Distracted parenting and cyber technology

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Sharon Cindrich is an author and blogger on eParenting at www.PluggedInParent.com

Sharon Cindrich is an author and blogger on eParenting at www.PluggedInParent.com

Recently,  New York Times ran a timely piece by Julie Scelfo, “The risks of parenting while plugged in”.  This article prompted me to inquire with eParenting expert, Sharon Cindrich. This is her reply:

Distraction, alone, is the biggest hazard. Time can fly when you’re online, and it only takes a few minutes for a young child to get into a dangerous situation when they are unsupervised.

Probably the most common hazard and least considered is the behavior influence that parents have on their child when they use technology.

Children will model their parents’ behavior, and moms and dads who are constantly on the computer, bringing technology to the dinner table, driving and talking on the phone, playing violent video games instead of playing outside are sending strong messages to their kids.

While parents may have legitimate reasons for an occasional cell phone call that interrupts dinner or an afternoon working on the computer instead of enjoying a family vacation, habits that put technology first threaten parent-child communication and set an example for tech use that children will follow.

This is tough for every family today because family life is so saturated with technology. But, I am very solutions driven and so I suggest parents use their own tech-behavior as an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of balance. And it’s also great for parents to be honest about how hard that can be.

It’s okay to say, “I’ve been on the computer too long tonight – I missed our family time” and help kids recognize that while everyone occasionally lets technology get the best of their time, the goal should be to follow some boundaries and limits for the sake of healthy minds, bodies and relationships.

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Parents and kids can help each other, too. When a parent is spending too much time on the computer, let the child set a timer on the stove or his watch for 15 more minutes to help a parent wrap things up. Parents and kids can find creative ways to sync their tech time together – mom answering email messages for 30 minutes while Jr. plays some video games – and set a timer that signals everyone to get unplugged for the day.

Talking on the phone while driving can compromise your  family’s safety and I think this is the biggest and most common hazards for families. When a phone rings while a parent is driving, let the child take a message.

Photo:Stevendamron (Flickr) Parents distracted with cyber tech pose risks to their children

Photo:Stevendamron (Flickr) Parents distracted with cyber tech pose risks to their children

Below is an excerpt from a Plugged In Parent column on the topic of addressing this issue with other parents who may be driving your child.

Use discretion. Avoid starting the conversation in front of the children in the carpool or when everyone is pressed for time before school. Make time one evening or weekend to call your fellow parent and explain your concerns.

Use your own experience.
If you’ve recently changed your own habits, share your experience with your fellow parents. “I used to talk on the phone in the car, but I’ve stopped since reading the new statistics.”

Use Oprah.
Recently, Oprah featured a powerful show on the dangers of cell phones and driving. Use the show as a launching pad for a discussion on the topic with fellow parents, visit the show’s website to see clips from the episode and download a pledge to stay phone-free while driving.  Learn more about the No Phone Zone campaign at Oprah.com/nophonezone.

Use the law. Many states have bans on hand-held devices and texting. Other restrictions may be placed on different types of drivers (bus drivers or new drivers) or locales (cities, schools areas or construction zones). Learn more about cell phone bans at Distraction.gov.

Use your best judgment.
If you feel parents who drive your child are too distracted by their cell use, find an alternative way. While it can be difficult to find a new carpool or drive your own child every day, it is much easier knowing they have arrived safely and your conviction on the subject will provide a model for their future behavior.

Sharon’s books:

A Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet: How to Connect with friends, find what you need, and stay safe online (American Girl Library)

E-Parenting: Keeping up with your tech savvy kids

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Style: How to have fun with fashion, shop smart,and let your personal style shine through

Contact Sharon: http://www.pluggedinparent.com/

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.