Episode 90: The Real Cost of Using Smartphones Around Kids

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We talk a lot about kids being on devices all the time, but parents are the worst! Here’s how it’s affecting the kids.

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Business mother speaking over the cellphone


It’s a beautiful fall day in NYC! No, not really, it would be a beautiful day if it were July. It’s 85 degrees and we’re all dressed like it’s summer in the middle of October. But we’re happy to be here!

Rebecca commented that Andrea tests out more gadgets than anybody Rebecca knows. It’s true. If you want to know about the latest in consumer tech, you should be paying attention to Andrea. Like her latest for NBC, about gadgets to make your home smart.

The Real Cost Of Smartphones

Back in the old days when Amy wanted to ignore her kids on the playground, she used a newspaper. But according to Rebecca, a newspaper or book wasn’t that bad. Today parents are ignoring their kids an increasing amount with smartphones and tablets. Because of the interactivity and rabbit-hole nature of the internet, this is so much worse than just reading around your kids.

According to an article about a new research study, smartphones require much more of an emotional investment than books or magazines, and interaction with kids suffers. “The human brain can’t process kids and incoming messages on smartphones at the same time, the scientists say. When parents feel compelled to pay attention to work email—or news alerts, text messages, or a thousand other things that make a phone ping—and their children need attention, parents feel internally conflicted.”

Rebecca pointed out that while we talk a lot on the podcast about kids who use their devices all the time, parents are just as bad, or worse. And since they’re modeling behavior for the whole family, that behavior has a huge impact.

Amy was quick to point out that since she works from home, she’s had to make her kids understand that if she’s working when they get home from school, that’s not an OK time to tell her long stories and bug her. But according to Rebecca, that’s really a whole other issue.

Still, Amy says the solution is to give your kids your full attention at certain times, but to make sure that you carve out time to be online and not be bothered by your kids, whether it’s for work or just to relax. Remind them that they had their time, and now you get to do your thing for a little while. Set a timer, and get them on board!

But if the problem really is that you just can’t get off of your device, there are apps that can help you. You can see a list at the bottom of this post, under “This Week’s Links.”

If you can’t even put down your phone while eating dinner with your family, Common Sense Media is running an incredibly sad challenge called #DeviceFreeDinner. Sign up on their site and they’ll give you access to all sorts of things that you shouldn’t need, but apparently a lot of people do. Conversation starters with your kids? OMG. Have we really forgotten how to talk to each other? Sad. But we applaud CSM for trying to help.

Bytes of the Week

Amy’s Byte is a collection (two, actually) of non-sexy, non-insulting Halloween costumes for girls. And while both the Huffington Post’s list and the one on A Mighty Girl can be purchased, if you’re a crafty type, you could also get ideas from the list and make them yourself.

Andrea’s Byte (which Amy also happens to own) is a temperature and water sensor from Honeywell that will alert your phone if something goes wrong having to do with water, humidity, or freezing temperatures. This would be great for people with a vacation house, people who worry about frozen pipes, or people like Amy who put their washing machines up on the third floor.

Rebecca’s Byte is a genius service that automatically sends you a printed photobook when you’ve posted a certain number of photos on selected sites. Everything is formatted for you on Chatbooks, so you can just quickly OK all of the images. And it’s inexpensive too! Amy wrote about Chatbooks in much more depth on Tom’s Guide.

Rebecca’s Byte wasn’t just the service, though, it was also the video that advertised it. Hilarious and relatable.

Episode Links

Researchers have measured the cost of using a smartphone around your kids, by Lila MacLellan – Quartz

Video: No tablets at the table. Make room for #realtime PSA.

Common Sense Media’s #DeviceFreeDinner challenge

Freedom (iOS, Mac, Windows PC)

OFFTIME (Android)

BreakFree (iOS, Android)

App Detox (Android)

Moment (iOS)

57 Fierce Halloween Costumes For Girls Who Rock, by Caroline Bologna – Huffington Post

Girl Empowerment Halloween Costume Guide – A Mighty Girl

10 Easy Halloween Costumes You Can Make With Just A T-Shirt, by Caitlin Corsetti – Gurl.com

Honeywell Lyric WiFi Water Leak and Freeze Detector

This Ad’s Hilarious View Of Motherhood Comes From the Makers of Squatty Potty’s Pooping Unicorn, by T.L. Stanley – Adweek

Video: Stop Wasting Hours Making Photobooks. This One Takes 1 Minute.


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