Technology Apology

We like to complain about our kids.  Doing so binds us as parents, as a generation, and can be a tiny reality check on the unabated bragging in which we would otherwise indulge.  And nothing is more fun to complain about than our children’s attachment to technology.

Closeup of two friends playing video game

Call it an obsession or even an addiction, parents everywhere compare stories of teenagers’ seemingly limitless ability to text uninterrupted or play Xbox without coming up for air. Gather any group of parents and they will nod their heads knowingly.  We can’t get their attention, because it is always elsewhere.

But have you sat in a meeting recently with any adults?  Or driven in a car with one? Or stood on the sidelines of a kids’ game?  We rail against our kids’ electronic addiction while furiously tapping away at our own phones.

Here are some of the complaints that I have heard, or voiced:

Kids check their Facebook page even before they brush their teeth.

The only time they seem to relinquish their phones is in the shower.  There is a fortune to be made by the first company that comes up with a waterproof phone.

When you wake your kids up, their cell phone is usually somewhere in or near their beds.

My kid’s texting got so bad that I checked my phone bill closely, only to discover that they were texting right through the school day, during classes and breaks.

During any large college lecture students can been found watching ESPN, shopping for shoes or reading The New York Times on their laptops.

If the Xbox is on, kids will not look up when an adult speaks and they cannot come to the table, leave the house, do homework….until the game is over.  When a parent reminds them that it is just a game, they look at us like we should know already, without them having to tell us, that we are idiots. The game must not be interrupted.

Kids will play FIFA soccer on the Xbox, when real live, exciting, don’t know how it will end, soccer, is on TV.  Ditto Madden NFL, NBA Live…

While doing homework, kids open multiple windows so that they can look at ESPN, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and email at the same time. Tell them that it is impossible to study that way, and they will say they have no problem with concentration.

Kids will text, Facebook and even in a pinch email, but they see no reason to use a phone for talking.  If you call them they will text you back asking what you wanted.

Many parents feel that having access to 24 hour communications on the palm of their hands is ruining their kid’s sleep, but just try prying the phone out of their death grip.

But I can’t help but notice:

I check my email before I brush my teeth.

Every weekend, I stand on the soccer sidelines with a string of dads, each with one eye on the game the other on their phones. Dads always curse themselves when they miss their kid scoring because they are looking down at their phone.  It is Sunday, who are they talking to?

I know a surprising number of adults who have had to replace their phones because they dropped them in the toilet, this begs the question…

I get text responses from adults that read…”talk later, am driving”…we would kill our teens, right?

Sitting in a meeting of any sort and half the adults in the room will have their phone in their hand or right next to them on the table or desk. A few will try to hide them in their lap. Real work and good manners are not enough to stop communications with the outside world.

In the midst of writing a post, say this one for example, I have been known to check my email, send off a few tweets and buy a dress,  although I would tell you that I have no problems with concentration.

Every morning I wake up to emails that friends or colleagues have sent me at 2:27 am or 4:13 am. Do they write in bed or leave bed to write?

As adults and parents we are indulging in a bit of a double standard.  Technology is fine for us, we believe, but an overwhelming, waste of time and a distraction for our kids.  We curse the fact that they never seem to be free of their phones all the while awash with a sense of relief that because they never seem to set their phones down, we can always reach them.

For years as our kids generation sat in front of video games or fought to bring their phones to the dinner table, our frustration rose.  Now that every member of the family sits, eats, walks and sleeps with smart phones in hand, it is clear to see that we parents suffer from the same addiction. To our kids, we offer a heartfelt technology apology.

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