In today’s newspaper was an article that caught my attention. The title was: “Plugged-in parents may be alienating their own kids.” The article was from the New York Times; it began with the following incident:
“While waiting for an elevator at the … Mall near her home in Virginia recently, Janice Im, who works in early-childhood development, witnessed a troubling incident between a young boy and his mother.
“The boy, who… was about 2 ½ years old, made repeated attempts to talk to his mother, but she wouldn’t look up from her BlackBerry.
“He’s like, ‘Mama? Mama? Mama?’ And then he starts tapping her leg. And she goes, ‘Just wait a second. Just wait a second.’
“Finally, he was so frustrated, that “he goes, ‘Ahhhh!’ and tries to bite her leg.”
The article goes on to say that MIT has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. They found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread.
Near the end of the article the author took another tack: Parents who pay attention to their children, talking and explaining things to them, and responding to their questions “remain the bedrock of early childhood learning.” Parents who supply a language-rich environment for their children help them develop a wide vocabulary, and that helps them learn to read.
The question posed at the end of the article was whether the parents’ use of smartphones, (and other technologies that employ screens) etc. will be a detriment to their children’s intellectual development.
My reaction was: While the child’s intellectual development is a legitimate concern, I think the child’s “feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition” should be the deeper concern. The little boy becoming frustrated and trying to bite his mother, demonstrates that when this parent ignores her child’s repeated entreaties, the impact on the child is a profound psychological and emotional one. That is scarier than anything. And heart-breaking.
Another thought: the parent who is addicted to the various technologies may need “intervention” to get them back in touch with real life… and their most valuable possession—their child.