I’m not a phone person. I prefer face-to-face communication whenever possible. My phone isn’t smart, so the modern fascination with electronic devices mystifies me. I’ve become accustomed to people staring down at their gadgets, though I still wince when they ignore their companions.

The worst excess is seeing parents playing with their phones instead of their kids. Is pushing a swing that boring? The greatest gift we can give our kids is our undivided attention. Plus, my wife and I had many kid-related disasters because one of us was on the phone.

I recently heard about a father who was supposed to be watching his son at the mall. The phone-distracted dad didn’t notice his boy climb a fence and enter the mini-train yard. The boy lay down on the tracks directly in the path of the kiddie train. It ran over his legs, causing the train to derail. No one was seriously hurt, but how do you explain the bruises to the boy’s mom?

I would have bought the kid’s silence with ice cream.

I’m not alone in believing parents should put away their phones in the presence of their kids. Rachel Stafford is a recovering electronics addict, who publishes a blog, www.handsfreemama.com. Stafford came to the realization that texting, talking and playing games on her phone was coming between her and her two young daughters. Compulsively taking their picture was also causing her to “miss out on the moment.”

To avoid missing more moments, Stafford proposes some drastic measures. These include removing social media apps from the phone and (shudder) putting the devices in a drawer. The site also contains inspirational essays like, “The Art of Showing Up” and cautionary ones like “How to Miss a Childhood.”

Not everyone believes being a hands-free mama is a good idea. One mother claimed to be so adept at multi-tasking, she can still keep an eye on her kids. Another told me these devices are necessary for getting directions and communicating with other parents. A third mentioned the phones have apps that keep kids quiet in restaurants.

Personally, I’d rather interact with a kid than a phone. When my kids were toddlers, they were way more entertaining than any TV show. Now when I watch my 18-month old grandson, I don’t want either of us distracted by screens. I’d rather play cars, blocks, basketball and other three-dimensional games with him. Troy is captivating and exhausting in equal measure. If I start up a game of “Ring Around the Rosy,” he doesn’t want to stop, even when we’re both dizzy.

Speaking of which, did you know there’s a new version of this game? It substitutes “tissues, tissues” for “ashes, ashes.” I don’t know who came up with this: probably a parent at a playground checking their phone for politically-correct nursery rhymes.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.

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