I was recently out to dinner in a kind of casual spot, and I was seated across from a young couple with a baby, probably somewhere between 1 and 2 years old. I try not to judge, but man, I couldn't tear my eyes away from this family. Both parents were on their cell phones, no joke, the entire time they were seated. They weren't talking on their phones, but scrolling through social media. They propped an iPad in front of the baby with a cartoon on, and he just kind of sat there, watching the cartoon.
I try not to judge but it was pretty much directly in front of my face, so I couldn't not see it, and I do have an opinion on it. I figure, why not share it and see what you all think.
So this might be the time we live in, but I felt pretty sad for that family. Nobody talked, nobody interacted... every now and then someone would reach over and readjust the ipad for the baby. I feel like I sound like an old person, but I just don't understand this. I tried to see the justification of popping the baby in front of a video, maybe they wanted to enjoy a meal out together and didn't have a babysitter. Maybe the baby freaks out and the TV calms him... maybe they were wiped out and just wanted peace and quiet and food.
I think that this lack of actual human interaction is going to create a problem in the future. Looking at this situation in particular, what was so glaring to me was that there was so little real life actually happening. There was no talking about what to order for dinner, no chatting about how their day was, no knowing glances between two partners, no commiserating over a cranky baby at the table. These missing things are all things that make us human.
Kids learn by example, and even though he was a little guy, he was still learning and assessing and processing the environment around him. From what I saw in that tiny chunk of time, the opportunity for several small lessons were lost. When a kid goes out to dinner with his parents, he learns how to behave in public, he learns how to properly use utensils, he learns how to interact in a different environment, he learns how to use an inside voice, how to entertain himself, manners, how to wait patiently. He also learns by example how his parents treat each other, how they treat the waiter, how they communicate.
Clearly there are plenty of other opportunities for these little lessons to be learned, but it makes you wonder what lessons were lost. Some things that he probably did subconsciously learn from that outing were that perhaps his parents are often distracted, that he can't behave without having a TV to watch, that it's normal to not communicate verbally. Little kids learn about their world largely through face-to-face interactions, vocalizations and touching with parents. They also develop language skills this way. What are the developmental implications if kids do not get this? Of course this was an isolated incident, who knows what life is like at home for that little family. I'd like to think there is a lot more interaction...
Children who constantly see their parents distracted by technology at the dinner table must feel neglected, insecure or not worthy of their parents time. They’re absolutely going to miss a lot of the benefits of eating meals together as a family. I really believe that kids have to have emotional, physical, and verbal presence of a loving caretaker.
At the very least, if parents "unplug" during meals, it will set a positive example for children, since it will just be a matter of time before these kids have their own devices to be distracted by.