A guest posting by toyportfolio.com’s co-founder Joanne Oppenheim
At dinner in an upscale restaurant the other night, we were seated beside a family with two small boys. One, I guessed, was half past two and the other four at most. One sat with Mommy the other sat opposite with Dad. The two boys never looked up nor did the family talk about anything. Mom was eating dessert and dad was drinking his coffee. The boys were completely engrossed with their parents’ smart phones. The younger boy seemed to be doing nothing but moving his finger from right to left. After a time he lifted the phone to hand it to mom but she didn’t notice until the phone fell on the floor as both mother and child gasped. The child put his hands over his face in horror and when he was scolded looked totally mournful. He slowly formed the words, sorry mommy…and looked away.
Fortunately the screen did not crack. But I thought at that moment of a case we recently reviewed that is made to protect just such events, but would be far too babyish for this family. But I couldn’t help thinking how glad I am that I missed parenting in this brave new age. Now maybe the precocious child was playing with an app designed as so many are for toddlers. My guess is he was doing nothing more than making things happen by moving photos on the screen. Whatever he or his brother were doing, their interactions at the dinner table had nothing to do with each other until something went wrong.
Though I can no longer imagine a world without my own smart phone, computer and other devices, I have to admit I am glad they did not exist when I was raising my own children or eating out with grandchildren. When I think of that little family that barely talked to each other, I can imagine a time not far off when these same parents will be telling their kids to put their cells away and scolding them to “be present” during the limited time when the whole family is together.
Years ago it was mostly poor families that did not have a dinner hour when the family sat together and talked about the day. Often children from such homes came to their early school years with less language than those who came from homes where families shared more than food at the dinner hour and even read books aloud to children who could read.
Affluence has given us a new deprived class of kids. As always, the problem is not in the technology…but how we use it.
Let us know how you deal with technology in your family? Is there a “no phone” rule at your dinner table?