There's a new survey out that indicates children are having issues with their parents' smartphone usage. According to the families polled for AVG's 2015 Digital Diaries, a total of 6,117 respondents, 54 percent of children felt parents checked their devices too often, 52 percent of parents agree that they do, and 32 percent of kids feel "unimportant" when parents get distracted by their smartphones.
Been there, guilty of that. And yet, as a special needs parent, sometimes I desperately need the connections, reality checks, and stress relief provided by iPhone check-ins with friends. Recently, when the speech therapist at my son's school declared that working on articulation would no longer be a major goal for him and that she wanted to focus mainly on alternative communication, I was absolutely distraught. As Max and I were taking a walk around our neighborhood the next day, I texted a bit with a friend to let off steam. (And, yes, walking and texting is one of my talents.)
Throughout my years of parenting Max, my smartphone has been a key source of support. Parenting a kid with special needs can get pretty intense and having an escape outlet has been invaluable. When I've been at the playground and I've been pained to see kids ignoring Max, reaching out to friends on Facebook has given me a boost. Ditto for times when I need advice (the best fitting socks for Max's foot braces, for instance) or just a virtual shoulder to lean on. Sure, I could do some of this after Max is asleep but that's not always realistic...or spirit-saving.
Obviously, it's no good for any kids to have parents who constantly ignore them as they text, email, or check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram—there has to be a happy medium. The habit can be bad for us, too, because we miss out on our children's lives. Plus obviously, sitting around and typing out your woes or gripes rather than taking action isn't the ideal—but I have found that getting responses from other parents can both inspire and propel me. For instance, after I've social-media vented about other kids not interacting with Max and heard from other parents, I've felt compelled to chat with nearby parents and asked them to introduce their kids to Max.
Raising a kid with special needs can feel lonely at times. Smartphone therapy, done within reason, is yet one more outlet we parents can depend on to help us not just survive but thrive.
Ellen Seidman is a mom of two, editor, and professional snacker who blogs daily at Love That Max. You can find her pondering special needs parenthood and other important topics (such as what her next snack will be) on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ even though she still hasn't totally figured out what that is.
Image of mother on bench talking on phone via Shutterstock