We’re all guilty of it—we’re at the park with our children, while our iPhone, Blackberry, or Smartphone is buzzing away in our pocket. You try and ignore it, but in the end you cannot resist temptation, and check it. Before you know it, you have e-mailed five people, texted another, and checked to see what’s trending on Twitter. All the while, your children are . . . wait, where are they?
Or maybe you are at home and thought it would be okay to quickly check Facebook, while your kids are safely painting a picture, until you realize it’s been ten minutes and the paint has somehow migrated to your walls and furniture.
Let’s face it—it’s becoming more difficult to disconnect ourselves from the online world. The more websites we introduce ourselves to, the more websites we feel obligated to log into, comment on, or update, on a regular basis. Whether you are a stay-at-home parent looking to stay connected to the outside world, or an entrepreneur looking to effectively market your business or blog, the time we spend online can easily take over much of the day.
I finally realized it was time to disconnect, when one day I looked up to see my daughter looking directly at me, and after realizing she had just said something, asked her to repeat it. Disappointedly, she just looked at the ground and said, “No thank you, you’re checking your e-mail.” That made me sad. Nothing online is more important than my daughter and at that moment, I was supposed to be with her, and while I was there physically, my mind was lost in my e-mail and Facebook.
I always thought checking my email or social networking while my daughter was playing nearby was acceptable. That is, until I realized I don’t hear half of what she is saying. I have also witnessed other parents and caregivers trying to answer their children while checking their phones, and not realizing that they are responding in one syllable, monotone voices. After a while, the kids realize their parents aren’t listening and simply stop talking to them altogether.
I have since set aside specific times of my day to check my e-mail and social networks. I let my daughter know when this time is and what I am doing, so that she does not feel ignored. I want my daughter to know that the lines of communication between us are always open, and that regardless of how much I enjoy social networking, nothing replaces talking face-to-face with her.
In a busy world in which communication plays such an important role in our everyday lives, making sure we are in control of the amount of time we spend online, versus the time we spend in the real world, is important. Children are watching everything adults do. Teaching healthy online habits—including knowing when to disconnect ourselves—is a great way to educate children on how to effectively communicate online and in real life.