You Have My Undivided Attention
Being newbie parents, my wife and I still have many questions about parenting. How are we going to discipline? What are our core values? Should we put our kids in preschool? How in the world do you get your child to use the toilet? Complicating matters is the fact that parenting in 2010 seems vastly different than it was 10 years ago. Perhaps the principles and challenges remain the same, but technology has advanced at such a rapid pace that parenting–already a Herculean task–is becoming more and more complicated in an increasingly interconnected world.
For example, we weren’t allowed to have pagers in high school. On long car rides, my sister and I made up games or we sang 99 bottles of beer on the wall. Over and over again. I used to daydream to pass the time when I got bored. Social networking required you to make eye contact and a good first impression. Now, parents are constantly in contact with their kids – just ask any teacher how much the classroom has changed. On long car rides, parents have to decide what DVDs to allow their children to watch. When kids get bored, they’ll use their parent’s iPhone/iTouch or whip out their own. And parents now need to monitor not only the friends that their children meet in person, but also the friends they meet online.
An interconnected, technologically advanced world definitely has its benefits, but is a parent who is constantly connected and using technology a good thing?
Last week, I was listening to Science Friday’s program: Multitasking. I also read some related articles: The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In, and Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price. As is often the case with me lately, I learned a lot of new information but still have very few conclusions.
I did however, reach a resolution: to give my undivided attention to whoever I am with.
When the iPhone was released, I drooled. When the price was lowered, I drooled more. I’ve been using Macs since my first Performa and my cousin’s hand-me-down PowerBook 100, so I am admittedly a bit of a fanboy. But with a child on the way, a $300 phone wasn’t a priority. Since it was my last birthday sans child, my wife wanted to spoil me, so she got a bunch of our friends together and they bought an iPhone for me. My wife later said the look on my face was well worth the cost.
Two years later, my wife now dislikes my iPhone, which she has coined my iFriend. And in some ways, it has become a friend. It made sure I woke up in the mornings or didn’t oversleep for something important. It helped me find my way when I’ve gotten lost (no more stopping for directions!). It steered me away from terrible restaurants. It saved me money by allowing me to do price comparisons in store. It told me what was going on in the world today. It updated me on what my friends were up to and showed me photos. It played games with me when I was bored and passed the time quickly at the MVA or in long lines. It looked up movie times for me. So yeah, my iFriend and I had a pretty good relationship.
So much so that my wife often accused me of being addicted to my iFriend, which I’ll deny. Other people use their iPhones or Blackberries much more than me; I even have Push notifications turned off. But I can’t deny that my attention is divided.
When I was courting my wife, she had my undivided attention when we were together. Heck, even when I wasn’t with her, I was mostly thinking about her. After all, I had a huge uphill battle after once saying, “I could never date someone like you.” But now, in the middle of a conversation with her, I’m curious if a friend has replied back about big plans that we are making for an upcoming trip. While waiting somewhere with her, I’m curious about the day’s news – we’re both just staring off into the distance as we wait for something, so it’s ok to check it right?
I love my apps – though maybe not as much nor am I as prolific as this hip mom. And I love that I can find out what people I’ve met in person and online are up to. But today, I resolve to give my undivided attention to whoever I’m with. If I’m out with friends, I’ll enjoy being with them rather than sharing that I’m with them on Facebook or the Twitterverse. When I’m with my wife, I’ll seek to be as infatuated and wanting to know more about her as I was when we were dating. When I’m with my daughter, I’ll read her books rather than have her read on her own while I play on my iPhone in the same room. When I’m in church, I’ll stop pretending I’m reading my eBible when I’m actually following Twitter updates or Fantasy Football scores.
Will I still use my iFriend? Of course – but only during set times. Technology is wonderful, but investing in the people I’m with is more important to me right now.
Now, undivided attention at work, is a whole different issue. 🙂
How about you? What rules have you instituted in your home? Have you set any limits on technology use for your kids? For yourself?
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