Opinion

Parents need to focus on their children, not their phones

"Their little baby may be sitting up looking at them adoringly, but there is a barrier - their smartphone."

Some of the saddest sights that I have recently seen have been young mothers in their gorgeous activewear, pushing their babies along in those amazing high tech pushers that they all seem to have nowadays. Striding along, their little baby may be sitting up looking at them adoringly, but there is a barrier. Yes, it’s a rectangular object called a smartphone which is absorbing Mum’s attention.

Recently I witnessed a near miss event as a young mum pushed out the pram over the curb with her toddler in tow. She had her eyes glued to her phone, and the toddler ran ahead. She did not even see him but luckily I did, and slammed on the brakes. She had the temerity to glare at me, yet she was the one at fault. I just feel sad when I see a baby or small child smiling at it’s parent and engaging their attention, only to be superseded by a piece of technology.

They will grow up thinking that it is ok to be remote and removed from people by dividing your attention into two.

I will state straight up that I love my smartphone. It is one of the handiest gadgets that I have ever owned, but I will not allow it to rule me or my relationships. There are a few unspoken rules that most of my friends and me seem to stick to. When we’re catching up, the phone may be nearby, but we are there to talk to each other face-to-face, so looking at the phone is a distraction.

However, most of us will check if it rings to see if the call is important, and if not, will tell the caller that we will ring back later. My iPhone takes great photos, and it has Google Maps which have got me to some pretty strange places. Siri in the car is very handy when I need to find a shop nearby, or she will let me know what time the movie starts or that I have a call coming through on Bluetooth.

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I can check out whether a shop has what I need, and if I have an accident there is an app which will tell the emergency services what blood-type I am and who to contact, and where my location is if I am isolated somewhere. I can do a quick bank balance check up when I’m shopping, and use it to find things at the supermarket. I can check up emails if I need to, and so much more. Google is very handy when you need to find out information in a hurry.

However, I will not let it rule me or my relationships. It is a tool which makes my life easier. When I am with my friends or grandkids, or when I am driving, I will not let it take my attention away from what is essential to my life. Our time with grandkids is sometimes fleeting, and also time with friends and family is hard to find, so I don’t want to sabotage it with having my attention taken away from what is really important – and that is relationships and undivided time where I engage with people. It is time where we actually disengage from technology and focus on the here and now.

I notice that it is mainly young people who are the worst offenders, walking along the street not looking where they are going and with their heads bent forward getting ‘text neck’. The next generation of physios and chiropractors will make a bomb from the posture problems that are a result of the overuse of technology.

Then there are the couples who are sitting at a cafe, and instead of looking at each other, they are both looking at their smartphones. It just seems so sad to me. They are together but really quite alone as the phone absorbs their attention. And then the addiction can even kill, especially when a phone is used whilst driving, as our rising road toll statistics will tell us.

What do you think? Can you live without your smart phone, or do you find it a useful tool to stay in touch? What rules do you have in place when with friends and family?

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