Dear New Parents,
I've been watching you. I know, that's so creepy! However, I limit my observations to the public sphere, only taking notes when I see you all at the park, beach, grocery store or restaurants. I hate to get on your case, but you have a problem.
You have GOT to put down the cellphones.
I know you're good parents and I know you have seamlessly, like the rest of us, included the smart phone in your daily life. The only problem is that you are hurting your kids. The good-but-interrupted attention kids (especially babies) get when we use our cellphones all the time harms their long-term development. Young humans need prolonged eye contact and responsive and repetitive attention. Without this, normal human emotional processes go haywire. Kids with highly distracted parents tend to engage in more dangerous behavior (this goes in the duh category - 'Mom - look at me!'). Also, did you know that when parents are engaged with the phone instead of the kids, they are more likely to respond harshly?
It's not a pretty picture. Add this emotional toll to the fact that most scientists recommend keeping kids off of screens and physically away from phones, and this is a real problem.
I think we can compare cell phone use while parenting to what happens to babies who have depressed mothers. It's not an exact match, but similar. Moms with maternal depression are often withdrawn and don't hold eye contact or talk as much to their babies compared to non-depressed moms. They can, in turn, also be intrusive (harsh). These babies then suffer from internal disregulation, a science-y term for being emotionally unable to respond normally. Additionally, babies of depressed mothers don't get as much attention or help from their moms and therefore learn less because the mom is less involved with them on a minute-by-minute basis.
Sound familiar? The situation is comparable at least. And thank goodness maternal depression has multiple levels of treatment and is seen as something that the mom cannot necessarily control. However, we don't see consistent and constant cell phone or screen use as a problem (guaranteed, we will, and soon). It's just what everyone is doing.
Well, everyone is doing Oxycontin too (207 million scrips written in 2013), but that doesn't make it normal or right. Luckily, there is a simple solution! And it's way easier than treating depression. Just turn the phone or iPad to silent and put it down when you are with the kids. Use it when they are asleep, or otherwise occupied. The deeper connection you will experience from uninterrupted time with baby or kids is a huge reward, far more compelling than whatever new Facebook meme is making the rounds. The illogic of throwing away important developmental behaviors to check on 'status updates', see how many 'likes' a picture got or to shop on Facebook marketplace is, in fact, insanity.