Another terrible mother on an iPhone

Criticism still abounds of parents (mothers, usually, because they are supposed to give their undivided attention to their children 24 hours per day, with no regard whatsoever for their own lives or sanity) who are glued to their phones while in the presence of their children. I saw a meme on facebook that had been much shared – a photo of a sad-looking child with the caption, I wish I was a phone so she would look at me.


Here’s a scenario: it’s Saturday lunchtime and I’m in a café with my children. I am staring at my iPhone, and my children are playing on their tablets. ‘Mummy’s busy just now. Don’t talk to me,’ I say, as one of them starts to tell me about their game. At the next table an older woman shakes her head and frowns. Quelle horreur! Call the motherhood police! She isn’t listening to her children. They’ll grow up with underdeveloped brains and have no social skills.

In fact I’ve been listening to them non-stop since 6.30am that morning. They’ve been rabbiting on about minecraft and star wars, often at the same time, getting louder and louder in a bid to educate me on creepers, endermen and droids. Even when we went for a cycle they talked and talked until I swear I could feel blood dripping out of my ears. The trip to the café is my fifteen minute break in which I plan to use my electronic device to interact with adults, and thus preserve my sanity. And I have brought similar devices to occupy my children in the desperate hope they’ll stop talking to me for that short while.

I can only guess that the woman at the next table who is tutting at me either doesn’t have kids or has forgotten that her generation probably ignored their children far more often than modern day parents.

In the ‘good old days’ mothers bumped into their friends on the street and stood gossiping for ages, catching up on news (they really could have done with facebook) while their children stood beside them waiting…and waiting…and waiting…

At the weekend, families ‘visited’ one another and children sat in front lounges for hours waiting…and waiting…and waiting.

Did all this hanging about improve children’s social skills? I doubt it. They might have learned to tolerate boredom better than the modern child but when I endured such visits I wasn’t listening to the adults’ conversation – and they certainly weren’t listening to me. Children were ignored and told to be quiet. Just like…well, you get it.

There are many articles on the subject of ‘the terrible, irreparable damage’ electronic devices are doing to our children. These articles always refer to children who are left all day in front of televisions, with tablets thrust into their hands. Children who are obese, starting school in nappies and are unable to string a basic sentence together because their parents can’t be bothered dealing with them. The implication behind those articles is that if you let your children have electronic games they will turn out like that. If I see you in a café thrusting a kindle into your child’s hand and telling them to leave you in peace for a few minutes I will presume your child is neglected and psychologically damaged by their reliance on a screen.

But the children who are unhealthy, uncommunicative and left in front of screens for entire days are the rare exception, and it is most likely that their home situations are so awful that being stuck in front of the telly 24/7 is the least of their problems. The vast, vast majority of parents do not do this. They control the time their children spend on electronics, just as they control how much sugary food they eat, how late they stay up, how much freedom they have – because that’s what parents do. We aim for moderation – and some days we manage it better than others.

So, to those who tut and judge and want our children to live in the past, only playing with wooden toys and reading paper books, please leave us modern parents in peace – we’re doing our best.

And if you’re reading this on a phone or tablet, and are {gasp} ignoring your children while you read…watch out for the disapproving looks!

Me ignoring my children
Me ignoring my children…

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