Distracted Parenting: Is Your Cell Phone Hurting your Child?

S-C-R-E-E-C-H, that’s the sound I heard coming from the adjacent lane in heavy traffic in Columbus recently. A young mother with a car filled with several little ones barely got her vehicle stopped in time as the light changed to red. To protect her children, she extended her arm toward the back seat when I spied the real culprit, the cell phone in her hand.

Go right ahead and tell someone like that mom, that they are being a negligent parent and that their cell phone behavior is endangering their kids. I’ll bet your well-intentioned advice wouldn’t be very well received. You might be thinking that this column is about distracted driving and the dangers that it presents, but it’s not. After all, experts have proven that “using a Smartphone while driving or crossing a street increases the risk of accident.” This statement was in a September 2012 Wall Street Journal feature titled, “The Perils of Texting While Parenting.”

Instead this WSJ article written by Ben Worthen was about how cell phone behavior intertwined with everyday parenting can put children at risk for injury. For example, young children have drowned, broken arms, and walked into harm’s way while their parents or caretakers have been busy tweeting, reading texts, or taking photos. Worthen cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that report, “Nonfatal injuries to children under age five rose 12% between 2007 and 2010. Could this be a direct correlation to the increase in Smartphone owners which has grown from about nine million in 2007 to 114 million in 2012?

In conjunction, studies show that sometimes a parent will look at their cell phone for what they think is a matter of seconds, when in reality it turns out to be minutes, causing them to be preoccupied putting especially small children at risk for physical injuries.

There’s another negative side-effect that seems to be rapidly becoming part of our society. There are parents so busy talking or texting that they no longer have time to engage with or listen to their children. To confirm this, just head out to any busy grocery store and you will find a few parents gabbing on the phone oblivious to anything their little one is saying. Of course, the conversation of a three-year-old isn’t very stimulating, but how are they going to learn if we are too busy to interact?

A year ago, I first read about extreme distracted parenting in a “Dear Abby,” column on Dec. 5, 2011 titled, “Mom with texting addiction needs a slap in her Facebook.” A frantic grandmother had written to syndicated columnist, Abigail Van Buren, complaining that her divorced daughter was so addicted to her cell phone, Facebook and texting, that she ignored her baby.

Maybe we aren’t addicted, but technology can still drive our daily life. Yet youthful folks might be at greater risk, since additional evidence suggests that young people’s personal relationships are being eroded by their cell phones. “The claims come after research revealed that young adults – in addition to sending over 100 texts – check their mobile up to 60 times a day.”  This quote from the article, “Mobile Madness” by Leo Morris for the Fort Wayne Sentinel who also writes, “Experts behind a new study have now said compulsively checking a mobile phone is an addiction similar to compulsive spending or credit card misuse.” Although, Morris seems to think the young folks will probably grow out of it.

I wish I could agree with Morris’s optimistic outlook, but still I don’t believe that we should go back to the dark ages of pre-cellular communication. Cell phones help to keep our children safe by keeping us all connected, and instantly place vital information at our fingertips. Although we need to try to keep our hands off of them for awhile, at least long enough to engage with our kids in real time. After all, most parents love their children in the most self-sacrificing of ways, and would be in despair if anything happened to them as a result of their negligence.

As for the teen who can’t put their own phone down, designate hours that are cell-phone free. Help them get through that socially awkward time of adolescence by having some open-ended conversations about appropriate cell phone etiquette, and genuine connectedness. After all, cell phones are definitely here to stay, but I guarantee you before you know it; your children will be grown and gone. The days of parenting are precious and brief, so try to savor the moments.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker whose website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com.  This is an excerpt from a column which originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News, and in The Lima News.

My Bucket List: Paris, a House, and Saving Someone’s Life

If you want to talk about bucket lists, you could begin by viewing the film that started the conversation about this topic. In explanation, the 2007 movie, The Bucket List, was my catalyst for mentally composing my own list of must-do-things before I kick the proverbial bucket. The film stars acclaimed actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman who both have terminal cancer. Together they set out on a journey to complete their own “to-do” before dying list. One of The Bucket List’s most comedic moments happens when Freeman [Carter Chambers] argues with Nicholson [Edward Cole] about jumping from the open door of a plane. Although jumping from a plane sure wouldn’t be on my list, because I’ve always had a fear of heights. That’s the beauty of the bucket list. It’s different for everyone. For example, my long-ago career goal of becoming a network TV anchor now seems like just an elusive dream. I did get to work in small market Christian broadcasting for years, but never moved up the ranks. I’ve often thought how great it would be to sit in Diane Sawyer’s chair just for a night, but I don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon. Still, you will find getting back into TV on my list, despite the fact that I’m fifty-something.

Also on my bucket list, there’s my lifelong desire to see Paris which could be easily accomplished with a little mad money. I readily admit that checking travel costs to Paris has been a way of life for a long time now. Despite budget constraints, one day I’m going to have to bite the financial bullet to make it to the Eiffel Tower.

In 2009, after reading a book by New York Times bestselling author, Debbie Macomber titled, Twenty Wishes, I penned my personal list of the 20 things that I would like to achieve before I die. Before that, my bucket list had only been stored in my overcrowded mind. After competing it, I put this important piece of paper in the back of my burgundy leather Bible. Sometimes, I study the now tattered from handling page of my before I check-out of this world desires. I’ve even been able to cross a few off. For example, a life goal had been teaching adults at college level. In 2010 that dream was accomplished when I became an adjunct instructor for Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

I had also wanted to win an award, because although some folks think I’m a successful writer, truthfully I haven’t made much money. Yet I have received enough rejection letters/emails these past two decades to paper the bathroom walls. That’s why, I began to wonder, if I was any good at my craft. It was an amazing surprise when last May I was awarded the national $10,000 first prize in the Amy Writing Awards for a newspaper feature for The Lima News about a family who grappled with forgiving the man who brutally murdered their loved one. To read the article click here: Finding Forgiveness and the Amy Writing Awards. If you are a writer, please read More about the Amy Writing Awards, because you could be a winner, too.

Just a few months later, I was delighted to find out that I had won another contest. This one sponsored by OakTara Publishers. My short real-life love story about experiencing the heartbreak of divorce, then being given another chance at late in life love with my wonderful husband, Larry Claypool, titled, “Finding the Courage to Love Again,” had been accepted. The story made it into OakTara’s Christian Romance Anthology, My Love to You Always. I was just one of 42 authors to be included in the book, which was released in October 2012.

Then more exciting news, I was also named a winner in OakTara’s Romance Short Story Fiction Contest. My story, “Not just another casserole lady,” was included in the publisher’s Christian romance anthology, I Choose You which was released last month.  For me, this was doubly exciting, because it was the first time that I was blessed to have a fictional piece published. Of course, getting to Paris, having a grandchild, and buying a home instead of renting, are still dreams that haven’t been fulfilled. But that’s OK, because this simply means there’s more time for me to finish this wonderful journey called life.

Speaking of life, one of the most important entries on my list of twenty wishes is to, “Save someone’s life.” I’m not sure how to accomplish this. I’ve been telling my husband that if he would agree to let me rescue a cute little puppy, I could check this one off. But alas, he has severe allergies.

A bucket list is a wonderful tool to remind us of our dreams. Because for most of us, it is in fanning the embers of our God-given visions, no matter how old we are, that can help us get through the difficult days.  After all, having goals gives us something to look forward to; keeping us hopeful, youthful, and reaching for the stars.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker who has been featured on CBN’s 700 Club and on Joyce Meyer’s Enjoying Everyday Life TV show. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. She blogs at www.christinaryanclaypool.com/blog1