In Defense of Distracted Parenting


distracted parenting technologyAre you with your kids right now? Then you're practicing some distracted parenting. Whether it's the computer, the iPhone, the TV, or any other tech gadget that we're addicted to, using while parenting has come under fire more than once. Most recently, by a dad who was admonished by his 4-year-old who was fully aware that she could get away with anything during one of his smartphone distractions. The author of the piece asks if these little "stepping outs" could add up to a big problem, not unlike when dad goes out for cigarettes and never comes back.

While my initial reaction to his story was a sinking feeling in my stomach, knowing my kids have had to ask for my attention more than once when I was deep into an article or IM session, upon reflection, I realized, "So what?"

As the author points out, parents found ways to shake themselves out of the grind of child-rearing long before the advent of blogs and text messages. Parents used to just tell kids to go outside and play. Today's helicopter variety, however, makes you feel bad for not staring into your child's eyes 24/7, whether encouraging a new skill or just to make them feel how much you love them.

But kids need space. Even my almost 2-year-old doesn't need me watching him like a hawk as he eats lunch. If I can check my email while he's chatting to himself about pasta, we're both pretty happy. Additionally, as comedian Louis C.K. once pointed out, being able to get some work in while your child is running happily on the playground may be the only reason the two of you can even be there right at that moment. I know my smartphone allowed me to spend more time with my newborn -- as I returned emails while he was nursing -- because I had to get back to work or lose my income.

I do advocate Internet-free Sundays, and unplugging when you're attending a child's recital or birthday party is crucial. But checking email, looking at headlines when your little one is absorbed in play, or just taking five minutes for yourself -- that's not going to hurt your kids. And it might just help your mood.

Do you practice distracted parenting?


Image via paul_irish/Flickr

child care, toddler development, working moms


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jpfsmom jpfsmom

I do but any parent that says they don't and comments on this thread that they don't...they are lying because if that was the case they wouldn't be on Cafe Mom ;)

potte... potterpeaches

It's all about moderation. Kids benefit from having some free time where they can entertain themselves and parents need a break to help them be better parents. Obviously if parents ignore their kids because they are glued to the TV/computer/books all the time then it is bad lazy parenting, but having some me time while the kids are around is OK. We don't need to hover over our kids 24/7 and it's bad for them if we do.

xavie... xavierlogan09

i do. while my son eats breakfast i check my facebook. for the rest of the day he's all mine. unless it's naptime. 

nonmember avatar kalmmom

I try to limit my time to when the kids are busy playing or watching TV - but I also work "on-call" meaning I have to answer a phone or do something computer related at any given moment so sometimes I have no choice but to be "distracted". Luckily its not been to big of a problem, there are times though that I have had to rush out of a recital or game to answer the phone and I HATE IT!!!! But it is my job and I can't afford to lose it.

jagam... jagamama0710

I'm doing it right now. lol My 2 little bits are on the other side of the room happily playing with legos. I agree with a previous poster, everything in moderation. 

sodapple sodapple

I do,me and at the same time I like to keep an were on them.

nonmember avatar Anon

There have been times when my kids were not very tolerant of this - probably when they were about 2 years old - but for the most part, I "can" do computer stuff when I'm with them. But since I'm only with them for limited hours each day, I usually stay away from screen time during those hours. The exception would be if I got up early to do some work, and my kids also got up earlier than normal. If I am up early, it's because I need to work and they need to let me work. And no, I don't feel guilty about that. It's part of life, and I don't shield my kids from life.

bsawy... bsawyer84

I practice distracted pet raising. Does that count?

Shanin22 Shanin22

I'm doing it right now too, lol. Of course my toddler is down for a nap and my 5 year old is turning his room into a monster truck race track. He's having fun and using his imagination... he doesn't need me in there hovering. Later we'll play together and practice in his workbooks. But right now we're both enjoying the break from each other. Thank you for writing this, I'm getting so sick of parents being guilted for not helicopter parenting. I know some moms who think it's practically a sin to respond to even one text message while your children are awake. It's ridiculous, unnecessary, and unreasonable.

rhian... rhiana_lee

I highly recomment distracted paretning.  The pressure that is placed on modern parents to be totally and completely involved with their children at all times is exhausting, and daunting.  I wrote a bit about this a few months ago.  Check it out.

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