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Kids, Parents and the BlackBerry / Smart-Phone

by Dore Frances, M.A., Theapeutic Consultant and founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
For the first half hour of the meeting with the parents, it was hardly surprising to see Dad fiddling with his iPhone.

At an hour, it seemed a bit much. After an hour and a half, his wife wondered what he could possibly be doing with his phone for so long when we were sitting there discussing addiction treatment and intervention for their 16 year old daughter. The wife peeked over his shoulder.

"He is playing a game," she said. "He did ask questions though."

As Web-enabled smart phones have become standard on the belts and in the totes of almost every parent I meet, these parents are increasingly caving into temptation to check e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, even the news while we are discussing their child who is in crisis. I want to start a spirited debate about priority here. The use of a BlackBerry or iPhone in a meeting about your child who is in crisis is tacky in my opinion.

What one parent said to me was that to ignore a real-time text message in a need-it-yesterday business was to invite a loss of business for him, and that business was paying for his son's treatment program. I would like to ban BlackBerry's at meetings with parents, especially when they spend more time reading what is on their BlackBerry than they do discussing their child's needs.

I know that the phone has become routine in the business world - and I am wondering how many parents know their child shares with me how much it grates them that the phone takes priority over them. A third if not more of the kids I ask about this situation say their parents are checking their emails and not making eye contact with them when they are asking Dad or Mom a question.

Nearly 20% of the kids said they had then been accused of having poor phone manners by their parents.

This is now spanning generations.

It is routine in a business meeting to see heads bowed silently around a conference table - and they are not praying - while others are speaking they are checking their BlackBerry. Their use is epidemic. I now ban them from parent workshops as I had an experience where the parents were sending messages to each other during the seminar.

Blackberry's have become like cartoon thought bubbles. Some of the parents in the workshop admitted that they occasionally sent mocking commentary to distract themselves from their own emotions that were evolving, but most insisted they were checking their BlackBerry's for legitimate reasons: responding to work deadline requests, searching the Web on the topic of discussion, and some said they were simply taking notes.

Still, their kids were annoyed. One teen told me that his Mom checked her BlackBerry during his middle school graduation and was laughing at a joke someone sent her and missed taking his graduation picture. I am going to encourage parents who come to see me to turn off their devices. It is pretty insulting to their kids to see their parents not even be able to discuss which wilderness program they may be attending because they are busy checking their e-mails instead. I do not believe that people have opened their eyes to how offensive this can be in certain situations.

Beyond practical considerations, there is also the issue of image.

In many circles, where connections are power, making a show of reaching out to those connections even as someone is speaking to them seems to have become a kind of boast. It is customary now for parents to lay their BlackBerry or iPhone on the dinner table, to have it plugged into their ear as they walk around the house or drive in the car with their kids, or even at their kids birthday parties and sports games. It is like the gunfighter who used to lay his revolver on the card table or on top of the bar in a saloon.

It is a not so-subtle way of signaling "I am busy. I am important. I am more important than you. And if you or what you are doing or saying does not hold my interest, I have 10 other things I can do instead."

Dore Frances, M.A., is an educational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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