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Finding time to unplug

7/13/2012 8:00:00 AM

A while ago, NBC aired a Dateline special entitled The Perils of Parenting. It included some poignant comments from kids on how they felt when their parents were constantly plugged-in to their iPhones and BlackBerrys:

She’s always on her smartphone. It’s sooo annoying!”

I hate it when he’s talking on his cell. It makes me feel sad.”

“She likes her iPhone more than me.”

The age of the kids in question? Between 4 and 7-years-old.

Of course, most of the parents were shocked when the children’s comments were played back to them. “I had no idea it bothered my child so much” was the response heard over and over again.

Not only do kids feel neglected when we spend too much time on our phones and laptops but they are also learn that these devices are indispensable. Why do so many kids want a cell phone when they are not even out of elementary school? Because they see how vitally important phones are for adults. Why do you see so many kids in restaurants playing on iPhones and handheld gaming devices? Because they see their parents doing the exact same thing.

There was also a segment about the growing problem of young people texting while driving. The teens interviewed on the program said they learned that behavior from their parents as well!

Author and child expert Dr. Michelle Borba says it’s becoming essential for parents to take a hard look at their plugged-in lifestyles and make sure that they are not disengaging from their own families. It’s particularly important for younger children, who need the constant reassurance of a strong parent-child relationship.

Dr. Borba suggests a number of ways we can make sure we are not putting technology before our kids:

  • Give yourself an online check-up. Check your cell phone and e-mail records to assess your daily online habits. Be honest with yourself. Understand how much time you are spending with technology instead of your family.
  • Ask your kids. Have the courage to ask “Am I too plugged-in?” Ask your kids for suggestions as to how you can connect more as a family.
  • Create “sacred times”. Kids say that family meals, school activities, sporting events and after school pick-up are when they are most bothered by their parents’ technology dependence. Declare them sacred times, when all gadgets are turned off and put aside.
  • Tune in to signals. Each child will have a unique way of letting you know when you are spending too much time plugged-in. Do they misbehave more whenever you are on the phone? Do they grab your iPhone or try to unplug your computer?
  • Don’t text and drive! This is an area where a bad example can kill. Unplug when you are behind the wheel.

Do you have suggestions on how parents can unplug? Share your thoughts with The Online Mom!

Comment by Roland, posted 9/13/2012, 10:28 AM:

Great Article! So very true. Just as you said, children see their parents under the spell of cell phones & computers and they hate it at first but then then turn out just the same. I am in the senior <a href="http://www.dependone.com">emergency alert system</a> industry and in fact, elderly people feel the same way as children age 4-7 do. Seniors want to spend time with their kids and talk with them but most of the time they have to just check their e-mail real quick or respond to a text. Thanks
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