Today, after listening to a presentation by Dr. Mark Summerson, keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by the Palouse Coalition for Early Learning, I really found myself wondering about the impact of social media, smart phones and tablets on the parent/child relationship. (In fact, it made me wonder about the impact on many relationships we have!) When I left home at age 18 to go to college, and later moved to the USA with my husband, my family did not even have a home phone. Communication was via letters. So, do I love social media? Absolutely! I see photos of my great nieces and nephews on an almost weekly basis, I find out almost immediately when a new baby is born, I can commiserate with my niece who has been up all night with a sick toddler. I feel connected.
Yet, this connection also can have a down side, too. When I am physically with some one, and that person is checking a phone for status updates or reading texts, I feel ignored, less important than the person sending the text, or posting the photo on facebook. I feel second best. The person I am with is not totally present and engaged with me when checking social media.
I imagined how that must feel to a child, when you are competing for attention with a parent’s phone. What a parent might perceive as spending quality time with a child – at a restaurant for lunch, or at the park, for example – might feel to the child as the parent being busy with his or her phone, while the child amuses himself.
And what about a baby? For thousands of years, moms and babies have gazed at each other in mutual adoration during nursing. This is an important part of the bonding process, of learning to love and trust, of being totally present for one another. How does that change if Mom is gazing at a phone, instead of at her baby? And what are we modeling for our young children about relationships?
I am really just wondering, and hope I don’t come across as preaching. I would just like us all to be mindful of being present with our children, and savoring our time with social media as part of our ‘me’ time, and I hope we can avoid the constant interruptions to our family time that can occur if we allow ourselves to respond to every text message and facebook post.