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Friday, October 23, 2015

the smartphone age

The other day, my husband called me to tell me to listen to the radio, because he was listening to an interview with Sherry Turkle and it was blowing his mind.  For years, we've had conversations about how much screen time etc is appropriate for a kid, and what we will do with Oliver as he gets up, with me usually advocating for much less compared to my husband.  But listening to her, he suddenly decided it was time to cut back on screen time for us as we played with Oliver.

Turkle talks about the way conversation and communication changes, just by having a smartphone out (even if you're not using it).  There's this idea that people pick it up in awkward moments, or even to do something helpful (like double-check a fact), but that we rely on our phones so much that we've forgotten how to spend quality time together, and even how to be bored.

One of the main points that stood out to us, as parents to a one-year-old, is her comments about how smartphones make us forget things we should know, like that babies need interaction and parents talking to them.  She talks about a father who got used to using his smartphone when his 2-year-old daughter was taking a bath, instead of talking to her and playing with her.  This was sort of uncomfortably true for us, because sometimes when Oliver is happily playing on his own, I might pull out my phone, and I don't want him to have this picture of us, always sitting on our phones or laptops while he does his own thing.

Anyway, I don't think phones or computers are inherently evil, and having a smartphone makes a lot of things in life so much easier, but for us, it has been helpful to start setting some rules.  I try to keep my phone plugged in or put away when I'm spending time with Oliver, and if we go somewhere, I keep it zipped up in my bag so I'm actually enjoying interacting with Oliver instead of checking my phone when he shows me the same puzzle piece for the tenth time in a row.  I don't even think I was that bad, but it can't hurt to be more aware of how much time we spend online.  My husband doesn't actually have a smartphone, but he likes to come home and get out his laptop to unwind, and he's trying to keep his laptop put away until after Oliver goes to bed.

(Read what Turkle says here and here if you're interested in her studies and opinions.)

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