About a month ago I walked into my cell phone provider, handed the guy behind the counter my flip phone, and asked how much credit I would get toward one of those new smart phones. He didn’t recognize my phone...at all.
Fortunately, a quick search on his computer revealed the model, make, and year (2010). Baffled, I asked, “Is my phone already obsolete?” Granted, when I bought it, my then 10-year-old daughter wanted me to buy a much cooler phone, but honestly, wasn’t it just a few years earlier that flip phones were the latest thing?
Ok, ok, so I’m late to the smart phone game.
Leaving the store after joining the more than 70 million smart phone consumers around the world, I immediately started to investigate my new, cool gadget. Aside from it being my phone, those early days found me putting it to use as my emailer, my music system, my calendar, my alarm clock, my notepad and then, it happened. I stumbled upon what I call, “The Parent App.”
I found it through Siri, the voice-activated virtual assistant that brings my cell phone to life. Having recently moved to a new city I rely heavily on Siri and her ability, as my talking GPS, to navigate me from point A to point B. She directs me, turn by turn, to the closest Target and the local library, before helping me find that out-of-the-way cafe. Best of all she doesn’t reprimand me when I miss a turn. Instead, she simply alters the route and keeps me on track.
So where’s the parent app come in? Well, after about a week of Siri guiding me around town, I realized I wasn’t paying close enough attention to learn the routes and get myself back to certain places without her help. I might as well have been a disinterested passenger in the back seat of my own car. Yet even there, I wouldn’t have been able to avoid the parenting analogy that became all too obvious.
My experience with Siri gave me good reasons why not to be a “siri” to my kids. Everything I relied on about my new personal assistant is what I don’t want my kids to absentmindedly rely on me for. I’m reminded to stop telling my children when and how to do every little thing throughout their day. It became clear that too much direction from someone, or in this case from some ‘thing,’ actually decreases one’s intuition, thought process, and memory skills, not to mention awareness of the world around them. My cell phone actually pointed out, at times, I can become one of those dreadful “helicopter parents.”
Today, at the end of my first month living with Siri, I still ask her for help when necessary, but I’m also paying more attention to street signs as well as to the way I teach my children. You might say I’m parenting with my parent app in mind. Who knew when I bought a phone, I’d be acquiring better parenting skills too?