STOP! Is your smart phone or other mobile device beside you right now?

If your phone is not within eyesight, you may not yet be a smart phone “dependent.” But, more and more people are succumbing to the pull of this convenient, highly versatile technology! Fully 46% of smartphone owners say their smartphone is something “they couldn’t live without.”

Smartphones are not only used for text messaging, calling, and emailing, they are now essential partners in connecting with friends via social media, entertainment while waiting in line, and healthcare research advocates. As the video explains, many people do not even go to the bathroom without a phone in tow! What do you use your smart phone for? I am currently working on my master’s degree fully online. I can write my assignments on my laptop, tablet or smartphone and submit them virtually through BlackBoard Learn.

FT_15.04.01_smartphoneUses

The smart phone is just one channel for accessing emerging media, or the nearly unlimited information that we can access daily, right at our fingertips by connecting to the World Wide Web. Emerging media has become a revolution in the way we live our lives.  And, more and more of our lives are turning digital! (Think: blogging, social networking, streaming TV, etc. 80% of 18-44 year-olds report checking their smartphones first when they wake up in the morning, even before going to the bathroom!)

Parenting is another stellar example of how the Internet and mobile technology is revolutionizing society, and I will write the remainder of this first post examining this idea: what was parenting like 20 years ago versus today with the advent of emerging media?

When I was growing up, my mom would take photos of me using a Kodak camera with film that had to be developed. (Fun fact: To develop film in 2015, it takes an average of 2 weeks to come back, and it’s pretty expensive, too. See more here.) I still remember the excitement of those trips to Wal Mart when we would finally get to see the pictures from our day in the park or from our family vacation to the beach. Then, we would put them in a picture album to share with grandparents and a few close friends. Occasionally, on special holidays, my dad would pull out our home camcorder, and he would shoot my brother and I opening our gifts from Santa, or putting out food to feed the reindeer. But, the rest of the moments–all of the in between–were simply lived. They were not documented for all time and they were not shared with 1,000 of my parents’ closest friends; I can see both the positives and negatives of that.

For me, there were no potentially embarrassing Facebook statuses about my latest bowel movement, no videos of me throwing a temper tantrum in the toy store, and best of all, no naked pictures! (There are some retroactive childhood photos though after my parental figure acquired a Facebook and now enjoys #TBT posts on Thursdays; Thanks, Mom! I must say, I was rocking that Barbie convertible though.)

1993-June_Amanda_Barbie car

On the other hand, looking back, it would be nice to have even more of these every day moments documented. It would be neat to read over my Mom’s thoughts on my third birthday, or to see all of the well wishes of our friends and family when I graduated from Kindergarten. Wouldn’t it be heartwarming to see my grandmother teaching me to make her world famous fudge on a video, or to see my actual reaction when I caught my first fish?

One of my sorority sisters from college, who is now a stay-at-home-Mom, military spouse and talented blogger, has a little girl, and I just love reading her “Day in the Life” posts at WhimsicalSeptember.com. She has been posting about Hadley since the time they found out she was pregnant while her husband was deployed, and even recorded his reaction on video! Even though we live in completely different places, it is fun to catch up on her life via her blog posts. And, I know many of those will mean so much to her daughter when she gets older, too.

Here is an example of one of her posts about Hadley’s life at 8 months of age. It contains cute pictures, fun facts, and even a video of Hadley interacting with her dad. This will be so special to look back on in a few years!

(Other post teasers taken from Whimsical September.com).

Parenting is just one aspect of life that social media, the Internet, and emerging technology is absolutely changing. Even if you are against the idea of social media and sharing photos of your child on the Internet, it is a new aspect of life that you as a parent must consider. What photos of your child (if any) are you OK sharing? How do you handle other people sharing photos of your child, such as from a birthday party or swim meet? Will you want these photos shared with just a select group, with your entire News Feed, or in a more public forum like a blog? One of my cousins’ wives created a Closed Group for just our family to see pictures of her growing family. I thought that was a neat idea for moms who are more concerned with maximizing privacy online.

At what age will your kids be exposed to technology and social media? The local middle school just got rid of text books for all sixth graders in favor of tablets. If your child is using a tablet at school, will you strictly stick to books at home, or will you also incorporate similar technology to give your child a more consistent experience?

When I visited Disney World two years ago for a journalism conference, all of the kids were eagerly watching the fireworks show and nightly parade–through the lens of a smart phone! I was shocked that kids of all ages were filming the parade rather than experiencing the events in the moment. To deal with issues like this, another mom I know strictly limits smart phone time during mealtimes and special family events to ensure everyone is fully present and engaged with the activity at hand. Other moms encourage the idea of constant connectivity and expect their children to respond to their phone calls and text messages instantly, even if the child is fully engrossed in another activity.

I am not a mom yet, so I don’t have to answer any of these questions, but it is interesting to ponder how our family will respond to the challenges and opportunities that come with constant connectivity.

Parents: How are smart phones/emerging technology affecting your interactions with your family? What do you see as the pros and cons of this technology in your daily lives? **Please comment below to help me in my master’s degree course!

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14 thoughts on “STOP! Is your smart phone or other mobile device beside you right now?

  1. Smart phones affect a huge part when it comes to parenting responsibilities these days. I am no parent, but I have nannied two year old triplets for over a year and sometimes technology comes in handy believe it or not. Sure, sometimes I wish they would’ve put up the I-pad game and played around outside more, but they were using interactive games to learn numbers, shapes and even sounds. It was a cool approache that interested the kids… I could even play certain games with them and it made them so excited! There has to be schedule when it comes to technology and kids… Pace their use with it, and your use with it while around them.

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    • Lauren, thank you for taking the time to comment! There is no denying that technology is revolutionizing every aspect of our lives. I know some 4-year-olds who seem to have a fuller mastery of smart phones than I do because they are using these devices at a very young age. Yet, you make a good point about pacing and schedules. Technology can be a valuable learning tool, but it cannot be used exclusively to teach kids about the world around them.

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  2. As an elementary art teacher, I’m looking into using sites like Instagram to connect parents to their children’s work during class. Usually they only see the finished product, but the magic happens during the process. I’ve posted a little, but I never post faces to be on the safe side. I’m interested to see the parental views on this topic.

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    • Ashley, thank you for sharing your perspective as an elementary school teacher. Since different parents may feel differently about their children’s presence on social media, I think it is smart that you are not posting faces. However, if you did want to post the children occasionally, you may could safely do so with parental consent in the form of a signed waiver. We use these in our pediatric clinic in order to post photos of patients on social media. Some parents gladly sign whereas others prefer their children’s photos not be used for advertising/marketing the practice. We keep a file of all signed waivers for liability purposes (just in case!).

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  3. The use of smart phones and all the other emerging technology is really a double edged sword. One one hand they can be beneficial for parents by letting them stay in contact with their children when they are away or by interacting with them through online games and such, and by having instant access to grades. On the other hand, it can all be very harmful by exposing children content that is inappropriate , giving kids a false sense of security through social media which could lead to being “friends” with predators, and the self destructive behavior of always feeling inadequate as they are always watching the wonderful world of everyone else. I definitely feel the time using technology needs to be limited. My children’s schools have started using tablets in the classroom too. My girls do not like it. They actually prefer books. They have told me they really miss the feel of the pages and that it is harder for them to remember what they learn on the iPad. I personally don’t like that it feels like the school has them on a leash, especially with the apps like Edmodo. I think everyone needs time with no technology to decompress, learn a tangible hobby, and spend time together as a family.

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    • Allison, thank you for sharing these insights as a parent. I was first required to use technology in my college courses, and I did have a bit of a feeling of “being on a leash” in terms of needing to respond to the messages of professors and classmates right away until I became accustomed to it. There was no “decompression” time though, as you mention. I wonder how this phenomenon will begin affecting children now that they are required to use technology in the classroom at younger and younger ages? It is important to balance technology with time spent away from technology with friends and family, as you mention. Do you incorporate technology into your family time in any way? As you mention, it can be a double-edged sword, and some apps are educational and innovative in the way that your family can interact with one another!

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  4. Yes, my smart phone is next to me right now. Except for short periods of time and when impermissible/impractical there it will remain. I don’t know how this happened. I only know it began with a “bag phone”. The rest, as they say, is history.
    As a parent, “Cell phones” were a great invention to keep up with my kids in their teens. Social media has revolutionized everything. Much good. Sharing pictures with relatives who live cross country. Moments in time and occasional well wishes as you suggest. The dark side of smart phones that this generation needs to become keenly aware of is its effect on the ability to communicate. Shortened words or phrases can be misinterpreted. Texting and video sharing has, in many ways, replaced engaging conversation and physical social interaction. Voice or Video can never replace looking someone in the eyes or reading their body language. Social skills that make you successful in business and personally. Yes, what I wouldn’t give to see a video of my grandfather in his garden, hearing his voice talk to me and others. The great communicator that he was, lost but to memory. But, I learned from him how to communicate. Now with Face Time, I can see my daughter, who lives out of town, and her family as they grow. That is the good of social media. Her husband has a strict no baby pictures on Facebook policy. My son has the same philosophy but is situational about it. Everyone handles it different and there is good as you have pointed out. I do hope the next generation takes the time to talk to each other via voice and in person when possible. It doesn’t need to become a lost art. As for my family, we text when short messages are appropriate. But they know that I expect actual talking and the ability to string together coherent sentences. I have many more insights that could help you attain your Masters, However, Someone is texting me, it could be the bank, or work or my mother (Yes, she’s a Great-Grandmother and has a smartphone) so I must go.

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    • Thank you for taking the time to comment, Randy. You are right. Basically everyone is connected via a smart phone these days, no matter the age of the person! “Texting and video sharing has, in many ways, replaced engaging conversation and physical social interaction.” This is an interesting point for society as a whole. Video and shorthand is now the way of the future so marketers should also realize that by posting lengthy texts, they will quickly lose their audience. Instead, concise, visual messages are more on point. Would you agree or disagree?

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  5. You and all these replies make great points about both sides of the technology revolution in our modern lives and as parents. I am in complete agreement that social media can be a fantastic tool for sharing lives long distance or a wall that creates distance when we use it too much or inappropriately. Our family is still finding the balance between enjoying technology and learning to be present instead of just publishing our lives. I’ve really focused on being more present in the last few months. The one area of parenting I feel like social media and technology has affected the most for me is my day to day parenting. For the first time in history, we have access to how everyone parents. We can see how people in China parent or peer virtually through the neighbors’ windows. While some sharing of knowledge is beneficial, like how to quiet a fussy baby or install carseats correctly or being able to ask the world for opinions on a product before you buy it, we also see an unprecedented “job dissatisfaction’ from mothers who are all certain that they are doing it wrong. My daughter started reading at 4, but can’t count to 100 yet, but my neighbor’s daughter is building engineering marvels with Legos. My friend in Texas has had her daughter enrolled in dance for two years, but mine hasn’t taken more than a class. Another friend is teaching her children to grow vegetables and raise chickens. I’m like, uh here’s cereal, let mommy have my coffee while you watch Sesame Street. We’re all looking AT each other convinced either of our superiority or failure because all we see on Facebook is a perfectly cropped photo of a moment, not the real truth of all the weights and measures of being a mom. Even those moms who bravely post the unflattering pictures make me think, “look how confident she is, she doesn’t care what people think. Why can’t I be more like that?” and we’ve got to realize our kids aren’t playing this comparison game with us. They only know we love them. So I’ve stopped worrying about doing anything more than what feels right for my family. We have a flower garden, but I’m not going to be farmer john; we eat healthy, but I’m not going vegan; we enroll in dance or sports when we can afford to financially and when time management allows. I can’t be all things even though Pinterest begs to differ. I wrote a post about this topic last night. http://heavennotharvard.com/2015/08/27/spinning-top-mom/ I think technology can be a tool or a weapon depending on how we use it.

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    • Thank you for commenting, Jennifer. Social media can lead to something of a comparison game, which can be hard. I recently read a study that Pinterest users are actually the happiest social media users because it is more of a hobby. You are actually engaging in a hobby by pinning your favorite crafts, recipes, etc without necessarily comparing yourself to others in the way that Facebook often perpetuates. It was an interesting read, to say the least!

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  6. Smart phones play such a vital role in my daily life. They help me get to my next destination, respond to email, order items online, take pictures, and the list can go on and on. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we only had internet access for 2 out of the 6 days. I still used my phone everyday for pictures, but it didn’t consume much time since it was a quick picture here and there. I have to admit that I missed not being able to check Facebook or email or surf the web, so I was excited for those two internet access days to roll around just to catch up on what everyone was doing. However, I would say that I only used it for about an hour each day that we had Internet because we were on our honeymoon and should be spending the time together. I

    understand that children can become exposed to inappropriate stuff if they’re giving internet privileges too early. I think gradually letting children access technology, such as television or Internet, will help them not get over exposed and addicted to it so early.

    I do think smart phones have more pros than cons, and I think that our society as a whole is just going to become more dependent on in the future (i.e. Apple Pay).

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    • Jessica, this is so true. “I do think smart phones have more pros than cons, and I think that our society as a whole is just going to become more dependent on in the future (i.e. Apple Pay).” Smart phones are used for virtually everything, from checking the weather forecast, to paying bills, to communicating with others, to playing games to making to do lists. On days when I forget my smart phone, I feel utterly lost, and I will confess I usually go home to get it at lunch! Is this addiction a good thing? I think it has pros and cons, but as you mention I do think the pros outweigh the cons.

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  7. My phone is always by my side! Last year I went to work and left my phone at home. It was such a long day and it’s sad, but I almost felt empty without it- like I was missing out on something. I think part of it had to do with feeling worried if something happened I may not be able to get in contact with the people I need. Surely I would have been able to use a landline in the building, but what if there was an intruder in the building and we were on lock down? I know my mom would definitely want to make sure I was alright if she saw it on the news. When I have children in a few years I bet I will want to make sure they are safe as well. Along the lines of security, I also liked the comment you made about posting pictures in a private Facebook group. My family does that and I think it is very smart, especially to keep children’s privacy preserved!

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    • Rachel, privacy is certainly an important consideration in a perpetually connected world. How are you keeping yourself and your loved ones first and foremost safe? I think it is important to teach children about Internet safety from a very young age, just as our parents once taught us about stranger danger and not opening the door for strangers, not getting into strangers’ cars or accepting candy from strangers, etc. Now, there is a whole new aspect about teaching children how to be safe online!

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