Parents suffering iGuilt over smartphones

By Amelia Wade

Martin Cocker says his phone has sometimes taken precedence to his boys Oliver (left) and Oscar. Photo / Supplied
Martin Cocker says his phone has sometimes taken precedence to his boys Oliver (left) and Oscar. Photo / Supplied

They call it iGuilt. It's become an increasingly common sight at Saturday morning sport as parents tap away at their phones, missing little Jimmy's goal.

Some parents don't even realise what they're doing while others readily admit they devote more attention to their iPhone than to their child.

The modern world is filled with technological distractions, from smartphones to laptops to iPads, which are increasingly hard to switch off.

Netsafe director and father of a 4 and 8-year-old, Martin Cocker admitted smartphones sometimes interfered with his parenting. His job means he needs to always be contactable by media and colleagues and so he always has his phone on and with him.

"If I get messages, I check them and if my phone rings, I answer it because it might be work-related. But the bulk of the time, of course, it's not."

Mr Cocker said smartphone technologies were deliberately designed to keep people engaged.

"It's designed to get you using it and to keep you using, making it harder to pull away.

"They do that because they don't make money in a traditional way. You don't pay to use a lot of the services that people are constantly using on their smartphones, but the more you use it the more the companies who own the apps can sell the advertising for," he said.

As well, new technologies have removed the ability to stop working when you leave the office, meaning work inevitably creeps into home life.

Mother of two and iPhone user Rochelle Gribble admitted she's fallen victim to iGuilt after seeing the behaviour of 3-year-old Caitlin deteriorate when she devotes too much time to her iPhone.

"I've become increasingly mindful that I need to not have my iPhone out when my kids are around," she said.

"When my daughter wants my attention but I'm on my phone she does something which she knows is naughty and she's basically trying to get my attention. So it's at that moment when I know I need to put down my phone, put away the computer and engage with her."

Mrs Gribble works from home and runs parenting advice website www.kiwifamilies.co.nz.

"One of the reason I work from home is so I can spend time with my kids and I want to enjoy their childhood and here I am checking my email at the park."

She frequently sees parents getting distracted by their phones while pushing their children on the swings at the park.

"There's lots of little fun distractions on the internet, like Facebook, and sometimes it's a heck of a lot more interesting than talking to your children, let's be honest. And it's also a lot less demanding."

Professor Alan France, head of the Sociology department at the University of Auckland, said the positive impact of technology should be noted as well. Gadgets like PlayStation's Wii had the ability to draw families together to play games while children having increased access to mobile phones meant parents could worry less.

" ... mobiles have improved parents' connection to their children and I don't see that as a bad thing."

Mr Cocker suggested "technology-free weekends" to help improve family-time, or even just a technology-free day or afternoon.

How to miss a childhood

* Keep your phone turned on at all times of the day. Allow the rings, beeps, and buzzes to interrupt your child mid sentence; always let the caller take priority.

* Take your children to the zoo and spend so much time on your phone that your child looks longingly at the mother who is engaged with her children and wishes she was with her instead.

* Go to your child's sporting event and look up periodically from your phone thinking she won't notice that you are not fully focused on her game.

* Check your phone first thing in the morning ... even before you kiss, hug, or greet the people in your family.

* Read email and text messages at red lights. Then tell yourself that when your kids are old enough to drive they won't remember you did this all the time.
sourced from www.handsfreemama.com

- NZ Herald

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