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Electronically Connected, Socially Disconnected – How To Raise The Next Generation of Miserable Adults

I read a post on another blog that I felt was so good and so timely in its message that I decided to link to it from here. Author Rachel Macy Stafford writes in a post entitled, “How To Miss A Childhood“, of her realization of how much time is stolen from our children by handheld devices like iphones and ipads that are meant to electronically connect people but actually have the opposite effect. And what is worse, our children know we prioritize these devices over them again and again.  Just read that last link for some heart-rending comments from children.

My husband has a saying that originated very early in our marriage, “It is better to build children than repair adults.”




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  • L.J. January 23, 2013, 7:48 pm

    Children need some time to themselves too. I would have been miserable if I’d grown up in today’s culture in which 24-7-365 parental attention is the ideal.

  • Lo January 23, 2013, 11:33 pm

    I’m practically a luddite so I’m predisposed to mistrust most tech anyway. Blows my mind that its possible to raise well adjusted children in the internet era. Kudos to this mom for giving it her all. Parenting in these times is a challenge I would be terrified to take up.

  • Ceallach January 24, 2013, 1:48 am

    There have always been bad parents who ignore their kids or don’t understand what real “quality time” means. Technology is just their latest tool. How is it different from the 1950s Betty Draper types telling the kids to shut up and watch tv? A bad parent will always find a way to avoid parenting.

    One of the best parents I know is a CEO mother of 3 who yes, spends a lot of time on phone and computer. She also spends more genuine quality time with her kids than any other parent I know of! Whether its story time, bike riding, beach trips, she is truly present for them in a regular quality way. And because she has manners she doesn’t play with her phone in company!! She has her priorities straight.

    So while I agree with the article, I disagree that it’s some kind of indication of the breakdown of society. On the whole I actually believe many parents are more loving and attentive than in previous generations. Fewer people think its ok to beat kids, we understand more about emotional and psychological damage. Overall the world is not a terrible place that people seem to think it is. Personally I believe despite our evils society actually gets better every decade.

  • Ceallach January 24, 2013, 1:49 am

    Sorry and I should add that I believe technology is part of that 🙂

    Use responsibly!

  • Joni January 24, 2013, 8:32 am

    Yeah. If we only pay attention to our children, we are helicopter parents and we are ruining them for life. Whereas, if we sometimes pay attention to our smartphones instead of our children, we are disconnected and we are ruining them for life. What, pray tell, is a parent supposed to do? I suggest ignoring these articles altogether (both kinds).

    I went through a crippling bout of postpartum depression, and I would have lost my gourd if it weren’t for my blog. My sister lost her newborn twins, and she would have lost her gourd if it weren’t for her Parenting After a Loss internet group. Didn’t mothers used to pop Valium back in the day? I’d say this is a preferable alternative.

  • CJCarville January 24, 2013, 10:27 am

    I fail to see how this is any different than the telephone, television, radio, movies, or any other past time which allowed parents to disconnect. Whenever we have some technological innovation, there are always some hand wringers who lament times past. (SEE ALSO: the car, the birth control pill, the telephone, online dating, computers, the airplane, women in the workplace, minorities/gays in the military, etc.) Yet here we are — society not gone to hell in a hand basket. And all those “wonderful times past” weren’t always so wonderful for everyone else.

    Quite frankly, I’m happy that my parents disconnected from me from time to time. I wasn’t their whole world, and I’m glad. They maintained their separate identities.

  • Library Diva January 24, 2013, 10:57 am

    I’ve noticed that a lot. I try very hard not to be guilty of it myself, but I often feel as if I’m the only one. In work meetings I attend, many people come “armed” with their phones and leave them out the entire time, excusing themselves whenever it rings, texting or paging through their calendars randomly. I go out, and half the people have their phones out, intent on live-blogging the night. Even my parents are not immune — when I go to their house, they often “take a break” to look at stuff on the internet. I find it very depressing. I’m not a technophobe, and own many of these gadgets myself, but I try to prioritize what I’m doing over what’s going on with the gadget.

    Should also add that all of this attention to phones is downright dangerous. In my state, it’s illegal to text and drive, but it doesn’t stop people from doing it anyway. There are no laws, however, barring people from texting and walking, and I’m appalled at how many pedestrians lack the common sense to look up from their phones to safely cross a busy intersection.

  • Cora January 24, 2013, 11:27 am

    @Ceallach: WORD. I was about to say the same thing, but you pretty much nailed it. I’d add one thing: technology, like everything else, can be used as a tool for good parenting. A parent can always watch TV WITH the kid(s) and make conversation out of it — I’ve had some hilarious moments watching “Totally 80s” videos on VH1 with my nine-year-old-son. Video games aren’t necessarily The Last Evil either: I know of a very successful, brilliant doctor who says he treasures the hours he spent on the floor with his sister and his dad playing Atari, not just because his dad actively played with them, but because, in his words, “a colonoscopy is exactly like a video game. ”

    Engage with, and pay attention to, your kids. It’s that simple.

  • Jaxsue January 24, 2013, 11:48 am

    The editor in me wants to fix the first word in the title to “electronically” (I know, it’s just a typo). I also agree with the blog. Kids are way too connected nowadays, making them, in truth, disconnected.

  • WildIrishRose January 24, 2013, 12:42 pm

    I don’t have a cell phone or any kind of device that would keep me from engaging with my kids. I just don’t need or want them. My kids are pretty much grown now, and neither of them spent childhood with a cell phone, either. They didn’t need them. Why does an eight-year-old need a cell phone, anyway? Obviously, my mother didn’t have a cell phone when I was growing up, but that didn’t stop her from avoiding her children. As Ceallach pointed out, a bad parent will always find a way to avoid parenting. You don’t need sophisticated technology for that. Parenting is hard work, but the distractions at hand pretty much have to be sought out. No iPad walked up to a mother and told her to ignore her kids and focus on it instead. We watched TV when I was a kid, but daylight hours were for outside play, period. TV was watched at night, and even then it was limited. You can go overboard with just about anything–doesn’t have to be a cell phone.

  • michelle January 24, 2013, 1:06 pm

    I don’t have children, so I can’t speak to child-rearing in a world where people are connected to their devices 24/7. I don’t like to see it happening, but what can I do – they’re adults like me and I have no authority over them.

    However, I would like to say this. People who are connected constantly like this are missing their own lives, in my opinion. They’re missing out on what used to be known as “the simple pleasures” that truly make our lives in this world worthwhile.

    Today at lunch, I went home to find two squirrels at my birdfeeder, with the birds chirping at them wildly from the trees surrounding. And I just had a marvelous time watching how this all played out – the birds trying to get theirs, the squirrels determined to stay and get at the food in my supposedly “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder. I could actually see the thought process of the squirrels as they tried again and again to climb that pole, hang upside down, and get at that food. I was rooting for the birds to take back over, while at the same time was totally captivated watching those squirrels refuse to give up or give in. It was perfect lunch-time entertainment to break up a stressful work day.

    I never would have noticed any of it like that, if I’d been on my cell phone.

  • Jane January 24, 2013, 5:24 pm

    I wanted to see what the comments here would be before responding – Ceallach nailed it. You could even take it a step farther and say 1800’s parents ignored their children when they did farm work (or whatever).

    To me, it’s all about moderation. Yes, I will have a phone, and yes I will be checking my email and social media, but I know when to put it away. Quality time with kids doesn’t mean shutting yourself away from the rest of the world 100 percent of the time.

  • Kate January 24, 2013, 5:29 pm

    I think too much either way can be detrimental for kids. Yes, you shouldn’t ignore your kids completely in favour of work/technology and just check in with them once a week, but I also think older children do not necessarily benefit from having parents in their face 24/7. My parents are both teachers, and I remember hating the school holidays as a teenager – all my friends had the run of the house while their parents worked and could sleep in, watch TV, invite friends over etc, whereas my parents were home all day so I never felt like I had any space.
    TV has also been used as a bonding experience in my family, particularly now that my sister and I have moved out. There are certain shows we all watch – Survivor is one – and even when we can’t watch them together, we chat later and discuss the episode. For the finale, we all get together and make an event out of it.

  • Library Diva January 25, 2013, 11:53 am

    No one’s necessarily suggesting that parents should have every shred of attention constantly focused on their children. But there are an awful lot of really distracted people walking around who miss their own lives because they’re too busy live-blogging it on Facebook and Twitter. Sure, it looks fun and glamorous to your Facebook friends stuck at home when you post pictures of your drink, you with a bunch of people at the bar, you with a different group at the bar…but it’s boring as heck to be out with someone like that, who never looks up from their phones except to say: “Come here, I want to take a picture of us.”

    The comments in the article were truly sad, especially the little boy whose mom never hung up the phone long enough to say goodbye to him when she dropped him off at school.

  • mumsyjr January 25, 2013, 1:13 pm

    You know when I am most likely to ignore my kid? When I’m reading a really, really good book. How long have books been around again? I think that because technology provides new methods of doing things (whether they are positive things or negative things, like disconnecting from those around you) it’s very easy to blame the tech instead of letting the behavior stand on it’s own as poor behavior that would probably occur with or without the new device.
    You know what else? My kid hates that my attention is not on her every second, but personally I think it’s important that she learn to entertain herself. She often does the most creative or ambitious stuff when left on her own (like when she made a stage for her toy ponies out of a shoebox, or that time she actually sewed a stuffed animal from a kit by her self from beginning to end). If you asked her, she’d probably say that I never pay attention to her, I’m “always” studying, or “always” on the phone. Because to a six year old 12 or 15 minutes out of every hour, or a grand total of three hours (spread out between intervals) on a Saturday is flipping eternity. That’s how they are.

  • Rosie January 25, 2013, 4:45 pm

    When I first read the title of the blog post, I thought it would be about CHILDREN missing out on their own childhoods because they are spending all their time on small electronic devices! Not that I’m perfect, but I think I’ve achieved a fairly good balance regarding my devices and I would hope that I am a good model for my stepson. However, he got an iPod for Christmas and now spends as much time as we allow him playing games on it. He spends most car rides playing games, for example. I worry that he’s missing the “simple pleasures” @michelle mentioned; car rides aren’t exactly first-class entertainment, but there is a whole world out there. We drove by our new house the other day (we’re moving in a month), and although we pointed it out to my stepson in the back seat, he didn’t even look up from his game long enough to see it! Now he complains that he doesn’t even know what our new house looks like or where it is. I know that it’s a new toy and it’s super fun right now, but I’d like to see him engage with the world a little more rather than spend his childhood focused on a 3-inch screen. I don’t know how to teach him that the “real world” is worth paying attention to when the tiny pixels are moving so fast and providing instant gratification for him, other than simply banning it or most strictly limiting his time, which doesn’t really help him develop self-control.

  • The Elf January 26, 2013, 8:21 pm

    You said it, L. J.

    While you certainly don’t want parents to ignore their kids, they shouldn’t be hovering over them either. There’s a happy medium. If a parent is engaged in a smartphone for thirty minutes, and the kid is doing whatever, it’s not the end of the world.

  • Elizabeth January 28, 2013, 10:36 am

    I skipped the link because of the major security notifications associated with the site.

  • Hellbound Alleee January 28, 2013, 1:23 pm

    Sometimes people like themselves and enjoy being alone. Some people are meant to have a limited number of friends. We should not try and force people to mingle and mix, if that’s not what they want to do. In the past, I’ve seen parents pry books from the hands of their children. Now it’s little glowing rectangles. Nothing is new.

  • Hellbound Alleee January 28, 2013, 1:26 pm

    I feel a little ambivalent about that quote as well. You don’t “build” a child. They are already people. They aren’t exactly projects. They are separate full human beings with complete ownership over themselves. Parents teach, enrich, love, set limits, etc. But “build?”

  • Enna February 7, 2013, 12:06 pm

    I couldn’t read the aritcle: I think with bringing up children (I do not have any myself) that there are different ways to do it, but everything has got to be balenced and moderated. It’s not easy being a parent and I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect parent or a prefect child for that matter. Being too strict or too libral isn’t good.