TALK WITH ME!!!!!!!!
OK, I am a parent so I get it! I get that the days can get VERY long raising children! We all need a break to recharge our mental and physical batteries. No matter if we are caring for our children as a stay-at-home parent, single parent, working full or part-time, etc. there is always mayhem raising kids. This is why the quiet moments when there is opportunity to communicate with one another should not be taken for granted.
I am not a judger and firmly believe we all have a right to parent our own way, but it infuriates me when I am out for a meal and look around and see so many parents staring down at their mobile devices when they could be chatting it up with their kid(s). This pains me to watch not only as a mom, but also as a speech-language pathologist. How annoying it must be for the child when he/she is sitting across from his/her parent eager to talk and all he/she sees is the top of a head! Surely I am not the only one to witness this all-too-common behavior and have these feelings so I will simply just add to the conversation; one I have spent countless hours talking about with other parents and colleagues lately.
I was recently out to lunch eating solo with extra time to sit and observe and watched a little boy who was trying to get his mom’s attention. He called out “Mom” 20 times (I counted) before she looked up and said “What do you want to say?” He then replied, “Forget it mommy.” As his calls out to her became louder and louder, I had to use every ounce of restraint not to tap Mom to tell her to look up.
Kids are losing out on so many communication opportunities these days. Whether the child is just starting to babble, a preschooler, school-age, in high school… it does not matter! The baby is missing out on the eye contact and inflectional models of the parent babbling back. The preschooler is missing out on building vocabulary and appropriate back-and-forth conversation skills. The school-aged child is missing out on improving higher level language skills (sarcasm, idioms, etc.) and the teenager is missing the opportunity to actually communicate his/her emotions and not be passive behind texts.
A lot has changed since graduating with my Master’s in speech-language pathology 15 years ago! Of course I want to be part of the progressive technology movement, especially the advances in higher tech augmentative & alternative communication (AAC) systems to assist those who lack verbal communication abilities. We have come SO far in this arena since I completed my Master’s thesis in 2000 which researched the topic of AAC. I love technology when it does not override opportunities to improve communication skills verbal or nonverbal.
Again, I am not judging, but I can’t think of ONE good reason any parent or caregiver can give me as to what positive benefit this behavior has on a child’s communication development or emotional bonding. It is detrimental on so many levels. If I was a child with a parent glued to the phone, the biggest thing I would feel is that I am not as important as the phone; my words have no importance or worth. How sad.
My kids are now age 7 and 11, in school full-time. After activities and homework, there is little time left to connect with one another. When they were little this phone frenzy was just starting so I did not have access to it as an outlet when I was about ready to lose my mind with my kids fighting at restaurants and at wits end being a full-time stay-at-home at the time. It would have been super easy to disconnect and read my phone, text, e-mail just to tune it all out. Back then and now though, there is a time and a place for that, but while at a table in a restaurant with a child eager to be with you and talk with you should not be one of them.
Even now that I do have access to all the new features of my phone and could check it every minute, especially owning my own practice with 8 employees often working remotely, I don’t. In fact, I go off the grid a lot, especially on the weekends turning off my phone all weeknights and on Sundays. I could be connected every single second of every single day, but it is a mindful choice not to be. I realize this goes against the grain because everywhere I look people are on their phones but I am not a conformer and know that because of this conscious effort, the relationships I have with my kids, husband, and the meaningful relationships in my life are richer and deeper. Yes, people get annoyed when they can’t reach me right away, but those who know me well, know this is how I roll.
I am grateful my kids do not see me looking at my phone all the time, especially when time is carved out to spend with them and connect emotionally and communicatively. We play Uno, chat, draw, do word searches, etc. It is a standing rule in our family that no form of technology is allowed at the table at home or when we are out to eat. Yes, the days are long, but these years are oh so short. Why waste them staring down from my kids?