessed Mar. 2, 2017.
Seidman, Ellen. “Babies Using Cell Phones: Not Great, But it’s Happening.” Health.com, Apr. 30, 2015, http://www.health.com/family/babies-using-cell-phones-not-good-but-its-happening. Accessed Mar. 2, 2017.