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May 21, 2014

When Technology Calls, We Answer

Introducing our special guest blogger: Holly Elissa Bruno, MA, JD, keynoted at Doodle Bugs! Annual Early Childhood Education Conference. She is a best-selling authHolly_Elissa_Brunoor who keynotes internationally on early childhood leadership. To read her blog, go to hollyelissabruno.com. Holly Elissa, who served as Assistant Attorney General for the state of Maine, refers to herself as a “recovering attorney.”

Are you, like me, in that thirty-six percent of adults who check our emails, texts and social media messages before we do anything else in the morning (Consumer Digital Study, 2013)?

The internet has brought many gifts. Distant grandparents can talk face-to-face daily with their grandchildren, hearing first hand about each child’s adventures. Thanks to Skype, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, we can all stay much more connected in the moment. First thing each morning, we can find out if anything important has popped onto our agenda.

The internet also presents us with challenges. My mother would have called the internet a “mixed blessing”. The same text message that gets our attention can also distract us from the moment. The desire to check our Facebook messages can cut into family time, just as the desire to return to a video game can make a child want to rush through family dinner.

One mom, observing that her daughter had been texting a friend all morning, said: “Honey, why don’t you just call Janie?” Her daughter responded: “Mom! I wouldn’t know what to say to Janie.” Balancing direct relational time with the allure of the technology can be difficult. Like most parents, I like to think of myself as a multi-tasker. Don’t we all juggle more balls in the air than we care to say? Something that I read recently got my attention: studies show multi-taskers are less able to accomplish anything well. As we are continuously distracted, we fail to give full attention to anything. The net “seizes our attention only to scatter it” (Nicholas Carr, The Shallows, p.118).

I have the pleasure of visiting many early childhood programs. I love seeing children happily engaged in activities that help them learn and grow. I also adore witnessing a child’s wiggling “can’t wait” enthusiasm to show her brightly colored art work to Mom, Dad or Grandpa when they arrive to take their child home.

Some programs post signs asking parents to turn off their cell phones when parents pick up their children. Doodle Bugs! does not post these signs. I wonder: Does this mean Doodle Bug! family members don’t need the reminder? If so, how delightful! You know how precious those moments of reuniting with your child are. Communication in face-to-face relationships is rich, nuanced and memorable. Ninety-three percent of emotion is communicated without one word being spoken. Learning to read these languages of the heart can take a lifetime. Children learn so much by observing what we adults do.

What if that alluring ring or ping of your cell phone calls when you pick up your child, whose call will you answer? Thank you for each time you give your child priority in those special moments.