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Dear Reader: Practicing What We Preach

A reminder to all parents to put down the cell phones and engage face to face with your families

Published on: October 27, 2015

ParentMap November 2015 Issue

I’m often described as a doer as opposed to a thinker, and I’m not always proud of this fact. Recently, I received a few unforeseen gifts while sitting on a plane heading off to a family wedding. My 14-year-old, 5-foot-10-inch “baby” girl fell into a deep sleep on top of me (gift no. 1) before the wheels folded up after takeoff. Drooling on my jeans, she clearly needed this siesta. I squirmed around, trying to reach my laptop and phone as I assessed the interminable work I had hoped to tackle during the flight. I did not consider just unwinding for three hours.

Nevertheless, I did not have the heart to wake this deep sleeper, and because of that I had the most unusual experience. I was forced to sit motionless (gift no. 2).  There was no device within reach. I gazed out the window struck by gift no. 1 asleep on me. My unexpected gift no. 2, being static, caused me to contemplate the breathtaking beauty of Seattle, with glittering water juxtaposed against our growing city, lush green landscapes that quickly gave way to white-capped mountains, then blended into the dusty brown spread of eastern Washington. What struck me as I took in this splendor was the rarity of the moment and how completely addicted I am to devices. Bill Maher’s recent rant came to mind. He brilliantly elevated our cell-phone obsession, raging about the millions taking selfies when they actually had “maybe 10 seconds to actually see and be present with their hero, the Pope.”

Our tech issue will likely challenge you as a parent, as it did me. I am good role model on many fronts, but not this one. Guilty of “phubbing*”, we’re entering the season of Thanksgiving and can positively influence one another. This is pro-social behavior time, where we can recommit to a focus on family, giving to others and our blessed traditions.

Savor the studies and house rules suggested throughout this issue that tell us what we know yet want to ignore: “Too much time on a device can cause a range of long-term issues, including attention problems, subpar academic performance, poor interpersonal skills and sleep disturbances (“This is your brain on screens”)."

Undoubtedly our lives have changed for the better, too, with technology: today’s easy airline check-in with the Alaska Airlines app; routinely skyping my NYC big kids; or my daily dose of traffic course-plotting. Surely, too, there are new technologies that might boost our kids’ character and skills: empathy, tolerance, courage and responsibility.

But we’re all overdoing it. Nothing can replace face time!

*Phubbing: a term to describe the habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone.


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