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How Technology Can Bridge the Distance

Birth2Work Curriculum Director, mother, grandmother

A Birth2Work response to the New York Times article,
“Becoming a Digital Grandparent”

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Tech: Friend or Foe?

At Birth2Work (B2W), we often discuss the pitfalls of too much technology use in daily life. You can listen to this B2W podcast with media literacy expert Renee Hobbs, read Elane and Rick’s essay on the dangers of too much media, or review any media outlet of the last year to check out the bombardment of data now showing the dangers of too much media use for children.

Parents can become reliant upon technology as a fill-in when they need to get something done. Or, they mistakenly think seeing something on a screen is the same as real-life engagement. Intuitively, we know this isn’t true. Seeing an apple on a screen isn’t the same as holding it in your hand, taking a bite, hearing the crunch, or getting a whiff of its sweet smell. The screen isn’t real and it doesn’t teach.

Nevertheless, stats show that a child begins to interact with digital devices at around 11 months on average, so it’s no surprise that many young children master a digital device before they can talk, tie their shoes, or read.

We know that family activities and time spent together are key to transferring family values. Time and new experiences are the most important gifts that parents and grandparents can give a child.

I take a deep breath here saying this, but, sometimes, technology is all we’ve got. And I, for one, have been very grateful for the many opportunities that tech has given me to share in real-life experiences that I wasn’t able to be a part of.

We know that family activities and time spent together are key to transferring family values. Time and new experiences are the most important gifts that parents and grandparents can give a child.

Explore our one-of-a-kind family leadership course for parents AND grandparents to find your inner wisdom.

Grandparent IRL and Face-Time

One Sunday a few years ago, my oldest son called home to tell us some thrilling news; we were going to be grandparents! I had always wanted to be a grandmother. My grandmother was very close to me when I was growing up and I wanted to have that kind of relationship with my own grandchild one day.

As fate would have it, on the day my grandson was born I was in the hospital (across the state) dealing with my own health issues. The first glimpse I had of my grandson was on a cell phone.  I heard his beautiful, loud cry on a video that his dad sent.

As my health improved, I was able to make the seven-hour drive to see this beautiful boy. That first visit was so amazing. The time flew by as we rocked and sang and I talked with him.

In the months that followed, I had another surgery that required more time away from him. My son made sure we had FaceTime with them every chance they had. I talked to my grandson and watched as his father read him bedtime stories. We watched him eating his first solid food on a video chat. I also have great videos and photos of him sent through emails and texts. Each one is wonderful.

According to an AARP survey, nearly 40 percent of grandparents use video chat to communicate with their grandchildren.  Many use emails and Facebook to see their loved ones on special outings or occasions. FaceTime and the videos that my son sent helped me to share in the activities and great fun that I would have missed. We were becoming digital grandparents and we gladly joined in!

A Gift in Any Form

The greatest blessing in my life has been the love of my family. All three of our sons are out on their own and have their own careers, marriages, and relationships.  So, it’s difficult to find opportunities when we can all come together. We have always been our best when we’re all together, so we try to get together for holidays and special occasions whenever we can.

When I was able to travel to see my son’s family again, the other two sons joined us as a great surprise. We had an amazing time being together again. I treasure every moment with all of my boys!

We are planning to visit my grandson soon to celebrate his second birthday. I’m excited to read his favorite books with him and just spend time together, in person.

Yes, I would love to live close enough to see him every week, but that isn’t possible for us now. I’m grateful that we have these devices and apps that help us bridge the distance to keep our family in close contact until we can engage face-to-face again.

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Our mission is to enable anyone involved in the life of a child to become a confident leader in preparing children and families for a successful future. We embrace future parents, current parents, grandparents, and the beloved friends and community who help us raise all of our children together. Birth2Work is a federally recognized not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization (Tax ID# 51-0137861).

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