Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.
First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.
Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.
“Don’t wait for them to
bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry
professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about
the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their
understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”
To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.
When reading Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time
Debate. Screens Won (NYT March 31, 2020) by reporter Nellie Bowles,
we need to consider the source: an adult with a fully formed brain.
Continue reading →
Babies and their loving caregivers are naturally attracted to each other. Feeding a baby is a sacred time when lifelong bonds develop through tender caresses, late-night murmurs and loving, long glances.
But there’s competition now. A spare moment is an opportunity to catch up—with email, social media, and other digital demands on our attention.
Yet, a child’s vital need for Attachment remains. Without secure attachment, a baby can grow up to be someone who is anxious and less durable for the long run. Without the opportunity to closely study a caregiver’s mouth and expressions, a child’s language development can lag. Kids faced with phones instead of a parent can miss out on learning the vital skill (for survival in life and in business) of learning to read faces and understand emotions.
Research is beginning to indicate that if the view of a caregiver’s face is blocked by a device or if a very young child is left to spend too much time in a 2-D screen environment, the trajectory of brain development can be altered, as seen in a newly-discovered syndrome among many toddlers. Continue reading →
Hooray for the big tech companies who’ve enhanced their products to offer better customer control.
Apple was surprisingly quick to roll out Screen Time, a feature that iPhone and iPad users automatically receive for free with the iOS12 update. The improvements come only a year after iPod creator Tony Fadell bemoaned “We have zero data on our habits with these devices”. Now you have your data, right down to how often you pick up your phone. You can also track exactly what you do on the device so you can better manage how you spend your time.
A Boon for Parents
Screen Time is especially life-changing for parents who now can oversee Continue reading →
Top TED talker Brene Brown nailed it at the Mom2Summit when she declared: “I’ve never done anything that was worth much unless I was scared shitless and nauseous.”
That’s exactly how I felt stepping onto the red circle at TEDx Tysons in Tysons, Virginia. But as I delivered “Durable Humans are Smarter Than Their Phones,” I was uplifted by the inspiration of a host of brilliant people I want to thank here.
Copious credit goes to Hilarie Cash, co-founder of ReStart, the nation’s first Internet addiction treatment center. Hilarie invited me in to meet people like “Jeff,” the young tech addict whose heartbreaking yet hopeful story you can read about here.
ReStart’s track record proves that simple things like cooking dinner and mopping the floor can help young people break the stranglehold of addiction and return to success in real life. By creating and sustaining Attachment, Hilarie told me in this interview, parents can help kids Continue reading →