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Parents need more than one eye open

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What’s wrong with this picture? One eye on the phone, one eye on the baby — sort of. After raising children for the past 26 years and counting, I have yet to be as disheartened as I have been lately.


Under normal circumstances, with all your wits about you, it can be trying enough to effectively supervise your children, particularly toddlers and multiples in public places.


Now, throw in a smartphone. Whether texting, gaming, or online browsing, can we really pay close attention to our children, the attention that they assume they have and that they deserve, when our concentration is focused on a tiny screen?


When I had my first child in the 1980s there was no such thing as a cellphone, let alone texting, but I can tell you how much trouble a child can find during a five minute telephone call.


Twenty-six years later, with a nine-year-old in tow, I have had many opportunities to witness first-hand how little parental supervision some children have while they are with their parents.


Take for instance this week’s observation of a young toddler perched on the edge of a table at my local YMCA while mom is busily texting. Thankfully someone at a neighbouring table was able to catch him when he fell.


There is now an increasing number of children in playgrounds being supervised via the one-eye approach and don’t get me started on the whole mall scene.


My all time personal favourite, though, has to be the mother with two toddlers and a cellphone crossing the street presumably while texting. The sound of tires screeching barely rated a glance up as she continued ("OMG, we just about got hit by a car") on her way.


Some days I find myself exhausted simply from keeping an extra eye on these technologically-orphaned tots. I just want to shout "Earth to mom!" No doubt much of this behaviour has been going on since the dawn of time. It’s the prompt parental intervention that is increasingly lacking today.


As the bulk of the cell phone generation gets closer to child rearing age I wonder if there will be a rise in our already high incidence of childhood accidents. In Manitoba, injuries are responsible for over half of all childhood deaths between the ages of one and nine. Falls and vehicle accidents are at the top of the list.


And if the parents aren’t using the phone, then the kids are glued to the screen playing some mind numbing game. I sure hope those studies suggesting a link between cancer and the use of wireless devices are unfounded.


Let’s face it, we’re not going back to a time without wireless devices but I think sometimes we just need to put a little more focus on what (or who) really matters.


Christine MacKinnon is a Riverview-based writer.


Neighbourhood Forum is a readers’ column. If you live in the Sou’wester area and would like to contribute to this column, contact jim.timlick@canstarnews.com.

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