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Are smartphones a gift or a curse for parents?


Parents, how many times has this happened to you?

Your child is doing something adorable — laughing hysterically, fully in the moment — when, instead of savoring this completely organic occasion, you … search for your cellphone.

You feel your pocket, look on your coffee table, before seeing the boxy, plastic shell-covered device sitting on the kitchen counter. You get up, grab the phone, pull up your camera app, swipe over to video mode, hit record … aaaand your kid is no longer doing what she was doing to make you frantically hunt for your phone in the place. Ugh.

Welcome to the age of the smartphone! Isn't it grand?

Smartphones are the ultimate gift/curse. They're a gift because they give you the convenience of having one device for tasks (accessing the Internet, GPS navigation, photography, video recording) that used to require many. Knowing you're always plugged in is the curse.

You might be lounging on a beach in the Caribbean, sipping an umbrella-shaded drink, but as long as you have your phone you'll be tempted to check your work emails or take a selfie or post about what a great time you're having on Facebook.

Now this digitally induced mania has infected our parenting.

I love that I can share important moments from my daughter's infancy with friends and family members who live hundreds of miles away. But at what cost? Whenever Lily does something cute, my first thought is always: Where's the phone? The pressure you feel to capture even the most benign moments can be overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like the digital age is making us insane.

Is all this technology a good or bad thing? I'd rather it exist than not, but I think we have to find the proper balance. The solution might just be to unplug when you're spending quality time with your child, to live in the moment rather than worrying about whether others will be able to see it later.

Still, you keep your phone nearby, on the off chance you're going to get that "perfect" scene on video, that you'll capture a memory you can cherish for a lifetime.

Here's what usually ends up happening: You get a 20-second video of your kid looking at you like, Why are you pointing that thing at me? The moment is over. And not only did you not get it on video but, fumbling around for your iPhone, you missed it as it happened.

Sure, you hold out hope that one day you'll get the cutest video ever, post it on social media, your friends will share it with their friends and then … And then what? Your baby becomes a viral sensation? Is that really worth all the aggravation?

It might be easier to just have a video camera constantly filming your living room, so you never lose those oh-so-cute moments. (For those who haven't read it, I highly recommend Dave Eggers' 2013 book "The Circle," which centers around a giant tech company that takes to placing tiny video cameras all around the world so no one ever misses a moment of anything. Spoiler alert: It doesn't end well.)

I recently realized my daughter will never grow up in a world where you can't film video of yourself and instantly publish it to the world. It makes me wonder what new technologies will be around if and when she becomes a parent.

"Dad," I imagine her telling me, "it's so hard to get privacy these days when my friends are always logging into my smart contact lenses to check out what the new baby is up to you. Back when I was a kid, you actually had to post the stuff to Facebook or Instagram for people to see it. Isn't anything sacred anymore?"


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