By Leslie Crawford, Senior Editor
A young mother and her daughter, she looked to be about eight years old, were sitting together in a popular local deli in Denver. It looked like a mom and child out for a special Saturday "date."
I was sitting close enough to eavesdrop. But what was more revealing is what wasn't said. I didn't hear her mom ask how school was going or what they should do for the rest of the weekend, although she did ask what they should buy when they went to the grocery store after lunch – and then she proceeded to write her shopping list – on her phone. The daughter's face would ebb and flow from expectedly looking at her mother, hoping for some real conversation and contact, to dejectedly looking down at the table when little came.
Choosing screens over children
I see it all the time. Parents at playgrounds, tap tap tapping away on their smart phones as their kids play nearby, or deep in conversation on their mobile as they walk down the street with their child. If this sounds accusatory, it's also confessional: I've chosen my screen over my children way, way too often. Whether at home and whenwe're out, my kids have asked me a question and frequently I've replied, "Just a second honey…" because I'm scrolling through emails (there are always new emails to check) or hunting for a web address I need to look up now. "Hmmm, I wonder why your kids are so obsessed with screens," my friend Alison said archly when she came to stay with us. Ouch.
The painful truth is when we pay such rapt attention to our screens that are never out of an arm's reach, we are tuning out our children. And as Alison pointed out, it's a bitter payback when our children tune us out with their devices.
Tuning out, and turning off, all the screens
Today is the first day of Screen-free Week (it runs Aril 30 to May6), which used to be called "TV-Turnoff." Those days seem so quaint, when to have a screen-free week all a parent needed to switch off was the family TV. Now we are never free of the things – and it's the little ones in our purses and pockets that are the most insidious. So I'm using this week to kick start my little-screen addiction by putting my smart phone away when I'm with my children. The emails, the text messages, the voice mails will still be waiting for me. But my children? There's only so long a kid can wait until he learns it's just easier to tune us out, too.