by Jeanne Sager
Moms, hold onto your smartphones, we're in for another bumpy ride. This time it's a pediatrician who has overtaken the Internet with yet another diatribe about parents who spend too much time with gadgets in their hands and -- in her mind anyway -- too little time paying attention to their kids.
Sure, some of what Dr. Jane Scott has to say in her now viral essay, "Parents, Put Down Your Smartphones," is worth pondering if you're a parent. But added to other rants of the same ilk that have popped up over the past year or so on the Internet, it's hard not to feel like people like Scott often miss the forest for all the trees.
Smartphones have changed parenting. Sometimes for the bad.
But it's time some acknowledge that just as often, smartphones have made life better for kids and parents alike.
Take, for example, Dr. Scott's description of a recent visit from 2-year-old with an ear infection and his dad:
Upon entering my examining room, I found father and son sitting together, eyes downcast, each silently scrolling and tapping on smartphones.
This is where I admit that I've, at times, had my smartphone in hand at the pediatrician's office. I'm a working mom. Running out to get my daughter's pink eye looked at by our pediatrician meant time away from my job, but thanks to my smartphone, I was able to save my sick/personal time for a day when she's truly too ill to get off the couch and I really need to "take a day." Instead, I could answer emails on the go and still be "on the clock." I could provide for my sick kid without risking my employment.
Pretty significant when you consider 33 percent of parents in America report having to take time off work from their job to care for sick kids that has resulted in lost pay and/or put their jobs at risk.
Consider that one way smartphones have made parenting easier for parents. Work/life balance may still be elusive, but thanks to the Internet on a handy little gadget that we can cart around, we're that much closer.
Not convinced that's evidence that smartphones can be GOOD for parents and kids?
When Dr. Scott told the little boy he had an ear infection, she relates that the first thing he did was turn to the iPhone and query Siri about ear infections:
When a child so young turned to a machine for information instead of to his father, it made me wonder: Just how limited was his parents' screen time? What I saw was modeled behavior -- a child who has learned that when he has a question, Siri, and not Dad, is most readily available with an answer.
In truth, I see some of her concerns. Two seems awfully young to be that familiar with the ins and outs of the iPhone. And as a parent of a 9-year-old who is quickly adopting the typical tween "my parents know nothing" approach, I shudder to think of it having happened seven years ago.
But there is a flipside that stories like this one so rarely tell, a flipside that I consider to be my ace in the hole even now as I fight that tween attitude.
When my daughter asks me a question, I don't have to say, "I don't know" as my parents and their parents before them did. I have the entire Internet at my disposal, right at the tip of my fingers.
That's right, when my kid asks me a question, I whip out my smartphone. Scott may surmise that I'm modeling bad behavior for my daughter, but I say it's the very opposite.
I'm teaching her that being curious about the world is a good thing, and also how to find the answers to her questions.
More From The Stir: Mom Confession: I Take My iPhone to the Park & Ignore My Kid
Other times, too, I use my smartphone to share interesting tidbits about the world with her. Last week she was reading a book that featured marmots and asked what they were. I had to Google the little critters to provide an answer. Fast forward to this week, and as I was surfing the web, I came across a video of a marmot licking a Go-Pro camera. I called her over, let her watch, and she has a new favorite YouTube video ... and a much clearer understanding of marmots.
It's a marvel of the world we're living in.
I grew up in a small town with a prototypical small town library in the pre-Internet age. If I had a question that my parents couldn't answer, I had to wait for the library to open to look it up. Even then, I had to hope that the library actually had a book on the shelves that contained the answer.
Often, they didn't.
For today's children, the answers they will find are limited only by the questions they ask. And smartphones? They have made the Internet immediate.
Information is always there.
STILL not convinced that there's enough evidence of the positive nature of smartphone use for parents? How about this bit of information?
Studies into how kids and parents use cellphones have actually found enhanced connections between the two generations. Kids often feel more comfortable opening up to their parents via text because they're not forced to broach topics face-to-face, and a majority of adults say technology "allows their family life today to be as close, or closer, than their families were when they grew up."
And get this -- more parents today connect to their kids via cellphone than they do via a landline.
Do we need to be responsible with our phones (and our other gadgets) around our kids? Absolutely. It's just plain bad manners to pull out your phone at the dinner table. It's just plain dangerous to walk down the street with your eyes boring holes in the box in your palm while your kids are running wild. It's just plain silly to attend your child's baseball game and never actually look up and see them PLAY baseball. It's just plain sad if entire families spend hours at home together in the same room and never actually speak one word to one another because they're all too wrapped up in something electronic.
But instead of telling moms they've got to "put down the smartphone" and constantly shaming those of us who make frequent use of technology, how about taking a second and asking yourself why she has that phone in her hand in the first place.
Do you use a smartphone? How has it helped YOU as a mom?
Image via © iStock.com/TARIK KIZILKAYA