Won’t somebody *please* think of the validity?

mobile parents

I’ve concluded that they’re right. Mobile phones DO addle the brain. They DO interfere with competent cognition. They DO cause people to become rambling, incoherent, and negligent thinkers, and to talk ever-more-ridiculous garbage. But their effects are quite subtle. They cause this result in some people simply by existing: all these folks have to do is think about cell phones and they become nonsensical.

Especially if their job is to write news headlines on such matters, or to otherwise fill content on the media’s health pages.

Have a look at this headline:

Parents increasingly distracted by mobile devices, study finds (UPI)

I’m guessing they mean parents in general. It does sound worrying. After all, just about every parent owns such mobile devices. This means that just about every parent is increasingly distracted.

And have a look at this:

Smartphones Affect Ability to Parent Children (Guardian Liberty Voice)

Smartphones really do that? I have smartphones. I had no idea that they actually affect my ability to parent. Maybe I should give them back. (The smartphones, that is; not the kids.)

And this:

Smartphones may threaten parent-child emotional bond (Indian Express)

Shoot. That’s tantamount to saying that parents who use smartphones are basically neglecting their kids. This is terrible. I believe that children are our future. Treat them well and let them lead the way.

Given the shocking impact on parenting and thus, by extension, on the very future of humanity, it is no surprise that this particular study has caused a global ripple of consternation among the media’s various healthologists:

Cellphone addiction may damage parent-child bond: Study (NDTV)

Smartphones Affect Ability to Parent Children (Guardian Liberty Voice)

Study: Smartphones are making us bad parents (San Francisco Chronicle)

Parents warned phone addiction could damage bond with their child (Daily Mail)

And so on, and on. It’s all just so sad.

* * *

But the empiricist in me wants to know more. For example, what kind of evidence has been gathered to demonstrate the devastating effects of mobile phone use on parenting?

How come we are so sure that cell phone addiction is wreaking havoc on how parents interact with kids, in such a way that their very ability to parent is itself undermined? How do we know that our generation, through its obsession with cell phones, is destroying its fundamental bond with its offspring?

What exactly shows us that we are digitally consigning a generation of smart-orphans to live a feral existence in a spiritual netherworld, abandoned by parents whose affection is displaced by a yearning for the latest Android update?

Well, here’s UPI again:

Staked out in a Boston fast-food restaurant, researchers watched 55 caregivers, usually a parent, sit down and eat a meal with one or more children. Forty of the caregivers, most of them parents, used their phone during the meal. Sixteen played with their their phones throughout the meal. Three adults handed the phone over to one of their younger dining companions to keep them occupied.

Nothing about addiction. Nothing about bonds. Nothing about parenting ability. No random sampling. No control group. No hypothesis. No data. Just forty adults who, when spied upon in a public place, used their phones.

That’s it? Yes, even when you consult the actual journal article underlying this report, that’s just about everything.

But to a certain type of media healthologist, this type of ‘evidence’ has the same effect as crack cocaine.

Forty parents — who feed their kids junk food — took calls during Happy Meals! Three of them — I’m telling you three of them, dammit — handed the phone to a kid

It can only mean one thing…


I’m tired.

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