Tracy Dennis is both a mother and an eminent developmental psychologist who is interested in the impact of digital media on human development across the life span. She’s written several posts on this topic on her Psyche’s Circuitry blog. One of my personal favourites is the one where she writes about two ideas for parents to keep in mind when they are using digital media to multi-task while taking care of their kids.
Dr Dennis does not think that digital multi-tasking around children damages them, but does think it’s important to keep it in perspective, and keep it to a minimum.
The first idea she addresses is a child’s need to be genuinely seen and heard – or ‘mirrored’ – by her parents. The second is the profound lessons the same child learns about how to relate to other human beings when her parents are multi-tasking with their devices instead of being present with her in the moment.
She writes, ‘Multi-tasking on our devices all the time is a sure-fire way to interfere with our ability to look our children in the eye, hear what they have to say, sensitively pick up on their feelings, and transmit that sparkle in the eye. The multitasking mode is the opposite of mirroring and of being present.’