Last week I had a chat with one of my students who is also the assistant manager of a day care center. We had just completed a unit on digital media and she described to me an ubiquitous activity that occurs every day among a majority of her parents when dropping off or picking up their kids. You guessed it – talking on their cell phones. They talk on their phones to the exclusion of finding out about their child’s day or otherwise communicating with the child’s teacher. This really handicaps the staff at the daycare responsible for taking care of the kids. Did something happen at daycare that the parents need to know? Is the parent forgetting to tell the teacher that their child can’t have milk because of a medication she’s taking? You get the picture. Communication regarding their children takes short shrift. Sad and scary.This affected me so that I decided to root around and see what I could find about how extensive a problem this cell phone use among parents indeed is. A multinational study last year of kids ages 8 to 13 found that “32 percent of kids felt unimportant when their moms and dads were distracted by their phones.” In addition, over half of these kids believed their parents spend far too much time on their phones. On the positive side, 52 percent of the parents agreed with the kids’ responses. The question is, were the parents who agreed the same ones attached to their phones or the ones who put communication to and about their kids first?
The day after I had this discussion with my student, I was in the Target parking lot walking toward my car when a young mother with a baby in a shopping cart was unloading her purchases. Guess what, she was on her call phone while the baby sat quietly. I then heard a kerfuffle and turned to see the cart rolling away from the car and a young man running to intercept it. A case of “distraction by device.” and truly a potential disaster.
I would have expected this mother to be embarrassed and horrified by her irresponsible behavior but she was all smiles and acted as if the entire incident was no big deal. Had it happened before and this was simply a rerun?
I feel like I am scraping the proverbial surface of a problem that appears to be reaching epic proportions. Are we sculpting a society where children are relegated to non-importance when the cell phone rings, or is dialed? And what then does this mean for our future?