The cultural panic over kids and screen time has never made sense to me. But one of the great joys of writing for JSTOR Daily is the opportunity to delve into academic research that sheds light on this kind of mystery.
In my latest JSTOR post, I dig into feminist history for analogies to the current anxiety about kids and technology, and discover there’s plenty of precedent. As I write in my post:
When we worry that parents are shirking their duties by relying on an electronic babysitter, we’re really worrying that mothers are putting their own needs alongside, or even ahead of, their kids’ needs.
It’s a worry that rears its head any time someone comes up with a technology that makes mothers’ lives easier. As mothers, we’re supposed to embrace—or at least nobly suffer through—all the challenges that parenting throws at us. We’re supposed to accept having little people at our heels while we’re trying to buy the groceries, make dinner, or go to the bathroom. We’re supposed to accept the exhaustion that comes from working a full day at the office and a second shift at home before falling into bed for an inevitably interrupted sleep. We’re supposed to accept the isolation that comes from raising children in a world that regards a crying child as a crime against restaurant patrons or airplane travellers.
The mother who hands her child a smartphone is taking the easy way out of these challenges. But since so much of parenting consists of situations in which there is no easy way out, I’m deeply grateful when somebody offers me a cheat.