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NY Times: “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In”

Speaking as a parent and as someone in whose life technology — e.g., web design, blogging, Twitter, e-mail — plays a pretty significant role, this New York Times article is pretty sobering.

Much of the concern about cellphones and instant messaging and Twitter has been focused on how children who incessantly use the technology are affected by it. But parents’ use of such technology — and its effect on their offspring — is now becoming an equal source of concern to some child-development researchers.

Sherry Turkle, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on Technology and Self, has been studying how parental use of technology affects children and young adults. After five years and 300 interviews, she has found that feelings of hurt, jealousy and competition are widespread. Her findings will be published in “Alone Together” early next year by Basic Books.

In her studies, Dr. Turkle said, “Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events.”

I am certainly guilty of picking up the laptop or iPod, and checking e-mail, newsfeeds, and/or Twitter without giving a second thought as to how my kids might interpret it. To me, it (obviously) doesn’t seem like a big deal, and it can lead to some nice family time (like snuggling with Simon on the couch to watch Elmo videos).

But by and large, it’s just me being selfish and resorting to a default behavior that isn’t really appropriate for my life as a father of two. Chatting with Simon in the morning when he’s eating his cereal and making faces at Ian are probably more important than getting the most recent tweets, or seeing if any new articles have appeared in Google Reader.

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