So…I caved in (to myself) and bought an iPhone today. Nothing major in that, you might think – just another shilling in the coffers of Apple who already bought my soul several years ago with their beautiful laptops and music machines. But, while I am like a child on Christmas Day, browsing the app store for free goodies, I also feel a sense of unease at the way this will (probably inevitably) further affect my parenting.
My son already makes a face when I open the laptop. It’s not as if I’m constantly on it either, or totally leaving him to be brought up by CBeebies (early mornings and illness notwithstanding). My brain already feels split several ways, my concentration span down to seconds instead of minutes, and I worry that the convenience of the iPhone (and its insistent buzz when a new email comes in) may tip me over the edge.
It doesn’t help that I’m self-employed, and need to respond to emails as they might bring with them the promise of riches (or at least some work – I’m not in the right business for riches, sadly). But it’s more than just that. Checking Facebook, Twitter, emails, texts… I consider myself a pretty moderate user of social media, but I don’t think my kids will see it that way. (“Don’t give me that look! Don’t you know that most people check their phones, like, waaay more often than me”. Yup social media takes years off you. In maturity, sadly, not crows feet or stretch marks).
I know I’m not the only mother of young children who is connected to the internet via a number of devices. (phones, laptops, I mean. Not a robotic arm). And I wonder how this new generation whose parents are ever-distracted, twitching when they hear the beep of an incoming message during a debrief about their day at preschool, or taking phone calls during bath time “because it could be important”, will develop.
Parenting experts have long told us that the most important thing we can give a child is attention. Bad behaviour, for example, is simply a ploy to make us spend more time with them. Flexible working means that many parents can work from home or manage their days around the school run or other childcare commitments. But when they are there in body, are they really there in spirit? I know I am guilty of “just checking my emails” while the kids are otherwise engaged. And I think that’s ok. But I can see that the lines between work (in my case) and time with the kids will become increasingly blurred. I may be multitasking pretty damn efficiently, and the emails will get answered promptly. But at what cost to my family life?
OK, I’m not a moron. I know I can turn the bloody thing off, and commit to only checking it every hour or so when I’m with the kids. I will probably end up doing something along those lines. But all of this takes up a lot of space in my head. Planning, negotiating with myself. Like an alcoholic who thinks he has his drinking under control, but spends every minute counting down until the next glass, so my brain, which could be much more productively employed, will be making deals with myself about using my phone. Not so much that I’m ignoring the kids. Enough to do my job and make it worth having bought it in the first place.
If anyone has any suggestions as to how to manage living with technology in the 21st century and being a good parent, please let me know in the comment box below. Or you can email me. Or Facebook me. Or send me a tweet…