Imagine for a moment that you are little and your parents spend all day staring at a screen rather than talking to you.
Is that the parent you would like to have?
Everywhere I look, I see subtle, insidious child neglect - parents around this city ignoring their young children, those snuggly tots with minds bursting with imagination. These cuties are living in a colorful universe where oceans are strawberry smoothies, a magical touch can have the power to grow wings and a table is really a fort, castle or underwater paradise. Within five minutes, a youngster can be an airline pilot, royal highness or an orangutan rummaging for golden crumbs. You say the word and our young people can talk to you about their vision of life on the moon or beneath the blue sea. They speak in superlatives and joyful glee about their cultivated universes. Their minds are alive and thrive - but only when engaged.
But what are the parents doing? Are they partners and coaches in fostering this emergence of human beauty?
Nope. Moms and dads are occupied by their cell phones. They ignore their children. I see it everywhere, every day and, like a witness to abuse, I feel a contraction of pain in my heart.
Here’s the scene on every New York City block:
Parents on cell phones. Their kids stare into the distance. Sitting quietly. The little lovies are accustomed to being ignored. After all, their parents were on their cell phones from the day they were born until today. That’s normal for them.
And why are the children being ignored? The uncaring parental unit favors the screen to having a conversation with their young. Our kids have absorbed the message that the screen is way more engaging than they could ever be.
And these kids have inured themselves to this reality. They’re way used to this. But it does not mean it’s acceptable.
Please, get off your cell phone and engage with your child. You are cheating them of your presence in their lives.
So why bother turning away from your smartphone? Because, oh yes, parents have a solution. When children whine and try to speak to you, when they fight mightily for their right to be a presence in your life, what do you do? What I see is that the parents solve the demand for attention by giving the child a screen to stare into. Hand that kid a device, not you. A tablet, smartphone, or computer can be their friend.
But sadly, nothing steals the imagination quicker than a screen. Nothing except an occupied, disinterested and distracted parent, that is.