It seems like every study about our use of smartphones eventually correlates to an inevitable apocalypse. And frankly, no one cares because we’re in way too deep to do anything about it now.
Once, in a flurry of missing keys, I left for the DMV and forgot my iPhone on the charger. For 45 agonizing minutes, I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I eventually just stuffed them into my cleavage and waited for my number to be called.
So color me nonplussed as new research is now linking parents’ phone attention to children’s bad behavior. Researchers have found that when parents interrupt family time by checking their phones, kids are more likely to whine, get angry and exhibit over-sensitivity.
When I first read this, I felt a pit in my stomach. As someone who works from home and makes her living on social media, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was creating long-term negative effects on my girls. How often have they tried to get my attention, but my response was delayed because I was too busy responding to emails, texting, messaging or commenting? How many times were they simply wanting me to acknowledge them, but I was knee-deep in a clickbait article titled, “100 celebrities who have aged badly”?
Have I ruined them forever, or could the scientific guilt trips be a little overkill?
I know from my own personal experience that when I’m trying to get my husband’s attention about the garbage disposal making a weird noise and he gives me some generic head nod while scrolling through Twitter, my response is to throw a frying pan at him. Surely if I find it deeply annoying to be second fiddle to a device, it must be that much harder on our babies, right?
Probably. But I’m more of an optimist about this. Although my experience is anecdotal, most parents I know have already began to create healthier boundaries with their phones. And frankly, my children aren’t nearly as naughty when I’m texting as when I’m actually talking on the phone. I could just say “Hello?” with a deck of cards up to my ear and immediately my girls will come running like there’s a fire, begging for snacks, fighting, rolling on the floor, crying and letting out high-pitched screams until they eventually make their way into the bathroom, where they clog the toilet with brand-new paper towels.
And telephones have been a fixture in our households for almost 80 years.
That’s 80 full years of children finding the one permanent marker in the house and creating a mosaic on the living room walls while their mother tries to make a correction on her AT&T bill.
Let’s be real: Parents have been ignoring their kids for centuries. In the middle ages, kids were just a nuisance until they were old enough for hard labor. Victorian women popped their babies out and then handed them over to wet nurses, occasionally visiting their kids on holidays. Pioneer women didn’t watch their kids go down slides for hours; they were busy sweeping dirt floors and tilling soil. Moms in the ’70s locked everyone outside and flipped on “Guiding Light” while sparking up Parliament Lights.
I mean, history tells us it could be worse.
But yes, we can do better, too. We need healthy boundaries with nearly every good thing in our lives, or it will inevitably turn bad — whether we’re talking about Twinkies, Netflix, helicopter parenting or neighborhood Facebook groups. The good news is that most loving parents have already realized this and are making the appropriate corrections.
Now we just need to figure out what to do with our hands.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.