Dear Father Hood: are smartphones endangering our children?
Wowsers. If this isn’t a potentially explosive parenting query, I’m not sure what is. I mean this question has everything you’d want if you fancied creating a Mumsnet-enraging online brouhaha. It contains the word ‘smartphone’, which is a topic that always slices a divide right through the heart of the parenting community. And it features the word ‘endangering’, which suggests our actions could be putting our children in harm’s way. Thus you can pretty much guarantee that whatever I write someone is going to post a comment along the lines of: “Who are you to say that what I am doing is wrong? I’ve raised three children and I know best. I’ve never been angrier. You don’t know my kids. And you can’t judge me. Also, not sure if anyone has ever told you, but you’re fat and ginger.”
Back to the question
Still with me? Good, because now I’ve got all that off my chest I’m going to attempt to mould an answer that navigates through these choppy waters without kicking off World War Parent. How on Earth am I going to achieve this? Three ways. 1. I’m going to steer clear of the debate around screen time. 2. I’m going to give the whole, ‘Should you be posting pics of your children on social media when paedophiles are everywhere?’ argument a wide berth. 3. Instead of flinging arrows, I’m going to name and shame myself. And here’s why.
Bad Father Hood
Yesterday morning, I took my son out for a walk in his pram. Around 15 minutes into our excursion, I grew tired of saying “car” and singing “Zoom, zoom, zoom, we’re going to the Moon” and decided to reach for my phone. I looked at Facebook, checked my messages, started to put together a hilarious tweet and… snapped back into reality when the pram’s front right wheel plunged into a hole, the frame flipped forwards and the bubster was very nearly flung to the ground. Yes, that does say very nearly. Thankfully, I was able to rectify the situation before my son ‘ate pavement’, but this didn’t stop me obsessing about what might have happened and fretting about how many other times my reliance on technology has potentially put my son in danger.
A new regime
The answer – when I considered the could-have-been-worse tumbles that have occurred during the Whatsapps I just had to answer and the near-spills that have happened during the posed pictures I simply had to take in order to update his grandparents, my sister, friends and social media world about his latest development, trick or hat – was far too often, so I have come to a decision. When it’s just me and the bubster, my phone is going to remain in my pocket unless:
- I’m taking a stationary, and extremely safe, bubby and daddy selfie
- I’m expecting a call from mummy, nano and grandpa or the nursery
- I’m trying to assist the ‘getting food into his stomach’ process by showing him a video of himself swimming
- I’m in the middle of an emergency and need to contact a doctor, a mechanic or Nando’s
Is this going to be easy? Heck, no. But on the plus side it is the right thing to do, it will improve the quality of the time I spend with my son and it should give my wife one less reason to scold me.
P.S. I know I said that I wouldn’t throw any arrows, but, given the latest research shows that Britons have never been more addicted to their smartphones, I am pretty sure that I am not the only parent who is guilty of putting technology before their toddler. Conclusion? For the sake of your child’s health, put the smartphone down and follow my lead.