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Fighting the technophobic parenting crowd...

As I write this entry today, I'm sitting at our patio table in the side yard on my laptop--mobile phone nearby--while my daughter plays. And that disturbs quite a few people in our world. (Not that this is the only disturbing thing I do on a daily basis as a parent.)

There's a growing backlash against our plugged-in world. Even NPR--who I normally love--has jumped on the bandwagon. This morning's headline made me cringe: For The Children's Sake, Put Down That Smartphone You can add it to the growing list of pet peeves I have as a dad. We normally gripe about the lady who tells us our child should have on a coat or hat or the constant comments about how it must be "mom's day off." Now, it's the "parents these days have their noses in a smartphone" crew. It's condescending. It usually focuses on the negative. It makes many assumptions about the way that modern parenting does and does not work. It has an element of throwback, longing for the days where we all paid attention to our kids. Right. The good old days--ruined by newfangled technology.

The research, articles, patronizing comments, all ignore the positives and good that technology does in our lives. It's become another way to make parents feel bad about not living up to some imaginary ideal of perfection. It ignores the information parents get, the way we stay connected to other parents and our partners and extended family, it ignores the way that it allows us to pay MORE attention to our kids because we can now take a trip to the playground AND check the hockey score. No need to stay home glued to the tv. Not to mention the dad groups I belong to where we share intimate details of our day, share parenting secrets to success, and vent about annoying pieces of being a modern dad. That screen we may be staring at may be child-focused. It may not.

It could also be the small, insignificant piece of nothing-important that lets us feel less apart from the outside world. It may be a funny video that for 2 minutes takes away the agony of being a parent. Especially if you're a Stay At Home Parent. Even if you're an At-Home Parent who loves it 99% of the time. There are significant parts of the day where you want to claw your own eyes out because of the boredom, the repeating conversations, the tantrums, the having to read your least favorite book again for the 7 millionth time. Even if you love it, it's a job. A difficult job.

So let's stop with the wishful thinking that the modern parent is going to put down the smartphone that is keeping us sane. Let's stop with the judgmental attitude that screen time for kids is bad. Let's stop with the judgmental attitude towards parents who have a phone or tablet in their hands. My 2 year old can take photos with an iPad...and you know what? I'm proud of her. Being tech-savvy is what is going to be required of both kids and grownups in the future. We're not going to roll back the clock to a time when smartphones aren't an extra family member.

Which isn't to say that we can't be smart about technology use. But, as I've written before, it's just a tool. Let's stop treating technology as evil and start being more thoughtful about the way we interact and use it. Hint: that doesn't mean getting rid of it.

You don't have to put your smartphone down for the sake of the children. And even more, those of us who embrace technology need to speak out. Just because you have a smartphone in your hand doesn't mean you are a bad parent.