This week I headed to Maine for a 60th birthday party. Long cross country flights almost always provide an interesting array of parenting choices and this trip was no different. On this entirely full flight I was surrounded by families with young children. Directly beside me was a young mom traveling alone with 2 girls, I would guess about 18 months and 3 years old. They were excited to be on the plane and chatty with their mom, who was well prepared with plenty of snacks and lots of activities. A good start, I thought. Then it got interesting. Mom told the girls that once they took off she was going to take a nap and, once in the air, she handed them their electronics, put her head on the tray table and proceeded to sleep. The girls pretty much played with their devices with a few skirmishes along the way for the entire flight, rousing their mom once when they needed a potty run.
As I watched I couldn’t help feeling conflicted. On one hand, I was thinking how great it would have been to have had an electronic babysitter when I traveled solo with my 3 children (an older daughter and boy/girl twins just 20 months apart) so many years ago. I could have used help on a couple of occasions. On the other hand, it just underscored for me how today’s families are using electronics and how early the extensive screen time starts. And, why was I so bothered by this mom, who was head down for a good 5 hours, anyway? After all, the girls were safe, fed and playing independently. Maybe she was just resting up for the remainder of what could have been a long trip. It could have been that she has a sleepless night and really needed the rest to care for the girls once they landed. I wanted to get back to my book but I just couldn’t stop glancing over to see what was going on next door. Knowing that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use for kids this age made me wonder whether this was a regular pattern or just a “special” travel case. Do parents know they should limit use—or is it just too hard not to give in? In the end, I think I was bothered mostly because it just seemed like a lost opportunity to read or draw or play cards together with no interruptions, a real luxury. And that was just plain sad.
Maureen Brown, MBA, is Executive Director for Challenge Success, where she oversees daily operations as well as marketing and strategic planning. Ms. Brown comes to Challenge Success with over 20 years of consulting experience in health care, financial services, and technology. Prior to joining Challenge Success, Ms. Brown worked as an independent consultant and as a Partner at APM, Incorporated, where she structured, sold and managed strategic and operations improvement engagements for health care institutions, primarily university medical centers. Ms. Brown has also worked in Cash Management for Philadelphia National Bank and Citibank. She has been on various boards at Georgetown, and most recently co-founded the Bay Area Georgetown Technology Alliance. Ms. Brown has also served as a Board member at Woodside School.