The New York Times has another of those “modern technology is bad for kids” articles today: “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In.” This one, instead of blaming modern technology (TV, video games, computers, mobile phones—take your pick) for rotting kids’ brains, blames the gadgets for making parents ignore their kids. “Some child development experts,” as the article puts it, are concerned that parents become so engaged with their gadgets, checking email or reading websites, that their kids become jealous and resentful, even resorting to biting and hitting to get their parents’ attention. (Though I rather like the example of the kid who makes his mom set the microwave timer when she says she’ll be just a couple minutes more.)
But really? The gadgets make them ignore their kids?
It’s not the modern technology. It’s the parents. I see parents browsing through title after title in bookstores, ignoring kids pulling at their legs. I see kids squirming and squealing in strollers while their parents wander through just one more store at the mall. I see kids climbing over end tables in doctors’ waiting rooms while their parents read magazines, happily unconscious of the glares directed at them by others less unaware.
Nobody blames the books or the strollers or the magazines for making those parents ignore their kids. Why should we then blame the Blackberrys or the netbooks? Some parents with gadgets engage with their kids and some parents with gadgets don’t, just as some families make shopping a family excursion and pay attention to everybody’s needs and interests and stamina.
It’s not the technology. It’s just that some people don’t put their kids very high on their priority lists.