Writer Steph Thompson wrote Does My Blackberry Make Me a Bad Parent? for Babble earlier this month, and this morning, she copped to her answer on CNN: Yes, yes it does. In the video, she says she was listening to her kids on autopilot, with more of her mind on her email than on their stories of field days, and a CNN reporter describes her as addicted: the Blackberry that makes her constantly available to others is making her unavailable to her children. “Don’t you worry that you’re taking your eye off the ball, so to speak–your child?”
CNN spoke to other parents who admitted to parenting on autopilot, and to Dr. Lori Evans of the NYU Child Study Center, who said kids won’t “feel good” about themselves if parents are constantly asking that they wait just a minute before tuning in. Mercifully, the expert allowed for a middle ground–turn it off for 20 minutes, she suggested, not forever.
I suspect most of us are standing on the middle ground. Our parents didn’t give us their full undivided attention all day long? (Remember tugging at your mom while she talked on the phone? how is that different from taking a minute to check your email before you spend an afternoon at the pool–especially if, without the phone and the email, you’d still be at your desk?) I’d argue (and did) that on balance, our phones help us to be more present parents, not less, even if our physical presence at things like concerts and baseball games that we once might have had to skip is mediated by some moments of mental absence.
But I’m willing to let CNN and Steph Thompson serve as a reminder that staying on the middle ground is the goal. I’ve declared dinner to bedtime an email-free zone, and I’m finding that more focus means less stress at that point in the day–but I’ll probably always check in regularly between nine and five. Has anyone else out there picked a time to unplug? I admit it, both the email and the kids seem to work about better when they’re not combined. If you’re turning off the Blackberry or tucking the iPhone in a drawer for a chunk of your day, when, why–and how’s it working?