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Sunday, November 17th, 2013
I had a sitter the other night who the kids love. But this time they were antsy. Bored. They wouldn’t let me get ready. Emmett wailed when I tried to leave the room.
“Fine, you guys can watch a Super Why,” I said.
Yes, it was the path of least resistance. Yes, it was easier. But according to some new studies, there is a real danger in what I did.
Research is showing that kids who watch a lot of television and play on the iPad, iPhone, etc., are growing up to have “sustained attention” problems. Now before you stop reading and think, “Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this before,” hear me out. There’s some really new–and interesting– information surfacing. You have to remember that middle and high school kids who are growing up with this modern technology are giving us more and more insight into what it all means and the impact it is having. This is important stuff. Here’s the scoop:
When you walk in the door with your phone or text in front of your kid, you are sending a message to them that they aren’t as important (yes, we’ve heard that before). But you’re also sending a message that this device keeps your attention a lot of the time. When’s the last time you sat in the doctor’s office doing nothing while waiting for your name to be called? Or just sat quietly, not on your phone, waiting for your take-out meal to be ready? How many times have you given the phone to your kid at a restaurant because you want to enjoy your meal? I’m guilty on all counts.
All of the above is teaching them that technology soothes. What’s happening is kids are losing the ability to “self-soothe.” They aren’t just sitting still, using their imagination. Kids need to be bored in order to figure out how to become “un”-bored. They need to misbehave to learn how to behave. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that giving them your phone is the wrong thing to do. Have them color or play some sort of game. Or leave and give them a time-out. Yes, your meal gets cut short. It sucks. But giving them a phone when they whine is not in their best interest. Especially as they grow.
The brains of infants through preschoolers begin making deep connections that teach them to use their imaginations and creativity to “soothe” for lack of a better word, when they’re bored. Researchers are now finding that kids who grow up watching television when they’re bored and playing on the computer/iPad, are getting to middle and high school and not being able to complete “boring” assignments. For example, if you have to read a boring book and write a term paper about it, which when I was in school, was a reality, you had to just push on through. Nowadays they are finding kids don’t have that deep connection to even get through the work. So academically many kids are hitting a wall. It’s a wall that apparently could have been prevented if parents hadn’t been so quick to let them watch a lot of television or play on the computer.
It then trickles into the work world. They get a job. They are bored. They quit. The consequences are dire.
My pediatrician gave me some tips.
- Don’t even let your kids see the phone. Put it in your purse or your pocket when you walk in the door.
- If you have to go send some emails, leave the room to do it. Tell them you have some work to do for a few minutes and to entertain themselves.
- When you are with your kids, focus on them during the crucial times. She gave an example: 30 minutes of play, then dinner, bath, book, bed=NO PHONE.
- No more than an hour of television a day.
(I’d say we usually let them watch 1 1/2 hours a day. On weekends more. Yikes).
- No TV for kids under 2 (which I know we’ve heard and has been hotly debated by the American Academy of Pediatricians).
I’ve failed on that and now Em gets excited when Fia gets to watch a show, so I’m not backtracking. What I will do is cut down on the TV she is allowed to watch, so he naturally will, too. And honestly, he watches for about 10 minutes then leaves the room and plays with his cars or something.
The thought of my kids growing up not knowing how to use their imaginations to their full ability because their brains weren’t trained properly is really scary to me. I am not one to sit still and I’m not promising when I’m at the doctor by myself, that I won’t pull out my phone while waiting. But I don’t have to write term papers in 8th grade. My brain development is done. Actually I’d say it’s on the decline judging by my meat fiasco last week. So I take that back: Maybe I should work on sitting still and doing nothing. That’s what my meditation app is having me do. Okay, I’m going to make a commitment to do this.
My guest blogger Joe Deprospero decided to stop playing Words With Friends on this phone because he could feel the distraction it was causing at home. If we each decide to change one part of our technology lifestyle, think of the ripple effect that could have. Especially on our families. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Just tweak.
I did cut down a lot on technology after I wrote about it last year. But this is a good reminder. Anyone else want to join?
Controlling Your Child's Digital Interactions
What do your everyday decisions say about your parenting style? Take our quiz to find out.
Pic of girl on iPad via Shutterstock
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ADD, ADHD, boredom, computer, imaginations, ipad, iphone, sustained attention, technology, technology addiction, video games | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He is the author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
There’s an app for that.
You’ve heard it time and time again, both as a serious suggestion and as a punch line. Want to track your daily caloric intake? There’s an app for that. Want to get locations and ratings on all Italian restaurants within a 20-mile radius? There’s an app for that. Want a constant distraction from your daily life that will serve as both a healthy mind-stimulator and immeasurable impedance on your parenthood and overall productivity? Unfortunately, there are several apps for that. Most are free, but can be quite costly in other ways.
For me, that app is ultra-popular, Scrabble-inspired Words with Friends. Now, before I go any further, I have to be clear that I’m not criticizing or trying to discourage use of this addictive app. I happen to love the game. In fact, I’m obsessed with it to an unhealthy degree. And that obsession got to be too much one particular day while reading a book to my son. Rather, trying to read a book to my son. At the time, I had 21 active games going, and frankly that number would’ve been higher had the app allowed it. And as it turned out, my kids’ bedtime always seemed to correspond with when my opponents were at their most prolific. Naturally. So, I was right in the middle of Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons book when I looked over at my iPhone to check if any plays had been made in the past 45 seconds. Antonio, my son, frustratingly asked, “Daddy, do you ever put your phone away?”
I did put my phone away. That very moment, in fact. I was completely surprised by the question. More importantly, though, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. My son had playfully tried to grab my iPhone out of my hand in the past while I was playing my turn in WWF, but this was the first time he’d verbally expressed disappointment. And it was clear. He thought I cared more about playing some game on my phone than reading to him. That night, after the kids were asleep, I resigned from all my current games and deleted the Words with Friends app from my phone. Considering how addicted I was to it, I even surprised myself at how I was able to do it without the slightest bit of hesitation. But considering how it was starting to make my kid feel, the decision to eliminate it from my life wasn’t difficult in the least.
I won’t lie. I miss playing. Like any part of a daily routine, it had become ingrained in my psyche to the point where any idle moment (and sometimes, not-so-idle moment) was devoted to punishing my opponent with a Triple-Word score. I know there are plenty of people out there who are perfectly capable of striking a healthy balance between their responsibilities and hobbies. But when a hobby becomes so consuming that it’s affecting how your boss, spouse, friends, or especially your children view you, it’s time to walk away. For me, the time had clearly come.
It would be foolish for me to believe that I’m completely in the clear when it comes to distractions. In this day and age, if it isn’t Facebook, it’s Twitter. And if it isn’t Twitter, it’s Instagram. And if it isn’t Instagram, it’s some other social app that’s as attractive to a wandering mind as a fire hydrant to a urinating dog. As parents, our minds need relief more than anybody. But I’ve learned that seeking such relief while your children are awake and in your care is as selfish as it is dangerous.
So, if you have a similar distraction that’s taking you away from something far more important, know that there’s somebody, maybe even one of your children, that have noticed it. And no matter how tempting a Triple-Word score is, no point total is worth ignoring, even for a moment, that very important somebody.
Do you have a habit you’re looking to break? Know someone who does? Let me know about it by leaving a comment below! Or tweet me with the hashtag #appaddict!
And if you are looking for fun activities to do with your kids, check out our free Activity Finder.
* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Monday, August 27th, 2012
I was an ugly baby. At least that’s what my Dad always told me. My mom would say, “Sam, that’s just not true.” But he’d say, “Yes it is. She was red faced and fussy.” This conversation would go on in front of me. But guess what? It was true. At least compared to my brother Kelly who had perfectly rosy cheeks, soft skin, and a sweet temperament.
Fast forward, oh, 40 years, and my slacker brother has a mullet and I’m on TV. So there. Who went from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan? (And yes Kelly, the mullet needs to go. As do the side stripes. The whole look is obnoxious. Snap.)
Hmmmm, which mullet is real? Oh, right, my loser brother’s one in the middle.
My Dad was never trying to be mean. He was illustrating the ugly duckling analogy.
Thing is, I didn’t grow up in the internet age, so this was just a joke within my family. Which brings me to the point of this blog. What the f–k is up with the mean comments about Tia Mowry’s baby? The gist of it is she posted pictures of her baby, Cree, online. A bunch of people started writing in about how ugly he was. Shame on all those idiots. And yes, they are complete a-holes.
But isn’t this the conundrum of the internet age? We have amazing information at our fingertips? We get jobs online? We are able to hold Big Business and Government accountable? But we also take the power bestowed on us to hide behind our keyboards and cut others down. We get to feel important and feed our egos and that primal need “to matter”–all at the cost of cruelty. How sad. Pathetic actually.
At what consequence is this all worth it?
I’ve written before about how we need to check out of our personal technology hell.Our addiction. We are becoming a culture of zombies who scrunch over our phones all day. We ignore our children. We ignore our friends. White and gray matter is shrinking in our brains. But it goes beyond that. A lot of the internet isn’t making us better people. It is making us worse. The Tia story is just one small example of that.
When my editor, Sherry Huang, approached me with this story, she wrote:
What if you’re a cute baby but turn out to be an “ugly” adult? Or what if the “ugly” baby grows up to be a person with a beautiful soul? And what does all this say about us judging people – even innocent babies – by their looks? Babies can’t defend themselves. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – the baby is obviously not “ugly” to his parents. Just the sheer joy of bringing one into the world should be enough.
Now I will say, I got a chuckle out of remembering a conversation my mom and I had before she died. We were wondering, if someone has an ugly baby, do they know it? Or is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? And when you meet someone who has an ugly baby do you say, “He’s so cute?” Or do you just stick to, “Congratulations.” Or, “Cute outfit”. Because let’s admit it: there are some funny looking babies out there.
But that is beside the point. I think we all need to examine what our role on the internet is. What voice do we want to put out there? What are our motivations behind it? Greed, Envy, Ego? Kindness, Compassion, Strength? Because this feeding frenzy of negativity is disturbing and disheartening.
Okay, off my soapbox and back to my brother. He is a climber. Not talking social or career. He’s a real, hard-core Alpinist. Goes around the world climbing mountains of rock and ice. He tests gear for Patagonia and blogs for them. He also has a book deal. But for whatever reason, he chooses to look like a deadbeat. Why? I’ll never know. And it doesn’t matter anyway.
He’s the old guy, second from right, creeping out the young kids in the hot tub. Note the side stripes.
P.S. For the record, I got his permission to say all this. And post his pictures. Plus, I’m not doing this anonymously.
Hot tub picture courtesy of NYT Magazine.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Monday, June 25th, 2012
“Hello. My name is Jill and I am a Blackberry addict.”
Actually, I don’t think I’m as bad as some (we love to justify our bad behavior, don’t we?), but I did decide last week to unplug for a bit. I wrote about my plan (Is My Tech Addiction Making Me a Bad Mom?) and today is the follow-up.
In putting the brakes on my computer and blackberry, here’s what didn’t happen:
- The world didn’t fall apart.
- I didn’t lose out on any jobs.
- I didn’t lose any friends.
- I didn’t miss any important calls.
- I didn’t miss any deadlines.
- I didn’t have crazy mood swings (because I wasn’t checking email and text constantly).
Here’s what did happen:
- I felt focused and present with my babies.
- I felt focused and present with my husband.
- I felt focused and present with my writing.
- I felt focused and present with my life.
- In short: I felt happier. Because I was.
I can see how the addiction creeps up though. I found that after the first couple days of being really disciplined, I’d start to regress. I’d go into the mindset of: “I’ll just check my phone really quick. Just this one time.” It is such a habit I had to be incredibly self-aware and disciplined. I knew that if I just “started to check a few times here and there,” I would be back into full-blown crazy. It’s like a recovering alcoholic just having a “few sips.” It doesn’t work.
After my post I got some great comments from all of you. And not one of you disagreed with how plugged in we are. Universally, everyone had the same take: ie: Guilty of “checking in” with the phone and “checking out” with the kids. One mom said she almost missed her toddler’s first steps. Another says she is thinking of having a “phone basket” by the front door. It’s a place to put their phones when she and her husband come home from work.
My friend Teresa (who got me on this kick) told me to take this a step further. She brought up some excellent points. Not only are we getting scattered and blue checking our phones, but are we also:
1. Modeling behavior for kids who will think interacting involves constant detaching. Are these the kids who will sit at the table with an iPad all the time? Is that okay? In moderation, probably. All the time? No way. (Read fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott’s recent blog about Smartphones becoming the new pacifier.)
2. Sending a message to our kids that other things are more important.
Granted, sometimes other things are more important, but maybe we shouldn’t constantly be at the beck and call of the world.
Unless you live in a cave, you all know what I’m getting at. And it’s not pretty. Agreed?
I’m continuing on my journey of unplugging in chunks and then doing a total blackout at night (not with the bottle. Then I’ll need another 12-step program!). Every afternoon I put my phone away starting at 3:30 pm. When Fia is asleep and Emmett is resting, I do one check around 7:30 or 8 for a maximum of ten minutes. Then that’s it until 9 a.m. the next day.
I won’t check my phone right before going to bed either. It can quickly get my mind racing. Not exactly conducive to falling asleep. These issues have been thoroughly documented. There’s even a book out now: Sleeping With Your Smart Phone. It’s all about how to break the 24/7 habit. An article in Time Magazine calls us a nation of “addicts” when it comes to our phones. It’s gross, isn’t it?
Did any of you come to different conclusions? Are you continuing on the path to unplug? Maybe we should start a movement called, “Unplugged: The Path to Present.” Thoughts?
Blackberry Picture via Shutterstock.
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addiction, alcoholic, alcoholism, blackberry, computer, email, focused, ipad, iphone, milestone monday, oversharent, oversharenting, phone, present, sleep, technology, text, The Path To Present, unplug, unplugged | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Must Read