Update: After writing this the founder of National Unplugging Day commented and listened to all your fabulous feedback. A few days later the website was dramatically re-written and is now much less judgemental. Gone are the stories of children literally begging for attention and getting NO eye contact from their parents, to the detriment of their emotional well being. My thoughts on the subject haven’t changed, but it is fantastic to see that changes can be made just my saying what you think and if that means that a strung out parent who is concerned about their technology usage visits the page and doesn’t feel worse then I feel as if I and you have done a good thing.
I have read countless blog posts over the years telling me that I should unplug more, switch off my phone, not use social media, preaching about how much better my life would be if I did so. The irony that these posts are written by bloggers who work very hard to keep an online presence is not lost on me. Now, it seems a website (again irony metre off the scale) is getting in on the act by encouraging parents to take part in National Unplugging Day. To put our technology away for the day, for the sake of the children. They are asking us to do something different instead, like go on a bike ride or go to the park or simply a walk in the woods. It all smacks of making us feel guilty for being too interested in what we are reading and sharing on the Internet, rather than spending ‘quality time’ with our children. Well, you can unplug if you want to, but I shan’t be, because I know that social media and the internet in general, makes me a better parent.
Firstly, let’s deal with this myth that using our phones prevents us from doing things with our children. I take my children on bike rides and to the park. (Ok, so I pretty much loathe going to the park, but they don’t know that) I bake with them, play with them, craft with them, go the allotment with them, play board games with them, talk with them. I read. I laugh. I listen. I walk. I run. I do all this and still send tweets and share pictures on social media. I do it and still find time to read blogs and the news and yes, waste time reading gossip about One Direction and Bradley Cooper. My children don’t beg me to put my phone down, they hardly notice it. There are many times in the day when they are otherwise engaged. These times are often short lived, but there are definitely little pockets of time. They don’t need and nor should they have my undivided attention all day, every day. They wouldn’t want it!
I get the idea that we should be ‘present’ with them when we spend time with them and I won’t pretend I always am, but it’s not social media that is making my mind wander. It’s the fact that my house is messy, or I haven’t had the chance to put any bread in the breadmaker, because I haven’t had a moment when they’ve left me alone for five minutes. It’s the nagging feeling that I need to look at my credit card bill or renew mine and the children’s library books that makes me not want to sing ‘Wind the Bobbin up’ for the 20th time. All of this though is really about how the internet doesn’t make me a worse parent and I have stated that it makes me a better parent and it does.
Sharing on social media makes me notice things more and record things. I notice my children and what they are doing, I record it and I share it. The last part of that process isn’t necessary, I know, it’s just fun, but the first two bits are vital. I have a brilliant record of our life, the trivial, minute bits of it and I love that. I love looking back on it already and so do they. Inspired by someone I follow on Instagram, I recently made some mini videos of our day. We didn’t do anything special or different. Nano biked to school, we played, we visited the allotment, but it made such a special snippet of our day that I can look at for many years. In fact, yesterday after school Mini Mck asked if we could make a family video on Saturday. I love sharing this creativity with them and technology is going to part of their lives, why not show them what it can do.
Most of what I read and search out online is inspiring. I defy you to read this post and not become more patient the next time you feel more needed than you think you can handle. I can name at least three things I have done with my three year old, just in the last couple of weeks, that have come from Pinterest ideas. I know that when I am having a bad moment I can turn to social media and find a heap of support, delivered in a non-smug, totally understanding way, that will both make me feel better and make me pull my socks up and be a better parent. From other parents that I communicate with on-line I learn about places to take my children and things to do with them. I learn how to handle situations better, to be more patient, to laugh at a bad day, or nod knowingly at someone else’s. My world is bigger because of the internet, not smaller.
The parents that I know and follow on-line and basically I am talking about you, the people who read this blog, are some of the best parents I have ever come across. They are creative and hard-working, they notice the details, they treasure the everyday, they want to be the best they can for themselves and their community and their kids and they inspire me every day.
So ‘National Unplugged Day’ can try it’s best to make plugged in parents feel as bad as possible on June 28th as it preaches to us to frolic through the woods on our bikes. I may partake in some good old fashioned fun myself, but I’ll probably have a nice photo to go along with it and I refuse to feel guilty or lesser because of that.
NB – No children were neglected in the writing of this blog 😉