Ronda Kaysen: Whenever I turn on my laptop, my 3-year-old races over to it and slams the cover shut. One of his favorite phrases is, "Mommy! Turn off the compooter." Obviously, he's not a fan of Mommy devoting her attention to a MacBook.
My son's reaction to my distraction is common, and researchers and child psychologists worry that these days, parents are too plugged in when they're around their kids. How many times have we told our kids to hush while we check one more e-mail on our iPhone or fire off one last text message? All that time spent focusing on the gadget in our palm rather than the kid in the room takes its toll, experts told The New York Times.
Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, told the Times, "Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events."
Not only do kids feel ignored and slighted, but the time we spend online rather than with them is time we're not speaking to them, which impacts language development.
But there is an upside to all this, too. Because of the Internet, I can work from home, which means I can drop my son off at preschool later and pick him up earlier than I would if I had to commute to an office. So, I spend a lot more time with him than I would otherwise -- and so do other parents who find that they can come home earlier and finish up work remotely. Yes, we're distracted in our kids' presence from time to time, but for some of us, it means we can be available in ways that we couldn't otherwise.
The trick is knowing when to shut it all off. Meredith Sinclair, a mother and blogger in Wilmette, Ill., came up with a great solution: She banned the Internet and e-mail from 4 to 8 every evening. Her kids were thrilled.
"You can't really do both," she told the Times. "If I'm at all connected, it's too tempting. I need to make a distinct choice."