Friday, June 11, 2010

Distracted parenting: more discussion on why gadget-free time is important

Profiled in a second article in the NYT, Sherry Turkle, a research at MIT, has been looking into the impact of ubiquitous technology on parenting, family and social interactions. Her findings: It's not just teenagers that are shutting out the world that's right in front of their faces to text, videochat, or Facebook; it's their parents too. The effects are measurable: many less words spoken from parent to child, far less positive interactions when devices like cell phones are available.

It's normal and useful for a busy parent to be able to check in at work or to have a non-parenting outlet that smartphones and laptops can provide during long days at home with the kids. But there has to be balance and we, as parents, have to be vigilant about our own "addictions" and bad habits. Dinner and meal times, at the very least, should be gadget-free zones. One of the key reasons, I think, that family dinner is so important is the dialogue and discussion among family members. Future research may be able to point to reasons why this is: it might be the actual number of word spoken during a meal, or the opportunity for exchange on critical matters, like grades or family values, or it may be the role-modeling and negotiations that occurs at the table. We are not really sure what it is that works about family dinner, but there is evidence that cell phones, TV, computers can shut that all down.

Sherry Turkle's new book "Alone Together" will be out next year.
The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In. Julie Scelfo, NYT, 06.0910

This topic has been covered before, of course:
iphones, blackberries? Why the parent in you should put them down, Alice Kaltman, A Child Grows in Brooklyn, 4.28.10
Bad Mommies Use Cell Phones. Rhoda Kaysen, Momlogic, 10.06.09

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