Being a parent is an awesome responsibility.


Kids, in particular, are strongly influenced by what they see and experience. As the wise saying goes, “Children learn what they live.”

Because we want efficient tools that help us manage our lives, passively entertain us, and reduce stress after a hard day’s work, it’s no wonder that tech devices have taken center stage in our personal lives.

No matter how much we love our children, we have a hard time pulling ourselves away from these electronics and being present. In some families, each member is chin-deep in electronics from the minute they wake up until they are literally sleeping.

Because it’s so common among all ages, parents may grow complacent about setting a good example for when to tune out tweets and plug in to people.

Most of us have been on the receiving end of an electronic interruption, and even in the most innocent of situations, it can make us feel insignificant.  Many adults seem to “deal with it,” accepting it as a necessary part of modern living.

People who grew up before the digital age had plenty of natural opportunities for socializing because they weren’t living with the distractions children experience today. Parents weren’t lured away from ordinary activities with their kids by work emails well into the evening, or a Facebook alert announcing someone outscored them in Candy Crush.

Today, children are more vulnerable to the effects of living without boundaries. I believe we all make great effort to do the best for our kids. But when a child sees a parent more attentive to what’s flashing on their device than being present with him, it can really sting. It’s a subtle (or, in some cases, not so subtle) message of rejection. Over time, it can make a child feel invisible.

Loving Mother Playing With Her Daughter

There is a universal desire for all of us to be truly seen by others. It’s a fundamental aspect of being human. For children, it’s imperative that they feel secure and develop a sense of self-worth, feelings which develop when they have quality interactions with their parents and others in their lives.

We need to ask ourselves, are we inadvertently cheapening the experiences we have with our children because we are distracted by our devices?

For example:

  • While helping your daughter with her vocabulary words, do you want to take a harmless peek at your smartphone to see if anyone is pinging you?

  • Or, while giving your son tips on his free throw, are you tempted to pause to post a comment about the shiny new car your friend just bought?

  • Around the dinner table, will the familiar red light blinking on your Blackberry cause you to say, “Oooh…sorry, this is important….I just need to answer…this…one….email….”?

Think about the warm message a child receives when a parent greets him with a smile and honors the time they are sharing together by being fully present. Now, in contrast, imagine a child’s perception of himself (and ultimately his world view) when he (repeatedly) learns that you prefer watching the singing parrot in the YouTube video over paying attention to what you are doing with him.

The way the world treats a child conditions him to carry that same energy into his adult life. Make no mistake about it, to a child, you are his world. Are we treating our children with smiles, or indifference?

Although we all enjoy the benefits of technology, kids still need to see their parents using technology in responsible ways. At home, they take their social cues not from what their parents say, but from what they do.

The bottom line is, responsible tech use reflects the sentiment “There’s a time and a place.”

Kids also need to practice their social skills so they can be part of the next generation of intelligent, spirited, engaged, and sociable people.

So, the next time you feel a compulsion to answer the siren call from one of your electronics, take a moment to think about the consequences.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I showing my child that I value our time together?

  • Am I demonstrating positive role modeling and social etiquette with the choices I make about my tech use?

  • Am I teaching my child to care more about people than things?

It’s certainly your right to provide the kind of examples for your children you choose. Just remember that your kids are watching, so the choices you make regarding your use of technology will influence their choices, too. Even more, their learned behavior will shape tomorrow’s society.

CarolArchambeaultMeet Carol

Carol Archambeault believes sharing meals is the foundation for recognizing one another’s humanity and imparting our life stories. She completed her Master of Arts in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College.  A dual citizen of Italy, she currently resides in southern California. Carol is working to spur a national dialogue about the benefits of sharing meals through her upcoming book, The Shared-Meal Revolution: How to Reclaim Balance and Connection in a Fragmented World through Sharing Meals with Family and Friends, and her blog.