Posts Tagged ‘ technology ’

What My Doctor Says I Can’t Do With Emmett

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

We had Em’s 2-year appointment last week. All the routine stuff checks out fine. She did say if he gets pneumonia again, they would have to look into some immunology testing (gulp) to see what is the underlying reason. All kids get colds and coughs. The issue is, if his continues to turn into pneumonia, then there is some reason his lungs aren’t clearing it on their own. Every time he coughs, my ears tune in and I hope that it’s not turning chronic.

I told my doctor how, um, active he is–a Tasmanian devil on steroids. Albeit, a gleeful, exuberant one. I am actually surprised it took him almost 2 years to have his first ER trip. I also told her how impatient his is. If he wants milk and doesn’t get it 3 seconds before he wanted it (because I’m a mind-reader), the absolute screaming and crying becomes instantly epic. I feel like a racehorse rushing to get him what he wants as soon as possible before the meltdown begins. It’s absurd. It goes against my parenting style of not catering to their every whim immediately. But trying to tell him to wait, and even show him, “Look Emmett, mommy is getting your milk right now,” has no impact. Once he realizes it’s not instantly there, there is no consolation until he gets it. Then he’s fine–as if the multitude of tears and tantruming was as routine as a laugh. Or a cough (bleh).

I told the pediatrician, “It’s like he needs instant gratification.”

Her response was strong: “This is a kid you absolutely cannot hand an iPhone or iPad too in those situations. Kids need to learn to be bored, to be patient, to wait. If you hand him a device, he will never learn. You just have to make him wait. But don’t give in to the technology temptation.”

It reminded me of an earlier point she made at his 18-month appointment about what new studies are showing for kids who are raised electronically (meaning given devices to play with all the time). It is scary sh-t. Luckily Phil and I are pretty diligent in our efforts to keep both kids away from that sort of reliance.

Nevertheless, I thought it was a good reminder to pass along. I wrote a few days ago about how marketers and developers continuingly come up with things to make parenting “easy.” But if you want the easy way out, then don’t have kids. Because if you’re a parent, you need to actually parent. “Easy” now will make it much harder later when they can’t function without constant stimulation.

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Why Modern Innovations Can’t “Parent” For You

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

My grandmother lived until she was 97 years old. She raised 7 kids on a cattle ranch in rural South Dakota. By rural, I mean the closest town was 30 miles away and had a population of 12. They had no running water or electricity for many years. My dad and his siblings grew up using an outhouse. They went to a one-room schoolhouse. It was right out of Little House on the Prairie.

How my grandmother would react knowing that a) Huggies has developed an app that tweets you when your baby pees (they say it’s just for a study so parents can know how many diapers they go through) and that b) Stephen McLaughlin is having the internet name his daughter –is beyond me. Actually I know how my grandmother is reacting. She’s rolling over in her grave.

Sure, innovations can be great. My parents (and grandparents) didn’t have a choice but to use cloth diapers and hand wash. Now we have 15 brands of diapers, including organic, to choose from. I started off using Pampers with Fia–the ones with the blue line that appears if your baby outputs 2 drops of pee. Anytime Phil and I saw even a little bit of a blue line, we’d frantically rush to change her. That is, until we realized we were going through some 25 diapers a day (cue grandma rolling over).  What a waste, both monetarily and environmentally. So we switched to the brown organics, where we used less but probably spent more to make sure nothing petroleum-based was touching her bum (more rolling over). I am a marketer’s dream.

Here’s the thing that developers and marketers are missing when they throw as much sh-t on the wall to see what will stick: no matter how much you innovate, the basics of raising a baby are innate and primal.  A parent cannot raise their baby via an app.  Nor should they want to. Though I guess they can name their baby via the internet, like McLaughlin is doing. Right now CTHULHU tops the list. He says it will be a great story to tell his daughter when she gets married. He’s missing the fact that he’ll have to tell her by the age of 2 when she gets made fun of on the playground. And by 3 when no teacher can pronounce her name. And again at age 4 when she’s not able to spell it.

With Emmett, I got over all that first-kid paranoia and went with what is/was cheapest. Except when it came to pacifiers. Since we now have 37 to choose from, you can pop them in and see what sticks, or well, sucks. The only one he took to was the Natursutten–which is the most expensive and not easy to find. I enabled his little habit until last week when I bought the more accessible and less expensive MAM. This, after the rubber on his $12 one was so disgusting it looked like it had been mangled by a rabid puppy–which isn’t far from the truth. Why I’m not making him give it up completely by age 2 is because I want the crutch. I want the easy way out. It helps him fall asleep and soothes him when he’s fussy. So yes, I buy into a lot of this stuff too. But if he’s really sad he needs me. Or Phil. Not a BPA-free device. “Hold you,” he says. No pacifier can replace that.

And I guess that’s my point:  In this day and age with app after app being developed, the assumption is we are looking for the easy way out. But the truth is, there isn’t one. Parenting puts you in the trenches no matter how much money or help you have. If you have kids, you should expect to do at least some work. Luckily most of us don’t live in a place where we have to hand-wash cloth diapers in a dirty river. Luckily most of us have electricity and running water and washing machines. Thank god we live in a developed country where our babies won’t die of diarrhea–or in my case two weeks ago–pneumonia. But at some point companies need to stop the madness and we need to stop buying into the more ridiculous gimmicks to make parenting “easier.”

I often wonder about uber-rich celebrities who have babies.  Did Angelina use a timed sleep app to avoid crying in frustration when her 15 different babies woke up during the night? I doubt it. Does she tend to at least some of them when they’re sick or does a robot take their temperature? (I’m sure if there isn’t such a device there will be soon). I’m sure she had/has 10 night nurses, but even so, if she was breastfeeding, she would have had to get up at least once or twice and pump–until they develop an app to do that for you too. Did Courtney Cox choose from 30 different nipple creams for chaffing? Did Madonna have to use those huge hospital pads in her underwear after childbirth? Whether or not you have a c-section or vaginal birth, you still bleed. A lot. Will they make one that tweets when the pad needs changing?

I have to assume all these moms had to roll up their sleeves and parent. Why else would you have kids if you don’t want to do any of the work?

As my friend Cassandra kept telling me when Emmett was a baby, “It’s time to mom-up.” I was worried about letting my night nurse go. I went so bat sh-t crazy/delusional with Fia from lack of sleep.  I was terrified to go down that same path. So during my pregnancy with Emmett, I had a stash of money saved so I could pay for my sleep. Granted we have no family nearby, and that is different than when my grandma had her extended one close by. And with 7 kids, the older ones helped with the younger ones. But there comes a point when things like apps that tweet your baby’s pee becomes indulgent. I know, because I was–and can be–indulgent. But I hope I’m smart enough and have enough mom instinct to know when to draw the line.

As for having the internet name your kid? Well, that’s just stupid. When the story came out two weeks ago, I flagged it as something to write about. But I didn’t. Why? Because I was parenting from the trenches, taking care of my 2 really sick kids. I was too busy being a mom–and worrying about my kids–to worry about writing a blog based on yet another indulgence of the internet.

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Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children
Digital Devices and Children

Pioneer pic via Shutterstock

Apps picture 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?

Controlling Your Child's Digital Interactions
Controlling Your Child's Digital Interactions
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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Why I Chose My Son Over an iPhone App

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 jdeprospero@gmail.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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What To Do With All Those Photos??

Monday, April 29th, 2013

We love taking pictures of our babies, right? I mean, who doesn’t. I can’t help myself…good god, as I’ve written before, I think Em is one of the most beautiful babies on the planet. And Fia is such a character with her ethereal beauty… Of course I’m biased like all moms and dads. My dilemma is what to do with them all?

I think back to when I was growing up. Film was expensive. Phones with cameras didn’t exist. I have a couple really sweet photo albums my mom put together over my growing up years. She also had an accordion file with each of our names on a folder. We could go in anytime and look at our pictures. There were probably about 10-15 photos for each of us.

I sit here in my office and look at 2 rows of photo books on a shelf. I never wanted to get too far behind the game in printing out photos of the kids. From when Fia was born, I would upload photos every few months to one of the sites where you can then order prints. I would guess 90% of the photos I take, I eventually upload. Which means I end up getting probably 900 prints over the course of a year to put in albums. Then, I have to sit down, put them all in order, put them in the albums, then write captions. It’s a fairly large undertaking.

At the rate I am going, I will need a house just to store all my photo books. But I like having hard copies. What is the point otherwise? Let them sit on a computer? And if that computer crashes without backup?

I try and be judicious when I’m picking out which photos to print. But I get so caught up in, “Well, this one is so sweet, I should print that one.” “It’s only 9-cents, may as well order it.”

What’s funny is my system seems far more “old school” than most of my friends. They don’t order prints. They just keep them all on their computer. Which means they probably don’t really have a “system.”

But I’m looking down the road. Your child will never have your computer. So someday are you going to export all the photos to them? Or will they just die with your computer (and with you) and never see the light of day?

I feel overwhelmed by the many photos and albums I have but I don’t only want my pictures to be on an electronic device. And the online photo books you can make and order would probably take just as much–if not more–time. And then you still have books and books of photos.

Is there something I’m missing here that would make my life easier in this regard? Any system you guys have that you care to share? Many thanks!

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