On any given day, at any given park – at any given children’s activity – whether sport or pleasure, you are fairly likely to see a bunch of proud parents there to cheer on their kiddos. After all, one of the most important parental jobs is that of a cheerleader (without the pom poms of course), always being there to encourage and empower your children.
Yet lately, there has been a new trend in the parental cheerleading position which has many parents falling down on the job. Rather than watching their children take their first belly flop off of the diving board, hit the grand slam homerun that wins a game, or see their child master the monkey bars for the first time - they are completely absorbed with the mastery of Angry Birds, checking email, or reading the news on their smart phone. In fact, paying attention at your child’s activities (to your child nonetheless) is becoming less and less common.
The fact is that you involve your child in activities, and commit a great deal of your time and energy into getting them there and participating. Yet, once the child ‘gets there’ it seems that parents are checking out, using the time to socialize or disappear into the modern gadgetry of our time. Some parents even call this effective time management. After all, if you have to sit on hard metal bleachers for a few hours to watch your child practice then you might as well use the time wisely to get some of your mundane errands done, right? And being there, and being physically present is much better than simply dropping your kids off for swimming lessons, or to play at the playground and relying upon other people to take care of them in the event of an emergency, isn’t it?
Do you Really Need to Text Right Now?
A recent report from the New York Daily News shows that around 21% of mothers admit to using their smart phones (and other gadgets) even while in the bathroom. If women are using their phones in the bathroom, then honestly – what is to stop them from partaking in social engagement when they are out and about? And, of the over 1,000 mothers surveyed for the report – 87% admit that they don’t feel it is necessary to completely turn off their phone at any time during the day. A media study of mothers conducted indicated that around 89% of all mothers with kid’s ages 0 – 12 are effectively engaged in all aspects of social media. And most of these moms feel limitless in their judgment to remain connected. Moms in particular value the metaphorical ‘me time,’ or sense of escape that is offered by the technology of on the go internet, texting, Facebook and smart phones. And obviously, if you take a look around the next time you are out and about with your child, children’s activities are turning into ‘me time’ opportunities for parents.
Sadly, kids grow up fast. And even sadder, is that many kids realize the stinging competition that they are up against when it comes to their parents technology. Perhaps, one of the reasons so many modern technological gadgets end up being sunk in the toilet by testy toddlers is because the toddlers are trying to make a very strong statement to display their feelings. And when your child finishes a race or competition, or erupts from completing a first time feat with the, “Hey mom and dad, did you see what I just did,” the last thing a parent wants to do is say, “No honey. Could you do it again, I was updating my status on Facebook.” Yet that is exactly what is happening!
Sure, kids shouldn’t need the constant, 100% of the time involvement and praise from parents. Over praising has received as much negativity as spanking in recent parenting trends. At the same time, children do need to feel valued and important. Offering your child a ride somewhere makes you a taxi driver, committing to the activity and staying involved and paying attention – well, that’s what makes you a parent. And at some point you have to ask yourself if stalking your frenemies facebook and twitter statuses while you are out with your child is truly a valuable investment of your time spent with the kids. When it comes to physically being with our kids, quality trumps quantity any day of the week.
You might not think that your child notices. Rest assured, they do. You will never know how many times your child has looked over to the stands to seek your approval, or how many times they have smiled at your or waved if your face is completely glued to a 3 inch LCD screen. While your physical presence is being noted, your emotional absence is being felt.
Obviously, the ‘times are a changing.’ The presence of smart phones and technology on the go will continue to be a part of every day life as time goes on. However, it is important to remember the human factor as well. Far too many people these days are taking more pleasure in their virtual lives than they are in reality. And this could have you missing on some pretty serious moments in your kid’s lives. Moments that cannot be replayed, no matter how much time you spend searching for them on YouTube. As a parent, you need to set yourself limits and boundaries when it comes to using technology at your child’s activities. Strike a balance between using your time watching and waiting wisely, and staying invested in what your children are doing. Learn how to turn off your devices when something important in your child’s life is occurring. This way, you are present – emotionally and physically, for the REAL moments that matter most in the life of your child.