Posts Tagged ‘ technology addiction ’

Responding to Stephanie Metz’s Viral Rant About Helicopter Parents

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

I like to think I’m not a helicopter parent. I certainly worry but I try not to hover. And as much as I want Fia and Emmett to stay with me forever and never leave (kidding, but I do have my moments of wanting to bottle this time in my life with them) I consider it my duty to teach them independence from me.

I see friends who coddle their kids incessantly. I had a playdate once where Fia took a toy from a kid. She was 2. The mom kind of freaked. “Fia, give the toy back. You can’t take it from her,” she yelled. But the little girl wasn’t even playing with the toy. Nor did she care. Still, I instantly made sure Fia promptly returned the toy.  I want to teach my kids to share, and no, I don’t believe in the RIE movement of letting your kids work everything out on their own.  But sometimes we hover too much. Or not enough. Hard to say.

Sidenote: here is my favorite RIE moment: a mom brings her kid over and he finds a 4 foot long tree branch and starts waving it around, nearly pummeling Fia. Instead of taking the stick away she says, “I try not to get too involved because I want him to learn the space around him.” Um, okay, what about my child’s brain that almost got fractured? RIE parenting at its finest. Needless to say she never came over again.

So now I ask: who is aware of Stephanie Metz and the blog post she wrote, about helicopter parenting and bullying, that went viral? Who agrees and disagrees with what she is saying? On many points, I agree with her. But on others, I think she needs to realize that with bullying, we do live in a different world than the one she and I grew up in. There were not the Columbines and the Newtowns of the world. I’m guessing since she lives in North Dakota, she is pro-gun. Most people in that part of the country are. So her “world” is probably different from someone who is raising a kid in LA, Chicago or NYC.

Nevertheless, here are some of her points (and click here to read the entire blog):

Many years ago, there was a time where young boys could run around with their toy guns, killing the bad guys.  You could take the toy guns away from the little boys, and they’d find something else around them – a stick, their fingers, etc –  and pretend it was a gun.  Today, those little boys – if caught doing that – are labeled as threats, and immediate action is taken to remove that threat from the group.

I don’t totally buy that. I know plenty of little boys who run around playing pretend gun who don’t get removed from their group or school. But with gun violence at record numbers, shouldn’t gun-playing other than the Lone Ranger and Tonto, be, if not discouraged, at least not encouraged? And I do know that boys typically do display that behavior even if they grow up in an anti-gun house. They just pick it up somewhere, like preschool. I will say that I am not going to encourage Emmet to run around “playing gunfight” and I’m not going to buy him a toy gun. At least not now. Maybe when he’s 7 my perspective will change.

Your child, who you cater to every need, who you shelter from all things “evil.”  How will this child react when he or she grows into adulthood?  ”Debbie” graduates from high school and goes to college.  She writes her first paper and meets with her professor about that paper and the professor tells her that it’s junk and it will get a failing grade.  How will Debbie cope with that if she’s always been made to feel that no one should ever make her feel sad, or criticize anything she does?

I totally agree with her. That’s why I’m against giving rewards for every little accomplishment. Or when they play team sports and “everybody wins.” Kids need to learn how to lose. Just like they need to learn how to be bored (in regards to my technology post this week that frankly scared the crap out of me with the new research related to kids and boredom). And I do think technology has a lot to do with this as well.

Stephanie writes about how kids grow up and find rejection in the workplace and the real world. She writes about how they can’t handle it. I agree. Kids can’t learn coping skills on any level when they  grow up buried in their gadgets. They can’t learn proper socialization either. So for me, this is a combo of helicopter parenting and parenting with your iPad.  She seems on the mark with that too.

My children are all but ignored when they ask for something without using manners.  They understand that when someone addresses or speaks to them, they are to speak back.  When we go out to eat, we don’t take 5 electronic devices to keep them “entertained” for the 15 minutes we have to wait for our food.  If Hendrix is “bored” (and I use that term loosely), then he can put on his jacket and go play outside.

But where I don’t agree with her is in her stance on bullying.

There was a time – not too long ago – when bullying was defined as slamming someone up against a locker and stealing their lunch money.  There was a time when kids got called names and got picked on, and they brushed it off and worked through it (ask me how I know this).  Now, if Sally calls Susie a bitch (please excuse my language if that offends you), Susie’s whole world crumbles around her, she contemplates suicide, and this society encourages her to feel like her world truly has ended, and she should feel entitled to a world-wide pity party.  And Sally – phew!  She should be jailed!  She should be thrown in juvenile detention for acting like – gasp – a teenage girl acts.

Again, factor in the technology. Factor in that peers can totally f–k with you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. This is the first generation where this is happening. And it’s not good. Add that to the peer pressure of a teenage boy and girl and we’ve seen tragic results. I don’t think kids who are bullied become suicidal solely because they had helicopter parents. But once again, when kids aren’t taught to lose, cope or be bored, it’s a lethal combination on many levels.

So go read her post, weigh in and let me know your thoughts. Her post went from 8 readers to over a million, so it’s worth taking a look at.

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pic of helicopter and stroller via Shutterstock

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Is Your iPad Hurting Your Baby’s Brain?

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.

Here’s why:

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?

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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Would You Call Another Baby Ugly?

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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(My) Milestone Monday: How Do You “Play” With Your Infant?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

This is going to make me sound like an inept parent, but here goes: I haven’t “done” anything with Emmett yet. As in, any mommy-and-me classes, music, a stroll in the park — nothing. With Fia, it was the exact opposite extreme. We never stayed in, partially because it was a Brooklyn apartment and we always had neighbors and friends to hang with. Plus, you stroll everywhere there and isolation just isn’t an option.

With Em, we hang out around the house and on weekends when we go somewhere we (obviously) don’t leave him home. But if I’m doing playdates they are with Fia, and our nanny is out and about with Emmett or at home with him. In fact, she’s much better at figuring out fun parks to take him to. She puts down a blanket and they play. That’s another thing I don’t really know how to do. Play. I’m great at smothering him. Sucking his cheeks, smelling his hair… if I could eat him, I would. He’s that delicious. But playing? Not so much.

Anyway, this morning a crew was coming to work on our house. We had to leave. Cleo had arranged a playdate with Fia and I was taking Emmett. Because I’ve given myself an online blackout at nights, I didn’t Google anything to do. I panicked.  I also felt like a major idiot. What mom doesn’t know what to “do” with her baby?

I drove to a nearby park, put his car seat in the stroller, and went to a patch of grass, only to realize the morning dew made the whole area wet. Back in the car feeling like a total failure, I drove to an indoor playground I’ve been to with Fia.

I walked in and began doing what I do when I feel insecure. Over-explaining.

“I know he’s only 4 ½ months, so we probably don’t belong here, but I wasn’t sure where to go with him and my daughter is on a playdate and there are people in our house, so I’m sorry, if you think we shouldn’t come in…”

She gently interrupted my diarrhea of the mouth.

“This is a great place for him. You can sit in the ball pit, he can look at all the colors, see other kids. And, because he’s so young, it’s free for you both.”

Huh? No way. With a small amount of confidence back, I walked in and started to “play.” With my new Blackberry blackout plan, I didn’t check my phone once. I even met a nice dad there with his son. I felt focused and in the moment. And I remembered that I do actually know how to play.

After an hour, we got back in the car, he zonked out, and I took him to lunch, where I’m writing this post. I’ve had a great date with my son and plan to do it every week. Momma’s got her groove back.

Small update: Just as I finished writing this, two large men came in and started bellowing a conversation back and forth. Literally talking as if there was a jackhammer behind them. The whole restaurant was empty, yet they choose to sit near me. Really? I did loud shhhhh-ing in Emmett’s ear to make the point. Hello! Infant sleeping! Not a clue.  Within minutes Em was awake. I wanted to poison their food.  Aaarrrggghhhh.

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