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Moms: Back Away From the BlackBerry!

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Checking your e-mails incessantly could be harming your child. Here's why.

woman using cell phone

Ellen S.: It's one of the first truly gorgeous spring days in New York City, and I'm sitting in a park and taking it all in: budding trees, blooming flowers, cute babies in Bugaboos and the buzz of ... moms. Moms on their cell phones, chattering away as said cute babies play with little toys or smile into space. I watch one mom simultaneously text and talk with her toddler. I see another reading her e-mails as her little girl plays with her doll.

I have been that mom who's gotten sucked into a cell phone or e-mail and ignored her child. Yet as I watch these moms around me, I'm feeling a little unnerved. Surely it can't be good for our kids if we're giving our mobile devices the best of our attention.

Cell phones have been around for years, of course, but this is the first generation of kids growing up with parents who have so many communication options at their fingertips. (Texts! Calls! E-mails! Facebook updates! Twitter! OMG!) If nothing else, kids are learning that you needn't be fully present when you're with another person -- not a very charming social skill. But I also wonder about other ways this could affect our children, starting with safety: If you're distracted by your device, you're not watching your kid as well as you could be, period.

Since I'm no shrink, I can only muse about the psychological effects. If kids don't feel worthy of our undivided attention, maybe they'll start acting out to get more of it. Maybe they'll feel a little less confident than they could. Maybe they'll figure they can behave however they want, given that their mothers' eyes are more likely to be glued to their mobile devices than to them.

As I sat on the bench and watched these moms ignoring their kids, I vowed to quit doing that to my own children unless a call or e-mail is critical. It's only been a few days so far, but let me say, I feel a lot more connected to the kids when I'm out with them. Not to mention relaxed.

Today I was having lunch out with my 5-year-old, and the mom at the next table over was scanning her iPhone as her kids silently ate their pizza. My tote sat next to me on the bench and I could feel the buzz-buzz-buzzing of my BlackBerry against my thigh as the e-mails trickled in. I shoved the bag aside and asked my little girl what sort of things she'd done in preschool that day.

Come on, take the challenge. Put away your PDAs for the kind of PDA kids need: Public Displays of Attention.

next: Jon and Kate: The Single Mother Double Bind 
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